Just getting through it

We’ve now completed six weeks of the nationwide imposed lockdown. For me there have been three distinct phases to this the lockdown so far.

Phase 1 – The last two weeks of the Spring term was when we were suddenly thrust into a lockdown with very little notice. A completely new experience that prompted the use of the word “unprecedented” at every turn.

At my school we did a pretty good job of making sure everyone who needed it had the right equipment and set up to work at home. We had ample information telling us who was medically vulnerable (staff and pupils). We were also confident that we knew which of our pupils would have trouble accessing virtual lessons and could get to work on putting contingency plans in place. We even managed to say goodbye to our Year 11s and 13s on the preceding Friday so they felt some semblance of normality (as far as possible anyway).

Nothing was normal but we limped through knowing that in just two weeks we’d reach the end of term and could have some breathing space. I continued to work from home everyday and communicate with my colleagues via either Teams or Zoom. We were nearly there.

Phase 2 – The end of term arrived but the breathing space I’d been looking forward to didn’t. It was announced that our school would stay open and then for good measure it was announced (on a Sunday) that we would be able to access supermarket vouchers for our free school meal pupils to ensure they were not going hungry. This brought a whole new level of stress as I battled with the portal to get the vouchers ordered in time. That’s a whole other story but it you want to read about it, I recommend this blog by Accidental Business Manager (click here to read).

On Good Friday I ventured into work for the first time. It was very odd. A school usually bustling with nearly 2000 pupils and over 200 staff was rattling with just 5 pupils and a hand full of staff who’d volunteered to work during their holiday time.

The next week arrived and I ventured into school two more times. Lots of admin staff were in relentlessly printing work packs and stuffing envelopes to post home to our pupils. Unlike the previous two weeks, this phase represented a shift in my mindset. I’d accepted that I couldn’t hide away in my house forever more. More importantly things had moved from trying to make it to the end of term to looking forward and making plans for the summer term – organising food vouchers, getting the work delivered, tutors and heads of year making contact to check on pupils learning and well being.

Phase 3 – the summer term begins and I’m now going into school 3 times a week. Having battled with trying to manage my work load at home alongside managing education for my young children (year 1 and year 2) I’ve decided working completely remotely is not conducive to my productivity.

The shift is now towards what feels like the new norm. I’m having more and more meetings scheduled in. Virtual leadership meetings happen with great regularity and we get a great deal done. Elsewhere, everyone is on board with using Teams to keep in touch – SBM cluster meetings, virtual interviews, meetings with Local Authority officers – it’s all happening and actually it’s running quite smoothly.

Generally I feel as though I’ve moved away from “just getting through it” to making it a more productive experience. As I’m sure Business Managers all over the U.K. will attest to, our work load has by no means slowed during this lockdown. In fact, as well as continuing with the normal tasks for this time of year (budget setting, overseeing Easter cleaning etc) we have added to our normal workload. As usual SBMs support each other brilliantly and have helped others to find a way through these unprecedented times. That support ranges from sharing report templates to drawing attention to newly released guidance.

There are many rumours swirling around about when schools are due to reopen. At the moment they are just rumours but when the announcement is made, like all SBMs I’ll be ready to transition into the next phase of this journey – phase 4. Until then I’m making the best of this new norm. It’s a hybrid of home and office working. Both my working and parenting hours are more fluid but rest assured I’m determined to keep pushing through it because I know “this too shall pass”

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