The barber had assisted my mother’s request for a standard ‘back to school’ close cropped back and sides (thank goodness the bowl cuts that I’d received years earlier were now a thing of the past); my brand new Blue Umbro rucksack which had my ‘South Park’ pencil case neatly inside and please note the pencil case was crammed full of every stationary item available and of course a packed lunch to keep me fuelled – sandwich, crisps, chocolate biscuit and fruit. I was of course fully prepared in terms of the equipment checklist.
I was dropped off for my first day ever at big school. I remember walking up towards the front entrance of the secondary school on my own and had a deep knot in my stomach of nervousness to the extent that I could have cried. However, the first day was of course fine and I never looked back. I still stand by school being the best days of your life.
So we fast forward to 2021 and the back to school phenomenon, anticipation, worry and excitement surely has now worn off? Since the start of the 2019 academic year we have gone ‘back to school’ more times than I can even remember, as cohorts have been told to stay at home or the ‘pingdemic’ has had them in out in out and coming ‘back to school’ quite regularly. The back to school was always tainted with a what if we get another case, what will the government do, what is the guidance from the DfE going to look like….the list drags on.
However, this time feels ‘special’ as we are slowly returning to normality in the United Kingdom, restrictions are limited, school bubbles will be popped, we can see a return to sport, music, drama, science experiments, playing with friends and in person assemblies. These things are so vital to restoring and restabilising culture within the school. I have missed presenting a weekly assembly to my students like you would not believe and I am sure deep down the students have also missed my anecdotes, poor jokes and inspirational themes. As the Secretary of State said:
“It is the point when our focus can shift away from the disruption of covid and on to learning, enrichment and recovery.”
So as a school leader what do I believe our focus should be all about. Let’s start with behaviour and culture – this is our chance to re-establish our expectations, aspirations and values in the school. Never assume that everyone knows them, remembers them or believes in them. Every assembly, every meeting, every interaction look to inspire by reminding everyone what a <insert your school/academy name> student, visitor or staff member will get being part of your community.
School is a safe, consistent and inspiring place for everyone who enters and don’t forget that. We must use our fine-tuned skills as educators to build relationships, boost self-esteem and develop the characters of our youngsters and staff….including your own.
Routines and expectations should be embedded again and again and again and again. You can never go wrong by doing this, that is for sure. Remember, we as humans are creatures of habit – we love the familiar, we love the things we know, we love an element of certainty. Think of the impact of a teacher not being in front of their class for one period – it certainly has the potential to cause a few ripples.
“The secret to your success is your daily routine. A lack of planning can constitute a crisis.” We must get straight back into teaching, straight into the learning, straight into inspiring our students once again. I hope that we can avoid all of the administrative nonsense that usually comes with back to school, becoming a more important focus than the students themselves being in front of their teachers. I am excited for next week, I love being a teacher and I love being a senior leader. We have been so resilient as a sector over the past 18 months and demonstrated time after time our ability to create the next generation of stars in our country. This has and will always be more than a job…teaching is so much more. Welcome BACK TO SCHOOL.