North Primary School headteacher Alan Garnett says he fully understands parents’ frustrations over the Covid testing system in his latest diary.

Monday, September 14

THE week gets off to a great start with an uplifting assembly thanks to a video made by one of our class of six-year-olds. I then meet with my office manager. We go through the names of all the pupils and staff who are symptomatic and awaiting tests and those that are isolating because of symptomatic householders. No positives. We log the first date of absence. We will be holding these meetings daily for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 15

ATTENDANCE rates are averaging about 92 per cent so far. Slightly higher than the national average this term.

After school the teachers enjoy a detailed presentation from our two Year 6 teachers who have been researching the resourcing and practical challenges of providing remote learning for our pupils who are well but unable to attend school. Teachers are left with mixed feelings. While it was really helpful, it flagged up the difficult workload issues that “blended learning” (as it is being called) will present.

Wednesday, September 16

SPENT the afternoon in a conference call with our European special educational need project partners. The Italians cannot understand why everybody in schools in the UK does not have to wear masks, as they do. The Finns approach is different – they do not have to. The original purpose of the call was to finalise the programme and arrangements for the project finale to be held in the University of Parma next week. The conference will now be held remotely.

Deadlines were not allowed to be extended. We will have to hold a four-hour technical rehearsal one evening next week.

Parents, desperate to work, are having to isolate with their children until they get a test and await the result. The mounting problems with the testing system are a potential source of tension between home and school. I email this letter to parents: “I understand your frustration. The one thing that everybody agrees on today is that the testing system is not working.

“This is creating great tension between families and school. You are not the only family questioning what is happening at the moment.

“GP’s, NHS 119, test and trace call centres and Public Health England are receiving thousands of calls and it would appear that they are giving contradictory advice to what the Government have instructed schools to do.

“Even more frustrating, sometimes these same organisations are giving different advice to different people even though their circumstances are the same.

“As you will know from my communications with parents and the school risk assessment on the website, if a child shows one of the three symptoms then we must send the child home and instruct the parent to get a Covid-19 test done for the child.

“Let us hope that the test and trace system does improve otherwise this situation will occur continuously in every school across the country.”

Thursday, September 17

TODAY is the final day the children will spend with their teachers from last year. There is a strange end-of-term buzz in the playground with children bringing in gifts for their teachers – which have to be stored in a Covid-secure way! By now all the parents should have seen the new teachers’ videos of introduction as it is not possible to hold parent meetings in school.

Friday, September 18

ONLY our Nursery and Reception are open today. The rest of the school are preparing for the new classes starting next week. Cleaning, timetabling of support staff, information sharing and briefing about pastoral care, individual and group support programmes are all finalised.

Limitations on staff movements adds many layers of difficulty, but there is a collective determination to get things right.

Unbelievable. I have my health and safety phone interview. I ask my questions first. Where is the proof that this person is legitimate? – no paperwork was received in advance. Advised him to tell his line manager they should address this oversight. Is he expected to have looked at my school website to check all our Covid documents first? No. So he knows nothing about my school. I could tell him anything.

He then proceeds to ask me a few multiple choice questions. What a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I would like to know the cost of that contract.

5.30pm. Just about to go home. The school cleaning team – a family business – are informed they have a symptomatic son. They reluctantly go home to self-isolate until the test is taken and comes back negative (hopefully). I now need practical help. Wonder if the SEP fancies cleaning some toilets and classrooms next week?