We are in uncharted and unprecedented times at the moment which are testing us all in endless and often unexpected ways. No matter who we are we are all affected both practically and emotionally by the impact of COVID19.
As a special school headteacher I am responsible for a group of the most vulnerable and complex children and I recognise the need to ensure we continue to provide a school base for those who really need us either because of their parents being key workers or because they are vulnerable in the context of safeguarding. I also recognise and want to support the needs of my staff team who have some very real and valid concerns about the practical implications of continuing to be in a workplace where social distancing and maintaining the advice around additional personal hygiene routines which are told are a MUST are not only a challenge but in some cases with some of our most complex pupils impossible.
I am sure I am not alone in feeling that the last 2 weeks as a headteacher have been 2 of the hardest weeks I have ever experienced. Responding each day to the latest curve ball coming our way, managing the conflicting expectations of the government, LA, parents and staff with everyone looking for me to lead whilst I assimilate the latest advice, review and respond in the best way I can knowing why we are doing what we are doing – ultimately to stop the virus spreading and to save lives.
It is important for me to say that I have a fantastic team in school who have supported me every step of the way. My leadership team have worked collaboratively with me and the wider staff team have been doing amazing things online to support the children who are no longer able to be in school. Currently the things we are doing with parents are shared via our school dojo account however we are currently working on setting up a home learning page on our website in which we can share more widely and in a longer term way some of the fantastic things our staff have set up e.g. a daily sing and sign session, online storytelling as well as endless bespoke activities / communications by our staff who are all acting as key workers for every child in school to ensure daily contact. I also appreciate how the families of our children are supporting us, keeping their children at home when they’re able to and engaging with our staff team to support their children’s home learning.
Yesterday evening I was invited, along with a small group of colleagues to have a conference call discussion with Vicky Ford MP and representatives from the DfE with regards to Coronavirus and special schools. We had been asked to submit issues we wished to raise with the minister prior to the meeting which as you can imagine were broadly similar and formed our agenda of 5 key items: –
- Supporting the workforce ( social distance / PPE / testing)
- Sustaining provision / local coordination
- Planning for September / transitions
- Sharing good news stories
What I can reassure colleagues of is that both the minister and DfE representatives were very aware of all of the efforts that colleagues across the country are doing to support our most vulnerable and complex children with SEND and were very keen to hear about other ways they could work with us and support in the areas we raised with them as above. They are very appreciative of the things that we have all put in place very rapidly and very much see our place as key workers in the overall context of stopping the spread of COVID19. This is backed up by the open letter that the minister sent out to colleagues on the 24th March and the thank you letter to colleagues written by the Secretary of State to all colleagues on 25th March in which he made a specific reference to special schools.
We know people have been facing and will continue to face challenging times, however, even in our darkest days we have to remember why we are all doing what we are doing