Monday 11th May 2020

What a weekend!

It started with a Bank Holiday, moved to the Friday to tie in with the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

This would have been a major event in the school forming one more exciting chapter in the history of the oldest state school in Colchester.

This is our 125th anniversary and thanks to the brilliant inspiration and sheer hard work of project co-ordinator Laura Davison and historian Claire Driver, our CXXV project continues to live and breathe.

Although we were not able to host veterans last week and hold a street party, Laura and and Claire have captured the memories of these former pupils over the course of this year on our special CXXV website (

Their memories of attending North during WWII, experiencing air raids, rationing, VE day, and interestingly - home schooling contribute to a superb archive.

Last night the nation sat down at 7pm to wait for the PM’s address on how we would be led out of Lockdown.

The headlines had been heavily leaked. Schools would be told to allow more pupils back from June 1.

It was time for the detail.

The previous Sunday the PM had announced that Year 6 would be a priority. Check.

Then he said reception and Year 1 pupils should come back too.

Where did that come from? And the details? To follow in the week.

Frustrating. In the meantime we no longer have to Stay Safe in England, we have to Stay Alert. The other home nations will continue to Stay Safe.

This morning a government document revealed that there was another priority group – pre-schoolers.

We have 50 Nursery children, 60 Reception (5 year olds), 60 Year 1s and 60 Year 6s. Social distancing will remain the rule for interaction. Still no details.

However, I do have a maths problem.

I am allowing no more than 10 children in a classroom to try to adhere to the 2m rule.

I will need 23 classrooms for these children. I have 14!

Cancelled the governor meeting scheduled for the evening to discuss the government proposals. Deferred to Wednesday evening.

The school newsletter was sent home this morning.

It included the names of our very first Home Learners of the Week.

In the absence of assemblies where Good Work and Good Citizen Awards are presented, and the impossibility of hosting tea parties to celebrate pupil excellence and contribution to the school, teachers will nominate their home learner of the week.

Seven teachers each week will do this –one class from each year group. I spent the afternoon speaking to the children and their parents on the phone.

One of the nominee’s was Aron, whose parents both work at the hospital.

They work opposite shifts and have kept their children off school, even though they are obviously key workers, because they decided the safest way to avoid getting the virus and not being able to work was to keep the children at home.

Many frontline workers have done the same.

Well, Aron was nominated not just because he is doing lots of school work but for being a superstar around the house too, helping out with the chores. Superstar.

It was good to talk to the children and forget about the logisitical problems I will have to solve.

At 4.00pm a government document is finally released, laying out the government expectations and guidance.

It acknowledges that young children cannot social distance but if the government’s five test have been met they should come back to school on June 1.

The main recommendation is 15 children maximum in a class. Not in our classrooms.

I will plan for 10. The children must remain in their groups with the same teacher and they must be kept apart from other groups throughout the school day to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

This will mean not every “bubble” will have a teacher, their learning will be led by assistants and nursery nurses. We have brilliant support staff but that is a big responsibility.

Year 6 would have started their SATs today. Some will be relieved, some will be disappointed that they did not get the chance to show how much they have learnt at North.

Tuesday 12th May

More information and advice from the government.

Apparently they are still being guided by the science but now it is down to our common sense to get to phase 2.

I was never very good at science at school; in fact after some disastrous mocks I acquired the nickname Albert in honour of Albert Einstein.

I have a vague memory of being taught Newton’s Laws of Motion and particle theory.

I don’t remember studying a science module called Common Sense!

Media are all over the proposals.

Keyboard warriors are saying it is time for teachers to stand up and be counted.

They are already being counted -- 23 teachers have died from Covid-19 already across the country.

The unions are not happy.

They want to see the real science behind the decision making. I agree.

The risk to the safety of children and staff has to be assessed properly.

Wednesday 13th May

Have drafted plan to accommodate all the children in government priority order whilst continuing to have places for key worker children and vulnerable children.

The plan can accommodate Nursery, Reception, Year 1.

There is no room for Year 6s. Two and a quarter hour zoom governor meeting this evening, grilling my plans.

The governors questions covered all aspects: the safety of children, the safety of staff and the logistics. Parents will be informed in the morning.

Thursday 14th May

Before I publish the plan I feel it incumbent to break the bad news to Year 6 , who were under the impression that they would be invited back first.

I am sure that many of them will be shocked, disappointed and possibly even angry about this.

Those feelings would be understandable. It is a very sad way for them to end their primary school career.

The government plan says that if a school cannot accommodate all its priority pupils then it should ask a neighbouring school.

I have written to all the secondary schools to see if they will increase their transition offer to these children who will soon be their students.

The plan is published. Parents of our youngest pupils receive an acceptance offer letter which explains what school will look like for their children.

They will be able to make a fully informed choice.

I do state that it is a conditional offer – dependent on the government go ahead and also having the staff I need to implement the plan.

Parents have a choice – they will not be fined for not sending their children to school. Some staff have no choice – they are unable to return to work.

The others will have a choice. All employees across the land are being told that if their place of work is not safe they do not have to cross that threshold.

The unions have an audience with the government’s scientific advisors tomorrow. Will they be reassured.

Local Authorities are getting involved.

They want to know whether they have the power to tell schools not to open based on regional differences in the R number and infection and death rates.

Friday 15th May

We usually celebrate the end of SATs Week with North’s Got Talent.

The Year 6 school councillors organise and lead the whole thing. Not this year.

But the teachers have kept the spirit of NGT alive with a video show.

Each class will have a winner and their videos will be put on the school website.

Mary, one of our cleaners, an artist in her spare time, will be the judge.

The union leaders’ meeting with Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, did not prove to be a defining moment.

Doubts remain apparently. Unexpectedly, the British Medical Association has gone on record as saying June 1st is too soon.

Wait until June 15th is their advice. Liverpool’s local authority has declared their schools will not re-open on June 1st.

School Offer forms are trickling in.

Are parents hesitant to reply? Are they waiting to learn more? If the biggest brains in the country cannot reach agreement, how do we know what is the right thing to do?

School Offer forms are trickling in. No wonder.

Parents are probably hesitant to reply, waiting to learn more before making their decision.

At the moment it is 50/50.

Like all schools, we will continue to “do our duty”, as we have been since March 23rd: educate our regulars in school, support home learning and manage our remote pastoral care system, plan for opening for more children and watch the national debate.