As part of our Future of Teaching series, Chartered College members and individuals across the profession have been sharing their insights with us. Alan Garnett – Headteacher at North Primary School and Nursery – shares his reflections of the pandemic two years on and looks ahead. Download the free Future Of Teaching book to read more reflections.
‘In the midst of winter I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.’ Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa (1953)
Wednesday 23 March 2022 marked the second anniversary of the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020. It seems much longer ago than that. For the first year I kept a diary, published weekly in my local paper, now a book (Garnett, 2021).
Two years on seems as good a time as any to flick through it and reflect. The diary is a chronicle of all that is incredible about the teaching profession in this country. The stories from my school are widespread. Up and down the country, teachers and support staff were doing remarkable things every single week.
I am in awe of what teachers have achieved in the past couple of years – going above and beyond to support children and their families. It does not matter what one’s politics are. What we needed during this period was competence, and our teachers delivered this in spades.
A competent government would have listened to our profession, the Local Authorities (LAs), our associations, and our unions. Covid was a time to build trust. In Essex, this happened with the LA working much closer – in partnership – with teachers and school leaders. The government should have been celebrating our dedication, resourcefulness and resilience.
Our achievements need to be set in this context: serving, and often leading, our communities.
This past week at my school, we have had more staff off than at any other time. We have been pushed to our limits – somehow managing to teach all our classes and maintaining remote learning simultaneously whilst trying to plug the gaps left by the equally underfunded child and family agencies. Should this be the new normal? More importantly, is it sustainable?
During the pandemic, teachers across the country rose to the challenge. We should be proud of the role we played, and continue to play. We deserve nothing less than admiration and respect from the DfE and Number 10. We do not want knighthoods (could bestowing that honour on our former Secretary of State diminish it more?) But our efforts should be recognised by this government and rewarded with trust. We should be listened to. Our profession, along with the unions, the associations and the Chartered College, should be shaping the future of education in this country. That should be the new normal. Not only would our education system be more effective and efficient, but the people in our profession would also be energised by it too. And typing this from my bedroom, having finally joined the covid club, with energy levels low, I imagine that energy is certainly something that many of us need now.
Garnett A (2021) A Headteacher’s Diary: trying to lead a school through a pandemic. Colchester: Red Lion Books.
All proceeds from sales of this book will go to North Primary School and Nursery.