LinkedIn Live Debunking the myths about schools

Ten take-aways from this session:

  1. Get through it
  2. Aim REALLY high
  3. Look ahead
  4. How can you build on what you’ve got?
  5. Stand up to the challenge
  6. Use your new skills
  7. Make sure you have recovery time
  8. Consolidate what you’ve learned
  9. Use your common sense
  10. Look forward to not having the same challenge in the future

***The following transcript has been automatically generated and is presented here unchecked***


LinkedIn Live Debunking the myths about schools

Thu, 8/18 8:52PM • 1:01:51


school, parents, staff, children, people, teachers, learning, schools, patrick, bit, home, education, lockdown, thinking, develop, managed, governors, months, period, question


Nadine Powrie


Nadine Powrie  00:00

And I always start by saying we are live. So a very good afternoon to everybody who is going to be listening to our amazing LinkedIn life today. I’m Nadine Powrie, Executive and leadership coach and workplace Magetta.



And I’m Mike Jackson, I’m head teacher at please well Hill School, special school in Northumberland.



I’m Patrick Ford Hutchinson. I’m a faith leader at the same school.



And I’m journaling. I’m a leadership development consultant, also based in Newcastle stroke. Northumberland.



Hi, I’m John Danes. I’m an education consultant, doing some leadership support, some scope inspections and quality assurance stuff and other bits and pieces that come along. So it’s good to be here.


Nadine Powrie  00:48

And it’s, you’re saying lots of, you know, bits and pieces, actually, you’re doing a lot of bits and pieces. Fact, right. Okay. Okay. So thank you very much for talking to you to be here today. And this is the beginning of quite a few LinkedIn lives that we’re going to be doing on education and inviting head teachers and leaders and school staff to talk to us and to share with us how they have overcome challenges during the past 12 months. And I wanted to start with the northeast, because I have spent most of my life as a French person living in the Northeast. So I asked Jenny, who could we bring on and Jenny immediately gave me a few names. And then here we were this week presenting and we are here. And I think it’s important to to give a voice to school leaders and to, you know, staff to understand what’s been happening because we read in the newspaper, we watch TV, but I love hearing about those who are actually on the ground and making things happen. So I can Patrick, a huge thank you, for you to be here with us today. And at this time, because I know being an excellent teacher, that four o’clock is not really a time when you are on LinkedIn live normally. There’s still lots of things to do. So very well, warm welcome to you. And I guess I want to start by asking you this first question, which is, can you tell us the story about your school during COVID? And during the past 12 months?



Yeah, it’s quite a roller coaster right. Now we’re we’re just about coming into a year of COVID. And hopefully, we’re not another year to follow. It started off. I think we were, we were all in a very odd position in especially in special schools, because the initial guidance given out by the government, it was that all schools had shut it apart from special schools. This was this was in, in in March, and we had a horrendous few days, trying to find out why all of the schools were meant to shut in. And we were meant to stay open as well. And it took I think about two or three days before the guidance came out that we were meant to stay open for kids whose parents were key workers and who’s who were involved in social care for for Child Protection reasons rather than because of their disabilities gets here. We’ve got 188 children in school and many of them have got involvement with with social workers for for their disability. John, did you want to



No, no, no, no, I’m just enjoying listening to you somehow.



And and so when we decided what Well, first of all, we only had a handful of kids in in in the first week. And it grew over time too. We increasingly parents were struggling with having that their children at home we’ve got some very complex needs kids in school, a big population of nonverbal autistic kid to have got rather challenging behavior as well who who find like the rest of us but think they find it particularly hard any changes to the routine routine is has a significant impact on on their life. I think It’s an extreme version of what everyone’s felt over the last 1212 months. And we gradually built up in numbers to, and then I think we almost had all the kids in, in the summer, didn’t we, Patrick?



Yeah, we did. Yeah, yeah, we’re built up on that. And that run up to the summer, then by start of July, we had had all kids back and some normality just before the summer holidays, which I think was really important for the for the type of kids we’ve got in our school, because then having another six weeks break. had that opportunity to be in school before before that for that next break, which was which made September slightly easier. But as we know, that that’s developed differently as well.



What can I just don’t know, was there any? Was there any sense at all that you might stay open throughout those summer six weeks? Well, nine times in continuity, but particularly for the sorts of youngsters that you’ve got you’ve described? Well, the question,



we did have a couple of summer activity clubs. In the first week, and one in the last week, yeah, we had stayed open through the Easter holidays, including the bank holidays, and the May half term, including the bank holiday as well, which was quite surreal. Working during that time, the, the trouble with staying open over the summer would obviously have been financing it as well, which, which would have been a big issue. And although for quite a large time, line, a large proportion of that first lockdown, many staff were working on a router, just so we had minimal amount of people in school. But there was an A number of us who were working all the time, which, which wasn’t too much fun, especially during the holidays. Now, often people who don’t work in education, will think we get too many holidays. And I certainly don’t think that’s the case and really felt it not having a proper break at Easter and, and may have to you know how you, you get to that finish line of the holidays and recharge ready for the next bit. And then in the summer holidays, it was that unknown, the what we were gonna come back to as well. And when we came back, it was a pleasant surprise. Actually, the a lot of the kids in almost all of them were really pleased to be back. We had some kids who hadn’t been in school for almost six months, which I thought was going to be a lot more challenging than it turned out to be. And then we had a period of relative calm for about two months. And then we had our first case of COVID. Which then turned then we’ve we’ve in all had 39 cases of COVID. Almost all of those deaths between between the end of October. And now rarely, but most of them were in November, where we had to have a lot of isolation because we work in bubbles, we have six bubbles of pupils and staff. There’s around about an hour 3030 kids in each bubble, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. And about 20 staff again, sometimes more or less. And we try and keep each bubble separate as much as possible. But we had I think all of all of those bubbles had to isolate at least once. Once Once we got our case and it was really frustrating especially as we’re here. You’d hear about cases on on a Saturday morning and then have to trudge into school and get calls made to two people. So in I think in my position as head it was that just not being able to switch off and all that particularly difficult.



Do you have do you have youngsters who are particularly medically vulnerable? I’m thinking was respiratory We have to be really careful with.



Well, we had we had a funny situation isn’t funny actually. We’ve got a number of young people with Down syndrome. And we had one young, young person. He was he was 17 on a Friday in at the end of November, and he wasn’t extremely vulnerable. He turned 18 On the Saturday and he suddenly had gone into the extremely vulnerable group, because young adults with Down’s are apparently very vulnerable. So it was, there was some really weird situations like that we’ve got we’ve got a number of kids that again, although I don’t think they’re on the clinically vulnerable lead with cerebral palsy, you know, where their muscle tone in the chest is probably not great and things like that, but they’re not on the list. We’ve got one lad who’s on a ventilator. He’s got a tracheotomy. And but he, his air is all filtered. And it’s consultant says it’s not, it’s not on that, on that list. It’s been quite an inch, I would say, interesting. Learning Curve is being trained to kind of translates the guidance for mainstream schools into our setting. And I think what I’ve just gone by is using common sense and being cautious is what I’ve tried to do all the way through. Unlike other things in education, my you can normally ask someone who’s been through it. That was really articulate was everyone was in this complete? state of we’re all in the unknown together.


Nadine Powrie  12:08

Yes, yes. Certainly not on NP Qh. No. There is no preview or roleplay on what I like on one thing that you’ve said, you’ve said, I’ve not been able to switch off. And we know, you know, we’ve been had teachers, so we understand what it means. But what kept you going, you know, what was the driver like kept you going?



I think I think the thing is basically when when you do this job, you you you want to make a difference. And then it’s it’s now when you when you tested? I think I don’t know I’m fairly resilient. I wouldn’t say I like a challenge after this. I’m quite looking forward to not having one. I don’t I think part of the part of maybe what kept me going was we didn’t know how long this was going to go on. I remember when it started, I was trying to be realistic thinking, Oh, well, maybe we’ll get it or lasts till June. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it would be June this year, rather than last year. And so I think because we keep getting, we keep hoping that we’re coming to the next phase, and then that’s going to be it I think, I think everyone not just in school, but at Christmas when there was a lot of major interest in in vaccinations. And it was before the second wave it really hit. We all felt really optimistic that we were coming out of the woods. And then we came back after Christmas. And then there was that announcement. It was on the first day back that we’re actually going into lockdown again. And again from a special school perspective. When the announcement was made, it said all special schools were going to be open, fully, fully open and they were going on about the risk and how everything else was shutting down. Obviously the risks are higher in special schools. I think the data from the NAU showed were about four times more risk than in a mainstream school. I can’t remember I can’t remember the exact number. That may be wrong. In fact in November I worked it out our our rate of infection And or transmission was 6600 per 100,000 of the population for staff in our school. So it was pretty high



statistic we haven’t heard in the news, isn’t that?



Yeah. Whereas the government seemed to think we were we had high immunity. We had to carry on as normal. It just



worked on thinking that no, this is a biggie because people who don’t understand the waitstaff need to work in it to support the youngsters in a in a special setting like yours. Maybe I don’t understand why that might be. I just wondered if your party we just sort of been just unpick that?



Yeah. Do you want to



I think the first thing comes down to the staff ratio that that in our school we have classes with, with 12 Kids Club children in which is, which is one of our one of our big and bigger classes, and you’d have two three members, members of staff in there. And they’re, they’re sort of our more academic pupils. For those for those children with the most complex needs the these children generally need one to one support throughout the day. And because of their complex needs, they also struggle to regulate themselves or communicate with others, which which means that staff cannot keep two meter distance away from these children, they need intensive interaction, the full six hours of the day to meet these children’s needs. And then on the on top of that there’s there’s obviously officers hygiene needs as well where that can be that can be toilet hygiene need, but as Mike says, We’ve got children with medical needs as well, which which which takes it which takes it which which adds the risk. In the end, we need to meet these needs. It’s not the fact that our because of social distancing in place, so we’re just gonna stay two meters away. We it’s not possible, we need to be able to do this. And I think just picking up on what Mike was saying before as well about schools staying open the stalking school, I think, a lot of what gets talked about in schools, the likes of caretakers and admin staff who keep the schools open, who as Mike said, they come out of how important they are. Because these are the people that are running parents, keeping them in touch telling them when there’s a bubble closure, tell them when school, the rope and the caretaker, having to clean, deep clean areas where there’s been an infection or having to make sure everything is clean and as safe as possible. And it’s there’s these people that don’t get mentioned in in media, that that the people that are keeping the schools open and working even harder than then there would be normally.



Yeah. Good. Good mentioned.



Yeah. Can I just bring in a comment that might cause some little controversy here? Surely. Not at all. But do think the statistics of the government are right to do include the teachers worked at home during the first lockdown and then had holidays? So can’t compare was a supermarket workers who’d worked right through? I think that what you’re talking about Mike and Patrick, is that you didn’t work at home and you didn’t have holidays. And I think that there was a miss misconception, not just with special, but with schools throughout that teachers were just at home, and then had a holiday. So I think I’ll leave that with you to respond.



Oh, yeah. It wasn’t. I don’t think we had a holiday at all. With with us. I think in the first lockdown, some people had a slightly less workload. But at the time, we were trying and I think this goes across all settings is we were trying to get to grips with what we were having to put in place. And for for us, we quickly increased in numbers really, from just after Easter, the workload was higher and all through that period of time. staff were phoning parents and sending them work home and all those sorts of things. For this second lockdown, yeah, since Christmas this year, all staff in my school have been in and we we’ve had, I think from maybe about 40% of kids in after the start of the lockdown maybe a bit less. Again, that’s increased over the last few weeks. We’ve got about we’ve had about two thirds bit a bit more some kids on part time timetables as well over the last few weeks, and so the staff here have been working pretty much full capacity because as well as working face to face they’ve also been providing Remote learning as well. And catching up with parents to where children are at home, trying to make sure they’re engaging kids are engaged in learning as well. I think the workload hasn’t been down at all in this in this lockdown. I think we’re like Patrick had said then some members of staff like the office staff, the caretaking team and cleaners have done a lot more over this last 12 months, I think the stress levels for for May for for other senior leaders as well. And I’ll Patrick’s manages a fairly big team in his own phase as well, which is, which is quite tricky, as well as I think one of the things we found is with parents with young children as well having to juggle childcare arrangements when their own kids and their own. They’ve got their own issues around care and things as well and family members who might not be very well. It’s been a tricky time, I think, for everyone.


Nadine Powrie  21:23

Can I just ask you a question. I want to ask you, you know, how how did you and Patrick right in in the different jobs that you are doing? How did you keep the stuff going? Because we all know, adversity, which is lasting for quite a long time. So it’s really drawing on people’s resilience. How do you how do you keep your stuff going?



I think, first of all, we started off from a very good place. Jenny, Jenny’s worked here before with the staff before I met the staff before we’ve got, we started off with a strong team. And with a good good team spirits. One of the things that we before COVID with established quite big, so not big we we’ve got a big staff, we’ve got 130 staff. And I thought the best way to manage it would be breaking those those staff up into smaller teams, which were phase teams of about 2020 people. And so that forms quite a good size for a phase leader, which is Patrick’s role to manage. So those groups could still meet together. Unfortunately, in COVID, we can’t all meet together, we used to have big briefings in the hall every every week. But I think having that phase team together where they could all still meet, and either moan or plan ahead, those sorts of things really helped. I think by letting staff know what my approach was, I tried to let them know a week or so in advance when we were going to go up in numbers and the reason why we were going to do that. So keeping people informed, and I think just showing, showing that I was being cautious about about the decisions that I was making, and maybe being a bit too honest, on what I thought the guidance was, was like for us as well. I don’t know Patrick is there.



I think what what was what was important in the face teams is that people still have that voice. Because we would mix them around school as much it was important for the client resource staff that I was working with, they could get a message to me and for them, I have confidence that then I would table that at a virtual SLT and discuss those things. And that level of communication is really important. And it’s in and then for me to then able to go back to my staff group and talk about what’s being said at SLT and say, right, as Mike said, in a week’s time, this is what we’re going to be looking to do. And let’s have a look at which children we need to get into school. And let me let the staff have ownership of those decisions as well. Then let them speak to the parents and make decisions. I’m speak to this parent and and they’re telling me that that that child is struggling to get them to school sooner, right sooner rather than later and in making sure that they were involved in the decisions. And because they’re involved in those decisions. They could see the value of getting individual pupils in the school and increase their numbers and they knew they knew why. Yeah, yeah.



You’ve got a very really strong, quite young, dynamic team of middle and senior leaders. And certainly when I’ve been in working with you, there’s a tremendous feeling in the School of can do. Or if don’t know how to do it or find a way of doing it, you’ll always come across as being very positive and not seeing challenges as obstacles, but just seeing challenges as part of the day to day.



No, I think I think we would have, I think we were at an advantage because we had that in place, anyway, and not that we haven’t been tested through through this period of time. I think that’s helped also. I think that there’s been just being honest, as well, it’s been a big thing. Also, I’ve been trying to get people involved in planning for the future. For for, too, too much of my time has been spent really managing COVID. And trying to model my my way as the rest of the team as well through COVID. It came at a time when we were really looking at developing school in a number of ways before before COVID hit. So I haven’t worked, it’s gotten away significantly. we’ve still been planning for the future and getting some say, managed to get a few things in place that despite COVID as well, which have been very pleased that we’ve managed to get that done because it’s improved the provision in school. And not



just sorry, can I just kept on I just asked you. We were talking to some teachers earlier on this week. And they were talking about where they were last March compared to where they were now. And they were talking about a huge shift from the in terms of online learning and how much for teachers, you know, the Online Learning hasn’t been fed to them by somebody they’re mostly online learning has been developed in school by by teachers, who may have had limited experience before last March. Now is the and I think that the impact on their practice we’ll carry on through, there are things that they will carry on that will be done differently because of the experience we’ve had over the past year. Can you perhaps Patrick, because you’re sort of the face leader. And you just give us an idea about the movement that you’ve had and how you’ve supported the online learning through the years. And where you come from, too.



I think if I think this is where as Mike said, to me, lockdowns were very, very different for schools, because the first lockdown, it was very much a response of what can we get put in place? How can we still have our best impact on children. But for this second lockdown, it was very much where we could where we could plan ahead where we knew that it it may happen at some point, if it didn’t happen, there was going to be isolation periods, for groups of staff and air pupils where we’d have to have some kind of place. So what that allows us to do is to work in those phase groups which which have because my accent, again, is become very, very important for staff to bounce ideas off each other and to think about what what what our kids need, and us to be responsive. And one of the one of the major things, which is going to be a change in practice for us at school is that our children are here because they’ve got a education health care plan. And now we’ve got a system where we can use remote learning to communicate with parents and and set step opportunities for children to progress towards their long term targets in their ehcp. So it’s been a great way, it’s been a great way of setting up learning for the future, where we can really get parents on board in helping children meet meet those DHCP targets, that that is the reason why why they’re at our school. So



are you actually do you find now that you’ve got to channel into the child’s home? More than you did?



Yeah, it’s definitely do the issue is still that you have some families that that aren’t as responsive as you would hope. And it’s going to be and it’s just going to be a slow process of really showing these families that that that by by engaging in these systems that we’ve gotten engaged in the way that we hope to use them as we go forward, that it will benefit their child so much and it’s making it’s making them available and no, I know for a lot of our families that we work with is that that when children get home and come away from school or see home in school, very separate so we don’t want to intrude on that. I think I think this is a national thing, where we’ll have to be very careful careful. educationalist that we don’t, we don’t blur that boundary between home and school because they are two very separate things and, and for anyone’s mental health that they need to have that shut off time away from education. But I think what has opened up is the ability for us to support families at home, where where we may not have done it as well, in previous times,



it’s a great distinction to make, isn’t it because there are, you know, there there is that I said channel into home, which wasn’t very good turn of phrase because obviously the you know, there’s confidentiality and not everybody wants to have their, their their home locked into. That’s really interesting that you’re saying that there’s that there’s the plus side, and then there’s the side that you’ve got to be careful about. But in terms of the hard to reach parents have you found that you’re now able to have conversations with parents more easily.



I think because we’ve got a method now we’ve got it, we’ve got a we’ve got a real method to how we can use home learning, remote learning, and something that we’ve seen work and we know and we know works well it means that we can, we can really we can be passionate and really believe in what we’re using in that aspect of education. And it means that we can we can set up in the future we can set up training for parents, we can show the impact that this at this will have on their on their children. And in we can we can show that we we can be open to exactly what we’re doing in school. And we can offer with a lot of our parents that need a little bit more support. So we can offer that advice and support through this remote way where they can they can access it. Anytime, whether maybe just maybe sat at home and it makes up for me flick up on the phone that are that my son or daughter is really engaged in that at school and they’ve been totally Well, I could try something like that at home to have that positive connection with women in a different way. So I think it has to be very much a supportive, supportive arm we lend rather than you must be doing this and must be doing that I think it’s very much there for for parents and families to use to use how they need it. And this was my point before that, I think we have to be very careful that we don’t intrude on that. Because Because I know with my own children at home that somehow some aspects of homeland during that first lockdown was very stressful. And I and I and it can become become very, very difficult to educate your old job. I think I can do this day to day for my job, but put me in front of my own children trying



very different. Very different parents experience.


Nadine Powrie  32:38

I have a question about you mentioned online learning and the quality of learning early round, how have you been able to monitor the quality of learning?



Well, with the with the again, and this second lockdown, because we wouldn’t be responsible had it all planned, we’re able to use platforms where where we could respond to the children, and we can, you can get up loads of parents and then you can set next steps and learning. And I think those those next steps and learning are the most important that if a child’s done something straight away that they’re not they’re not then wait for the next port for work to come out. Teachers are able to able to continue that planning teaching a second element that wouldn’t school by assessing what the child’s done and given them those next steps to to increase the depth of knowledge.



Okay, as well with one of the things that, again, did it in my position is we need to monitor the quality of learning and the usual lesson learning observations and things haven’t been able to take a take place which is where having the delegated leadership that we’ve got in place now with the phase leaders who were who are monitoring closely, what’s going on in team it’s been essential. So I’m getting feedback and we know what, what’s going on. Again, with parents, I think we’ve been we’ve been pretty lucky in in it, we’ve kept them informed by having contact, we’ve been able to minimize any any issues really. And I think the phase leaders and class teachers have had regular contact a lot more regular contact with all the parents than they normally would. As you know, there’s only a handful of parents that you have an awful lot of contact with. But it’s been quite a wide group this time. John



Yeah. What’s the follow up on a fascinating or I just wanted to ask if you if you consider maybe two extreme examples where when from call it remote learning where that’s been most effective, and compare it with wherever Remote learning for whatever reason has been not effective or certainly not, as I say least effective. Well, what would you say? Are the main the main reasons for that? So it could be a parental support issue. It could be a technical, it could be an access issue. It could be an individual student issue. What what what would you say?



I think the where it’s been most difficult it’s tended to be and we found that, especially in the first lockdown as time went on, children and parents struggled to engage in with with remote learning. And it was particularly the case with younger children and with children with more complex needs, who, again, as I think Patrick mentioned before, often our children see home and school as very, very different places, and, and learning takes place in school, not at how what response to that was by getting those children in as soon as it was safe to do so. So they were our priority groups. Some of you got some positive remote learning ones, Patrick.



I think, I think the most positive remote learners the practical activities that children have been able to take part in with their parents, I think, I think when it’s an activity where it’s a child sitting down with a piece of work, your more formalized learning where they do it independently, that that’s the work that can over time think are not the same, not the same stuff again, or they’re sitting down at the dining room table doing maths at this time, English this time. But if you’re engaging the parents in an activity that they’re doing in a practical way, and the parents are enjoying that time of the child doing it as well, I think I think that’s the that’s the most successful, successful learning. And, and what what that approach means is that is that parents get the opportunity to take the learning a little bit in their, in the direction they want to as well, just as we would in school where, where if a child is suddenly engaged in something, you wouldn’t shut them off and go on to the next question, you would, you would, you would follow that route down and see where it takes you a little bit. It’s given it’s given the parents the parameters to be able to do that as well. So so they’re enjoying it, and they’re not seeing it as a chore that they’re they they’re getting the same enjoyment out of it and spending that time with their children and watching them progress.



Yeah, that’s really fascinating, because both your answers as in the in the most challenging where it wasn’t working so well. And at best when it referred to engagement. Yeah, yeah. Now, I know, there’ll be issues under the engagement thing, but it’s fascinating, isn’t it? And I think, well, what, what what you were just saying there, Patrick is a really good bit of learning for people who don’t understand education and advantages is just a skill with which teachers and leaders naturally find ways to promote engagement by you talked about following up with just the right level of questioning, you know, to reinforce or to just extend or to, you know, to whatever you’re seeking to do. And, I mean, my hope for this period is that is that there’ll be a kind of a dawning of realization, with regard to that, not not just a level of skill, I don’t mean, sort of, to set you apart level of skill, you know, the only teachers can do that, but, but actually a realization of, wow, okay, so how can we learn to mimic and reproduce those, those skills to develop that level of engagement? At all levels of education? Yeah. So Oh, my God, the question really, is on my chest.



Do you think there’s also a movement with with parents of understanding more about them that their child’s learning, because the learning is no longer happening necessarily in the school, but it’s happening that was reflecting on what you were saying, Patrick, about doing things together? Do you feel that going forward, this will result in a more engaged parental involvement?



I think that’s something if we look before Congress, that was something we were trying to do already with parents groups and parents evenings report that you’re always trying to get this parental engagement. Yeah. But the COVID forced the issue that let that little bit where where you have to really change direction and it becomes the your absolute school focus and, and I think that’s something the the lessons we’ve learned is something that we can really take forward because we know with all children if if parents are involved in their education, they go To be more successful to go to make more.


Nadine Powrie  40:04

But the level of engagement is also linked to how we are communicating with people. And I’m sure that you’ve kind of reassess how you’ve been communicating with parents and with students and how close your communication change over the past year. Yeah, good question.



Can you say that again, please?


Nadine Powrie  40:25

Yeah, I’m talking about engagement and communication. Because, you know, before we’ve had the parents into school every day, now, it’s obviously very different. So how have you adapted your communication plan to ensure that you, you keep developing the level of engagement of ference,



one of one of the things that I’ve done is, I’ve used Facebook a lot to again, I said, I was letting teachers know and staff in advance what I thought we were going to do, and the reasons behind it, and I use Facebook a lot, which got incredible, in fact, quite scary numbers. Read me double check. And again, I think I think that helps as well, just explaining the decisions and parents and then comment when we got overwhelmingly positive feedback from from that. And that’s, I’ve always kind of tried to distance myself from social media, especially in this job. But I think using the school Facebook page, like that has been has worked really well. And even some of the we did some had quite silly videos with the staff doing dances and things so the kids could see it at home when they were at home, which again, got 1000s of views. And that helped an awful lot, I think with, I think the way I’d be looking to, we’re already looking to see how we can get parents into school more and more engaged. Obviously, we can’t at the minute, I think some of the relationships that stuff is built up over the phone or by living work packs just to say hello, as has really reinforced relationships, and I think a lot of parents. In fact, I would think almost all really appreciators. Now having seen what it’s like, on the coalface if we’re not here, well, we are here with their kids aren’t here. But is there any other bits



contributed? Well, I was I was just thinking about some of the most positive things I’ve seen is video calls and classrooms between the children that are in school to a child that’s out of school. In in our second communication is is a massive focus for marriage majority, if not all the children so so having that, that that level of communication is been has been massive. And it’s such it was such a great thing to see. If someone if someone had told me a year ago, I’ll be watching watching the class, my child at home on the border, you would agree that won’t happen. Get a massive positive that’s came out of this situation.



Yeah, that’s great. I wanted to develop that. That’s a really interesting question I want to develop obviously is thinking so that was about communication methods that have changed and you you immediately went to to Facebook, and you talked about some sort of video so sharing but what about your networks and what I’m where I’m really coming from is is is thinking about the support you now have have a sort of headed to an uncharted networks developed where Mike maybe you’ve been in touch with other other head teacher colleagues to you know, either bang your heads collectively against the laptop or share successes and certainly do but you know what, you know, Have you have you found that that support is there or is that been a big problem for you?



I think we we’ve got a head teachers group in Northumberland, a special school had teachers group and it was it was good air in our frustrations but at the same and to know it’s it’s quite a relief to know other people are in exactly the same boat, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t get you out of the boat as well. But, so, this there’s been a lot of meetings between special heads which again And when we share advice, and what how we’re approaching a situation and, and we’ve tended to have similar approaches as well. So which makes it easier to say, you know, the school 10 miles away or doing something exactly the same as those if we were to be questioned. Not that it has really there’s schools northeast that have various meetings as well for for heads, and they have a special school forum as well, which is been was useful. I think that started in the summer, and it’s still going still going on. I haven’t been recently been too busy. As far as teachers go. In the school with we’ve been really restricted to phase phase teams. far as I can think Patrick has



been very much restricted, restricted to face teams, but staff are very much communicating around school with emails, phone calls, can talk to each other. I think over this period, I sort of kept in touch with school improvement partner governors about different things that have gone on in school and got their advice, but also then spoke to other other teachers that working in schools in the area about things that are working really well for them. And an example being that I know is a secondary school in in North Tyneside, we’re able to put them on to a maths remote learning platform that works really well for most academic pupils and matters, those hitting GCSEs. So it was good. It was good to share that good practice. And this is, and this is really again, developed since that first lockdown. So I think, again, the point being where we are now, if that were for that to share in the resource and what’s working really well, it’s very much different to this time last year.


Nadine Powrie  47:06

We we just spoke about the governors, let’s talk about them a little bit how they do governance supported the school.



The governance or government, governor’s sorry, my son’s



school governor’s schools.



Well, I meet with the chair of governors every probably month, he comes into school, and we have we have a socially distance meeting. Also, I’d be in contact with him on the phone for those bigger decisions that I had to make. Just after the announcement at Christmas, I remember having a long conversation, or not at Christmas in the new just as we came back in the evening, just because we were expecting the situation for special schools to be clarified a bit more thinking that sense would prevail, which it didn’t. But then all special schools took a similar approach to towards anyway. So I’ve had a lot of meetings just giving him the what’s been happening. I’ve kept in contact with emails for any big developments. Again, they can see the sometimes I’ll send them the bulletins that I sent around to staff to say, what’s what’s happening over the next few weeks, it’s been we’ve managed to have a few Governor monitoring visits as well. So they can come in and see what’s happening in school, we’ve tried to reduce the number of visitors into school. But at the same time, I don’t want that to get in the way of school development. Usually we’d have governors coming in and go into classrooms and things like that. And so obviously, we we can’t do that. But we can come in, they can come in and meet me or another member of the team and talk about specific topics. So a lot of it. It’s we’ve still had a high level of engagement. And I think there’s been you know, one of the questions the chair of governors always says is and how are you? Right now? It’s nice to hear. And it’s it’s an interesting question. We’re really when you’re asked that because I think the answer is still stand in the way despite everything that’s been thrown at you schools and school staff Whoa, over the last year that we are still standing and trying to do our best. And the minute I feel, especially last week when we had a bit of sunshine and the the our rates going down and things like that, but there was there was a real lift in mountain across school. I felt Did you Patrick as well? Definitely.



I definitely, I definitely think there was a lift. And there was that, again, that light at the end of the tunnel, you don’t know how far that lights off. But but but there is a feeling that’s not much longer and, and we can build on the fantastic things that have gone on over COVID. But we can get back to the some of the normality of being able to mix around and in and share and share things a lot more



interesting marriage, just because it follows up purpose is exactly what I was thinking just whilst you were starting that might was what do you think were when you have the chance to look back on this period of time? Now I know this is a bit of a strange question, because you’re not there. But But what kind of asking you to to project forward and when you put yourself in a position. So when you have an opportunity, what do you think it will be that you’ve taken from this? Do you think it will be? Well, I don’t know. Let’s just leave it at the question of that.



Well, yeah, I was mentioning how been really trying to look at how we develop school over the last three to five years. And part of what I’ve taken away from this period is, well, we’ve we’ve gotten through this, which is I think is now without doubt the most challenging time in modern memory, for working in education. And so it’s given me the belief that we we can try lots of different things in the future, you know, aim really high, you know, and, and that’s what’s been part of what you asked earlier, what’s been getting me through in professionally, what’s been getting me through is looking ahead and thinking, okay, how can we build on what we’ve got, because there have been some positives that we found from having to work like this. I’m looking forward to having a lot more face to face meetings with people and having children being able to go into classrooms without fear and crossing bubbles and things like that. But for me, I think it shows the resilience that we’ve got in school as well. And when people have had to isolate and things like that, we we’ve been we’ve managed to cope, we’ve managed to to stand up to the challenges that that this has brought us so far. So far, we’ve managed that I think the the tricky bit. And again, especially after Christmas, January’s normally quite gloomy month anyway. But I think this month, the kind of that collective feeling of shattered optimism that was around there as well was was quite hard when everyone’s you know, normally. Yeah, you can pull each other up. I think we’ve managed to do that. And I think we’re out the other side of it. But, but for me, it’s well, let’s, let’s see what other challenges are ahead. And I think we’re one thing I’ve been pleased with is how the staff team here as well have responded to the challenges. You know, it’s easy to like anything when the challenges aren’t as as high it’s easy to look good. But But when been faced with what we’ve been faced with and dealing with their own staff and the kids and the problems that the families have gotten things like that is really shown the skills of the phase leaders, particularly because, as Jenny mentioned before, though, quite a young group of leaders and I think the the experiences that they’ve had during this last year is going to be really useful for them as they they move on through their careers because the they’ll know what they’ve been through and how they’ve had to utilize new skills to get through that period of time.



What about you, Patrick?



I think I think it’s exactly as Mike said, there, it’s it’s very much been a learning a learning curve, all the way all the way through it. And it’s, it’s for me, in that level of leadership, it’s all about building, building those skills, and just adding them to all the time and making me a better leader, which, which will make people feel more comfortable in their own jobs that who I’m leading and make sure that the outcomes of people’s even better than than we have, and I think, I think it’s very much been a learning curve, and you find out a lot about yourself, you find you find where you think I need to develop that area a little bit more. And it’s been it’s been a good time for that. For you. Okay. Great. So


Nadine Powrie  55:50

so do you. Do you have any ambition to become a teacher one day?



Let’s put you on the spot.



I think, yeah. Going forward, I want to I want to I want to progress definitely with my, with my leadership and look at the next stage. And the next stage. I’ve just recently finished my MP QSL Bucha, which I think is with Jenny as well. So it’s, it’s the next stage after that, and, and hopefully, hopefully, some some doors doors will open and as far as I enjoy it, and may very much have enjoyed this period of reflection of how I’ve had to deal with situations and how I’ve had to develop in and that’s an that’s an ongoing journey and leadership it’s in it’s it’s hopefully something where, as I develop those skills, the the role will increase as well.


Nadine Powrie  56:49

Yeah, I’m asking you, because we talk a lot about an exodus of head teachers. As you know, they have to be replaced and you know, we all have a legacy, they have to be replaced. So it’s good to hear that somebody young, like you has not been fazed by COVID. To be a head teacher, perhaps more than ever, because you’ve managed to overcome everything. So next time you talked about skills, and you like to face, you know, what you don’t know really?



Yeah, yeah, definitely. It’s, I think the leading and leading and managing staff through this time has been has been something that you’ve had to develop fast, because as Mike touched on, as well. It’s easy leaving people when things are going well. But that’s really, that’s really when you when you learn?



Yeah, I think you’ve given I think you’ve given a couple of both of you a really positive message there. Because it’s it’s only when you’re tested, that you find out about yourself. And you it’s those are the that’s the you know, the key moments of learning, I really believe that if you go through life without being tested, you’re not you’re not going to develop into, you know, develop your potential. And that’s a way and you’ve both both kind of revealed such a positive mindset with regard to that lesson for a lot of people. So it’s been great. Yeah,


Nadine Powrie  58:21

yeah, we have about two minutes left. Any? Yeah, any final messages, Mike and Patrick



found it quite easy to us, me asked me that. You go first.



Like anything new. It’s those moments that test you. But just like with exercise, you do need to have some sort of recovery before the next day of testing. And I think that’s one of the tricky bits is that we keep thinking, we get it, it’s like you’ve run a marathon, and then you think you get into the end, you’ve got to run another marathon. And that’s, psychologically has been tricky for me, and I think for everyone, but especially with that added responsibility that we’ve all got in schools, and that’s the tricky bit. So it’ll be nice to have a slight break from it and do the job that I’m used to, rather than this one.


Nadine Powrie  59:27

Great trick.



And I think consolidation is going to be key to really think about where we were before COVID. Think about the things we’ve learned during COVID to put together a package of education that’s going to have the greatest effect on on children that we be teaching to get the greatest progress. So really consolidate not forgetting what we did before, but not forgetting what we’ve just done and putting it all together.


Nadine Powrie  59:55

What an amazing story, and we’d say and I think we should say that you’re We’re not studying school as well.



You are Yeah.


Nadine Powrie  1:00:04

That but I think it’s nice with the world children outstanding school. So



you feel it when you walk in you can feel that there’s something about it that you, you know, I’ve been I’ve been in, in other outstanding schools, but I think, you know, the fact that for instance, you get somebody into to to work with your senior leadership team, even though you’re outstanding, you’re still moving forward.



Yeah. And I’m hoping, getting through this or bring people to get, you know, it’s one of those things that it can either divide you apart or bring you together. And there’s certainly evidence to show that it’s bringing people together, especially when you go through a tough time together as it I think, hopefully, in a year or so we’ll look back and laugh and remember this time last year, and, and so hopefully, it will keep that collective spirit that really makes this place what it what it is



very strong, very strong. Well,


Nadine Powrie  1:01:05

what can I say? Just, you know, well, well done to you both and well done to your colleagues and to your community, you know, for what you’ve been doing through the past 12 months. I am narration total narration of what you spoke about, I have to say, and if I could stand, you know, an ovation, I would. Thank you so much for your time.



I know. You’re welcome. Yeah. So thanks so much.


Nadine Powrie  1:01:34

Thank you. I hope to come and visit the school at some point when I go up north Cgn. Yeah, you’re welcome.



It would be great,


Nadine Powrie  1:01:41

but thanks a lot. Thanks.


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