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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The end of a school year sees a very important period of reflection and often a pause to ponder on the recent past. This might be for a pupil’s end of term report, or maybe for a farewell assembly for Y6 or Y11 and certainly for any ‘end of an era’ goodbye for staff colleagues retiring or moving on. As pen is put to paper, or finger to keyboard a new and sometimes hated vocabulary has entered our world, from ‘unprecedented’ to ‘socially distanced’; even from risk assessment to ‘thorough’ risk assessment ( what were they before?) and that ubiquitous phrase “ you’re on mute” – if only we had that mute button in real life but how we have missed the real human contacts and the chance to hear from those children and young people in real life. Without doubt any reflections will look back on massive challenges since mid March when the usual rhythm of school looked threatened and then abruptly changed. Since then it has been full on, with everything turned upside down: our daily contacts, our routines, our systems, our ability to do the job of schools, even our understanding of the world as we knew it.

Teaching is often a challenging job with many special moments all heightened by a pandemic. In my own reflections I can only thank everyone for the way they have reacted, the way they have acted, the skills and effort made for children and families in Nottingham. A colleague described some government plans as ‘ill thought through’ and that really galvanised me and challenged us to try and ensure anything we planned or worked on could be described as ‘well thought through’ – I’m sure in some of the chaotic, crazy situations this wasn’t the case but seeing the instinct, experience and commitment of school staff and the leadership at all levels has been amazing and inspirational. Only yesterday I read of another such moment under the headline ‘everyone deserves to say goodbye properly’ and a story of local secondary staff dressed in their prom outfits who visited every Y11 pupil at home. The creative, imaginative and uplifting efforts, sometimes critical support with food and activities all reveal a professionalism, often unseen in public, but well known by families in your communities- you have played a pivotal, vital role.

It is also important to reflect the hard work and generosity is against a background of trying to ensure learning continued – online, offline; safeguarding operated fully, and individuals struggling were followed up – so despite these unprecedented times, schools aimed for ‘normality’ as it best could be delivered. Neither should it go unnoticed that you too had families at home, friends and relatives with heightened concerns and needs, and our own labour in home schooling. This mission throughout the period including holiday times sat alongside the planning for the next steps in recovery really not knowing how that might pan out – so thank you for the immense effort and commitment from school leaders, heads, teaching and support staff, governors and each of you who went the extra mile. There are more challenges to come of course but you have a proven track record in the ‘abnormality’, one of competence despite confusion, commitment despite challenge, perseverance despite obstacles, thoughtfulness despite anxiety, professionalism, vision and genuine moral purpose. So now stop! Turn off Zoom, Teams and emails and have a proper break, never more deserved. Enjoy this little poem I picked from a reflection by Geoff Barton of ASCL…..’make the ordinary come alive for them’

From us all in the Education Directorate a very heartfelt thank you and best wishes for your summer and a special appreciation for those of you moving to new schools or retiring.

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents