2021 Spring Term 2

The know zone

  • Effective transition
    The impact of the pandemic on lost learning for primary school pupils moving up to secondary school is a growing concern. Never has the focus on high-quality collaboration and early transition planning been so important, says ASCL Specialist Tiffnie Harris. More
  • Getting our priorities right
    ASCL Specialist Margaret Mulholland believes that Covid-19 has highlighted the stark reality of disadvantage and segregation in our education system. Now, she says, it's time to get our priorities right. More
  • Brave new world?
    As the government launches its consultation on changing the way our students apply to university, ASCL Specialist Kevin Gilmartin examines the key proposals. More
  • Defining your benefits
    ASCL Specialist Jacques Szemalikowski highlights the benefits of belonging in the Teachers' Pension Scheme. More
  • Remote teaching
    We've all had to change the way we work during this crisis, especially during lockdown. Here, ASCL members share their experience of remote teaching and working throughout the pandemic... More
  • Candid camera
    Principal Hannah Knowles says being a member of ASCL Council is a privilege and it has widened her vision of education. Here she shares her passion for Council, teaching and leading, and her dislike of... 101 Dalmatians. More
  • A time for peas
    Home schooling plus online meetings and lessons while minding three youngsters... not to mention the head injuries, disastrous baking and 'comfort breaks'. Alex Wallace opens up his lockdown diary from early last year. More
  • Remote audit
    The impact of Covid-19 has brought many challenges for academies over the last ten months, but one rarely mentioned is that faced by finance and management teams as they undertake the annual external audit remotely, says Andy Jones from Cooper Parry. More
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Home schooling plus online meetings and lessons while minding three youngsters…not to mention the head injuries, disastrous baking and ‘comfort breaks’. Alex Wallace opens up his lockdown diary from early last year.

A time for peas

Day 4

Today, my wife had to go into work. She is also a teacher and was in school looking after the small number of pupils still in attendance during this difficult time, leaving me behind with three children all aged under eight. As I waved her off to work, it felt like the first time I drove my car without my driving instructor… except the car was on fire.

As the door shut, young William looked up at me with a mischievous grin – game on! Breakfast was complete, straight to YouTube for Joe Wicks’ online morning PE lesson.

All went well until two of them unfortunately jumped for the same imaginary star, which resulted in a savage clash of heads. I didn’t dare do a head injury assessment just in case one of them needed to go to hospital, probably not the place to be at the moment.

Instead, I instructed the non-injured child to go to the freezer and get some peas. We were both nervous about this, as mum had specifically told me under no circumstances to touch anything in the freezer. We made a pact not to mention it.

Time for us all to settle down for some work. Turns out maths for eight-year-olds is harder than A level geography. I gave them all my best attention, darting between timetables, fractions, a bit of literacy, handwriting and spelling.

I then had a two-hour meeting via Zoom with the senior team. My biggest worry was how to mute the screen when the little cherubs arrived to demand food, drinks and Calpol. I had to resort to a movie in the end.

Choosing a movie for three kids is just as tough a decision as deciding which Spice Girl is your favourite (Emma – you could get lost in those big blue eyes).

The afternoon involved a few more meetings, completion of the home school tasks and cooking some flapjacks – that tasted disgusting.

My wife returned at 4pm and I passed on the baton (grenade) and excused myself to catch up on the day’s work.

We finished the day with a bit of family gardening, a barbecue in the evening sunshine and clapping for all those NHS workers who had a much harder day than any of us.

A month on

Today, I tried to deliver my first set of interactive lessons. Thankfully, my wife was not required in work so, when 10.30am arrived, I left her with the three children in what can only be described as a bombsite of a kitchen to sneak upstairs to the office to begin logging on. Ping, ping, ping went my computer as Year 10s logged in. I felt like Joe Wicks, although sitting down in a hoodie with a coffee rather than jumping up and down in Lycra.

For 15 minutes I fired out numerous questions and their responses came flooding in; I could comment, feed back and interact. I was loving it. I then set them a 15-minute task and ran downstairs to help my little girl with a literacy task about a boy who had fallen in a magical ocean.

She looked disappointed with my contributions, as she had when I helped her with her maths.

Halfway up the stairs I heard the famous shout from my youngest. It’s the shout all parents dread – and hope the other adult in the house responds to: “Daddy, I’ve finished!” I sprint back downstairs; it was a rapid bottom wiping, much faster than the 20-second hand washing, and back to the computing.

The rest of the lesson went smoothly. At the end, I was clearly getting carried away as I suggested we try an audio meeting. It worked perfectly; I might try a full lesson via the audio video next week.

I said goodbye to the lads and, just as in school, they all thanked me for the lesson.

I had a real spring in my step, which is exactly how I feel when teaching in school. I think this is actually going to work!

I returned to the kitchen where they are all working quietly at the table. Maybe the last hour has all been a dream.

Alex Wallace is Deputy Head at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.