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Hessle High School

WEEK 25 - Friday 25 March 2022

I knew something wasn’t quite right when I woke up on Monday morning. The weariness and lingering headache didn’t really feel like any normal cold or mid-term bug. After labouring to make a cup of coffee, I grabbed a Lateral Flow Test and, two minutes later, yelled an obscenity which I won’t repeat here. Suddenly, my week had been turned upside down and, rather than facing a busy but exciting week in school, I have been condemned to spending most of the week in front of a screen in my office at home, from where I am writing this now on Friday morning.

Apart from the benefit of being able to get on top of some paperwork and report-writing, it has been a frustrating week and one that I know many of you will have experienced at some point over the past two years. Of course, I have tried hard not to pass it onto my family and it has been awful not being able to hug my children or even sit and watch TV with them. Whenever there is a Test Match on, my son and I are usually inseparable in front of the TV discussing how the batters and bowlers are performing but, this week, we have been reduced to watching in different rooms and texting each other! One day, they say, we will look back and laugh at some of the things we have had to do during Covid but I’m not so sure about that.

I am not the only member of staff with the virus at the moment and my first online meeting of the day was to look at the projected number of absences we are facing next week and how we can juggle events and diaries to ensure that we have lessons and lunch duties covered. It is a stretch and will put lots of pressure on our wider staff team but, for the moment, we are able to continue normal timetables and activities. Should that change, I will of course give you as much notice as possible. Please bear this in mind if any of my colleagues are not as responsive to any queries you may have in the coming days and weeks and thank you for your support.

You would think that school leaders would spend most of their time talking about teaching and learning, or about curriculum, but you would be amazed at how much time we actually spend talking about matters that we never would have considered important when we first entered the profession.

Last Wednesday, for instance, the Senior Leadership Team spent nearly an hour discussing the length of lunchtime. This might give you a flavour of the discussion….

“So, we’re back to summer lunch durations now and how is it going?” I started.

“Well the split lunch is essential now. With our larger numbers, it is the only way we can get 1200 through the canteen.”

“Agreed, but do we need fifty minutes for Cohort B?”

“No, it’s too long. For the last ten minutes, they’re just bored.”

“I would prefer a shorter lunch - 35 minutes is about right.”

“But that’s not long enough for the staff. If you’re teaching five lessons and have a duty, that’s barely enough time for a brew and a wee!”

“Agreed. Do we need to keep the staggered times? That complicates things and means that Cohort B needs to have a different duration from Cohort A.”

“The stagger is vital. Again, with such high numbers of students, the stagger helps the flow around the building.”

“So, we’re agreed that we need the stagger. 35 minutes is too short and 50 minutes is too long.  We’re getting somewhere. Let’s consult with staff and bring that back for a final decision. Now, which year groups should be in which cohort?”

“Well, we have five year groups so one cohort is going to be bigger than another.”

“We could split a year group?”

“We could, but that reduces the social contact for the year group affected. That’s not fair. I wouldn’t want that for my child.”

“Agreed, so we need to put three year groups together. Which ones?”

And so it went on. And these are the kind of discussions we have on so many occasions, about the school day, school uniform, behaviour strategies, school events and so on. We bring together our collective experience and wisdom (such that it is!), combine it with what we know about our students and best practice in other schools and we make decisions. It helps that many of us are parents ourselves and know how the decision of a school impacts children and family life. We don’t always get things right but it is not for the want of trying and I would hope that we are confident enough to admit when we get things wrong and can make the changes we need to put it right.

I know that we have made too many changes to the structure of the school day over the past two years. Covid has forced us to make changes but we have probably over complicated things at times.  This is why we are determined that the decision we reach around the school day can be a permanent one - which is why we are spending so long discussing it!

One of the advantages of sitting at home with Covid is the time it has given me to reflect on a few things and I know how important stability and certainty are when building trust between families and schools. Covid has raised the potential for that stability to be weakened but we are determined that will not be the case at our school. Change is not sudden or knee jerk. Change must not be for its own sake, it has to be progressive and result in our school being stronger and better. That is what our students need and deserve.

Have a lovely weekend

Mr Groak

Headteacher