Coronavirus: diary of a headteacher | Education Support
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Coronavirus - diary of a headteacher

Coronavirus: diary of a headteacher

29th March 2020

I was pleased when Education Support asked me to write a piece about how my school is managing during the coronavirus crisis. I looked forward to sharing my thoughts with a view to possibly helping others. However, I have really wrestled with what to say and have opted for warts and all honesty!

It’s important to begin by saying that this is just from an education perspective. I am fully aware of, and whole-heartedly grateful to, the many professionals and volunteers who are working, sacrificing and trying their very best during this time of national crisis.

For us all, the sweeping changes proved unprecedentedly difficult to manage. It has been impossible to plan for the rapidly changing immediate horizon. We all tried our very best, with very little communication from the ‘powers that be’ to come up with strategies that we then had to immediately change. See my 7 tips for head teachers and how we all coped during that incredible week.

But we did cope!

Once most of the fog had cleared, as a profession we stood up, exhausted and weary and tried to carry on. Following the announcement that only certain groups of children could attend school, I met with a tired and highly emotional SLT.  I was aware that they had led magnificently before schools closed and now it was time to de-brief, starting with an honest discussion about how they felt.

I started by stating that I feel worried, tired, proud and angry.

  • Worried – for my own family, including my 8 year old T1 diabetic son.  How do I a juggle duty, visible leadership and protecting him?  Maybe I won’t see him and my other two children for four months? 
  • Tired – I felt that I was crawling over the line, the announcement that schools could offer support for children of key workers filled me with fear.  How on earth could I manage that when I was exhausted?
  • Proud – I was proud of the children and the staff. During a time of crisis they have been magnificent, proactively finding solutions and following my lead when it was needed the most.  I was proud of myself (as should you be) for getting through such a difficult period.
  • Angry – whilst nearly all ‘mucked in,’ some haven’t. That is something that I worry about, I am carefully considering how to ensure my united staff doesn’t become divided with some feeling resentful when we come back together as a team.

This week, I have very few staff managing very few children.  The staff are worried but upbeat. There is a sense of satisfaction that they are able to play a part in this time of national crisis.  My strategy is to get through to Easter (we finish early) and then forward plan for when we come back. I managed to strike a deal with my out of school provider to look after the children of key workers during the Easter break, thus ensuring a break for my exhausted staff.

Going forward I am acutely aware of the opportunity and responsibility ahead of me

This is a time when our profession can stand up and make a difference. We can develop an exciting online learning process for our children and show the world that we, as teachers and head teachers, are eager (health willing) to play our part.  It is crucial that school leaders look after their staff, ensuring that the vulnerable and those displaying symptoms of Covid-19 are protected.  We have a responsibility to promote social distancing and social isolation.

We must understand that we cannot solve this, we must come to terms with the fact that we will make mistakes and that it is time to take off our superhero cloaks. I have previously written a blog about this tendency among heads.

I am very aware of the immediate difficulties we and our communities face. In addition to the effects of COVID-19, we have to appreciate the big, looming monster called fear outside our windows.  We must talk about our feelings in order to address this fear.  We should consider the dangers of isolation on our social health. We should use appropriate communication tools to keep in contact with one another, and encourage our school communities to do the same.

Going forward, firstly, I predict a financial crisis for schools which it would be prudent for us to start planning for now. Secondly, I fear for the physical health of our nation. It is important that we look after ourselves and help our school communities to eat well and stay active during this time. Finally, there is a real danger of a mental health crisis. Head teachers should consider how to tackle this now and plan for the future, not just for the children but for their staff and themselves too.

Please remember that you have been and continue to be amazing; the excellent plans you have developed and are making, the difference you have made and will continue to make and the commitment you have shown now and in the weeks and months ahead. And please also look after your families and yourselves.

Darren Morgan is a proud headteacher of a wonderful school tweets @Moggy14

How we can help 

Teachers and education staff who are feeling stressed or anxious during these uncertain times can get confidential emotional support from our free and confidential helpline: 08000 562561.

What can you do?

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