2019 Summer Term

The know zone

  • Primary focus
    ASCL's newly appointed Primary Specialist Tiffnie Harris shares starting points for primary leaders when considering 'curriculum intent' following the publication of the new Ofsted framework. More
  • The end for BTECs?
    The government's consultation on the review of post-16 qualifications closed on 10 June. As we await the outcome with bated breath, we wonder: was this just an attempt to sacrifice the Applied General Qualification (AGQ) on the altar of T levels? Kevin Gilmartin examines the bigger picture. More
  • Due diligence
    An important element of forming, joining or merging an academy trust is to ensure that a comprehensive due diligence process has been undertaken. This way, says Hayley Dunn, schools can reduce, manage or avoid any pitfalls. More
  • Its in our DNA
    With an ever-growing focus on teacher recruitment and retention, it's important to ensure, now more than ever, that you are looking after the wellbeing of your staff. Here MAT CEO Jeremy Rowe shares top tips from his schools' Staff Charter. More
  • RIP for AGQs?
    We are concerned that the government's review of post-16 qualifications could result in Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) being discontinued. Do you run AGQs in your sixth form or college? What are the benefits of these qualifications? What would be the impact if they were discontinued? Here, ASCL members have their say. More
  • Sending a clear message
    Senior leader and ASCL Council Member Margaret Mulholland says disadvantage isn't simply about circumstance or special educational needs and disability (SEND), it's more than that - it's about being individual - a message policymakers should take on board More
  • Give me a break
    Every year as exam season finally comes to an end and sports day and prom night have been and gone, we can at last start looking forward to the summer holiday. But do we really, actually, ever, get a break? More
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Every year as exam season finally comes to an end and sports day and prom night have been and gone, we can at last start looking forward to the summer holiday. But do we really, actually, ever, get a break?

Give me a break

Exams are over. We can do nothing to affect outcomes, and the students are starting the summer wind-down. We contribute to the overall party feel with enrichment weeks, celebration assemblies, sports days and, perhaps, a relaxation of uniform standards (no blazers and, for the daring, sports shirts and no ties).

Sometimes the effort of arranging an inspirational programme of activities to provide stretch, challenge and reward doesn’t seem to be reciprocated by student (or parental) buy-in. (“That’s boring.” “I don’t want to do it now because my friend isn’t going.”)

We know that our young people are endlessly enquiring and imaginative, and that we should expect - and rejoice in - the unexpected on school trips, but do they have to take us out of our comfort zones in quite such completely unanticipated ways? (I’ll let you provide your own particular appalling enrichment experience: we have all had them.) Teaching in a classroom feels positively relaxing by comparison.

Even in the last weeks of term, there are days when our working life feels like a scenario from an in-tray exercise during an interview process. An angry parent holds forth volubly in reception and won’t disappear until they see someone very senior about something – in the scheme of things – very minor. A staff member is in meltdown. Three candidates are awaiting interview (mercifully not in the part of the building where the parent is holding forth). A water test has revealed traces of legionella. And the return from the school trip to France has been delayed overnight because of strike action at French ports.

Never mind, in the words of Sir Cliff Richard, “We’re all going on a summer holiday”. Or are we?

Last week of July – clear desk, respond to rogue emails and prepare to relax, while being aware that we are on the on-call rota in case of dire emergency. Not that there have been any dire emergencies in holiday time to turn out for since the break-in eight years ago, but the phone can never quite be turned off and there is the sneaking feeling that emails should be checked periodically. 

Mid-August – in for analysis of A level results and results day, sharing the triumphs and tragedies. The following week, replicating the high-octane experience as GCSE results arrive and we participate in the emotions, despair and delight of our charges. (Let’s be honest, sometimes it feels as if we have worked a lot harder for these results than they have.)

Last week of August – strategy meetings and planning for September on the back of August’s results, lessons learned, tweaks and re-thinks. 

In our less positive moments, we might wonder whether having an – allegedly – long holiday just when everyone else is on holiday too, is quite the advantage it’s made out to be.

But we have the privilege of helping to shape young lives, of being paid to deliver something worthwhile and of seeing the results of our work in the future ventures of young people equipped for life in the 21st century. Maybe that is reward and refreshment enough.

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. 

The author is a Regional Finance Director in the South West