How has your role changed since the school closures?
My role has still been the same as before, but my focus has changed. When in school, I would be dealing with certain priorities, but now the priorities are different, such as ensuring that free school meals are provided for children at lunch times. I’ve been kept just as busy, but other things have come to the forefront because of COVID-19.
What measures do you think have been most important in managing the emotional wellbeing of your school during the closures?
I’ve been checking in with my admin team regularly to ensure that they’re keeping safe and well. I’ve also been keeping in regular contact with our Site Manager to check how things are. Initially, a lot of staff were concerned about job security and pay and needed reassurance about that. A lot of staff haven’t had that concern, but perhaps have wanted to get back into the workplace and are finding it difficult being at home. Some are also anxious about the outcome or worried about returning to work and how that might look, particularly if they have health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
The teaching staff have been keeping in regular contact with families over Class Dojo and they’ve been putting in a lot of work to keep in touch with what their needs are. There has been a greater need for the safeguarding team to work with vulnerable families to keep them safe and involve the social worker where needed. As a school, we’ve been very proactive at keeping in touch with the children.
What measures do you think will be most important to maintain/ initiate on return to school?
It will be really important to speak to staff and to give them clear guidance and reassurance about our plan and to risk assess the school, but also those members of staff who we deem to be in a vulnerable category. Keeping staff safe is a priority and that is what will be in the forefront of their minds. We also need to reassure staff that their jobs are safe and to be there and listen as we always do.
Teachers will be making sure that their children are ok and continue liaising with families who aren’t yet back. We will need to reassure families that it is safe to return, but also respect that they may not want their children to come back, or that someone in their family might be shielded.
There is a risk for staff who are at home, that we could lose sight of their needs because we’re not seeing them every day. This could be the same with the children and so for staff and children we place a lot of importance on keeping in touch regularly.
What has been most important in managing your own/ your family’s mental health during the lockdown period?
It’s would be all too easy to work more than I used to. I have found that it’s good to shut the door on work and leave as I would normally. Initially I thought I would have time to get through my backlog of work, but it’s not been like that at all. There has been so much work involved in running the school during closures, so it can be tempting to keep working. I ensure that I have boundaries in place so that I can still play and relax as well as working.
It’s also important to practice mindfulness to manage anxieties about the situation. There’s a lot that we can’t control, but we can ensure that we are following the government advice and when worries or unhelpful thoughts come to mind, be mindful of them and then step away.