Lockdown in Halifax: A Head Teacher’s perspective

 

By Emme Ford, Head Teacher, Lee Mount Primary School (Halifax)

Thank you teacher writtern in child's handwriting in a notebook with lined paper. Has a hand drawn rocket in red and white and yellow stars on it

 

“School is my children’s life. It’s their future. It’s their chance. And it’s their chance at life. It’s where they get their cultural capital from.”

I’m the Head Teacher of Lee Mount Primary School in Halifax. My school is a two-form entry school with about 350 pupils. Almost half of them have free school meals and are classed as disadvantaged.

School is my children’s life. It’s their future. It’s their chance at life. It’s where they get their cultural capital from. These children don’t experience the arts outside school.

Lockdown

During the first lockdown, we only had 20 children in our Bubble School as we called it. Bubble School was great, it was really creative. We didn’t stick to the normal curriculum. We did lots and lots of art, lots of games, lots of sport, and we worked in different ways where the constraints of SATs and outcomes don’t enable you to work like that normally. It was a novelty that first lockdown.

This is when Artis developed their online sessions and we offered it to children as part of their online offer. Lots of children hadn’t really grasped the online offer and certainly not in a school like mine. Lots of them don’t have devices, so they couldn’t access it as much as we hoped.

Back to school

When children were allowed back into school in June, Artis was allowed back into school. We had our Artis Specialist (Scramble) back, and that’s when catch-up work really began. Scramble started to work with very small groups and we also had a week of intense Artis in the summer with 15 of our very carefully selected disadvantaged children from our most vulnerable. It worked! And the children were ready, they bounced back.

When we all came back in September, our children’s lives in school were back on track because school is their life. That is their normality. They weren’t missing their ballet, and their music lessons and their skiing holidays, because they don’t have those things. For them life was back to normal with the help of Scramble.

Sleeping and gaming away lockdown two

Lockdown two in January, completely floored us. We adapted, as Artis did, to remote learning really quickly this time and children were ready. We were ready to support them, and the videos with Scramble became part of our online offer. And the children loved it.

Our life in lockdown was very different, my work as a Head Teacher was very different. We ordered food parcels, we delivered work packs, recipe cards, pens, books, laptops and dongles. Parents came to school filling their prams with rice, pasta, eggs and potatoes. I had parents who were pleading with me for their children to be in school.

We did lots of doorstep visits. I’d run around the locality with my Chair of Governors, who is also a runner to check on children. We got around more children if we would run around, children who weren’t engaging. What we saw almost daily was so much lethargy. So many people in pyjamas. No-one was dressed. They were sleeping away lockdown. They were gaming away lockdown.

And how has Artis helped us remotely?

The videos from Scramble linked to our topics, which enabled the children to carry on learning and linking with our curriculum. It was active learning for the children to do at home and also in school. Children really engaged with the remote learning this time, and they really enjoyed seeing Scramble’s friendly face, and they responded really well to her energy.

So, what now?

We hope there will not be another lockdown for our children. They lacked enthusiasm when they came back, they lacked stamina. We would get them going, and then sometimes it stopped again. Every time we have to send a class home our hearts really break. We have to restart it all over again. We keep on doing it because they need it. But each time we have to restart it takes a little bit longer, and emotional wellbeing suffers.

Scramble is working with our Year 1s on their communication skills, being active, dance, laughter. She’s also working with our Year 5s on their reflections on lockdown through mine, expression and confidence.

There’s one boy in my Year 5 group who I am very mindful of now because he has no confidence, and in his normal classroom setting he will constantly refer to himself as a failure. ‘I can’t do this, I’m going to fail again.’ But I never hear him say that with Scramble.

Performing arts are so inclusive, they get children fit, happy, confident, and creative. It is everything they need, now, even more.

04 May 2021


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