I’ve not written on my blog page for ages, since last November, over 7 months ago. I’ve written a few bits for other organisations, but nothing about the random thoughts going through my head some of which relate to school business leadership. Since January I have been full time Deputy COO and moved from my School Business Leader office in a lovely dual campus primary school to our Central Team office. I’ve also been studying for my CIPFA Level 7 School Financial and Operational Leadership qualification and then of course a worldwide pandemic has hit us. I’ve actually worked from home in my front room “office” for longer than I have in my actual office which I share with the Head of HR and the IT Director. These two people are great fun to share an office with and I think we have the right mix of gentle laughs and working together to solve issues really well, I miss them and the rest of the Central team an awful lot. We are currently centralising our HR and Finance operations, including new software for both. Our plans to embed the teams and new improved working practices have been challenged by our current working situation. At a time when we need to work together closely and share ideas, support each other, inspire each other and get the job done, we have all been scattered across the area working remotely and also crisis managing the impact of the pandemic on our schools and of course deal with the FSM voucher situation – I promise I won’t mention it again. The Central Team have been amazing, as have all our schools during this testing time. I am so very proud of the work that has been carried out and the positive impact we are having.
Communication has been key to having a positive impact, we’ve kept in touch like many schools have with zoom, googlemeet, and the good old fashion phone. Also emails, oh my word so many emails. Every morning our Executive Principal sends the whole Trust an email update which includes a link to a YouTube video. DJ NC takes requests and it’s been great to hear some of the weird and unusual music choices of my colleagues from across the Trust in the morning, as I check other emails and plan when I can make a cup of tea between all the zoom meetings scheduled for the day (My worst Zoom day tends to be a Thursday and the highest number of zoom meetings in a day was 14). Some of the YouTube videos have made me laugh or get very moist eyes or puzzle as to why I’ve never heard the tune before or why someone would want to ever listen to the tune more than once! This distraction has been welcomed and goes someway to replicating listening to the radio in the car on the way to work in the mornings, like I used to pre lockdown. When we’ve not enjoyed a particular tune, the Trust Finance Manager and I have supplemented with an additional tune just to ourselves, which we felt was more appropriate. These tend to have a 1980s bias or are from a soundtrack from a favourite film. They’ve helped lift us up and make us smile.
Technically I’ve got more time now as I’m not commuting (not that it was a long commute!), however I don’t know where this additional time has been spent and bizarrely there has been little time for reflection over the last three months. Whilst on the subject of reflection, mines seems slightly different – you see I’ve got more grey hair than ever before but also my natural hair colour is significantly darker than either my husband or I remember. The combination of grey, darker roots and the colour last applied at the beginning of March, when talk in the hairdressers was about whether COVID19 would even require a lockdown, has resulted in a hair colour I refer to as tortoiseshell, as in the cat colouring, not as in the hard exterior of a tortoise. So obvious is this new look, that when I dropped off some shopping to my parents house one evening, my Mum called from the window “would I like her to add some hair dye to her next order for me?” A quick scowl, my best teacher look I could muster, and she remembered that geographically my brothers are not able to bring food to their front door, so she better keep on my sweet side.
I know this pandemic isn’t over yet and I know that there will be more issues to overcome for schools before we settle into the normal, but remember we’re all doing the best we can to manage the impact of the pandemic on our schools, whilst growing as people (our comfort zones have well and truly been stretched) and keeping our families safe and well. So if you sob a little whilst listening to a long forgotten tune or text a member of your household to bring you a much needed cup of tea during yet another zoom call or worse spot another grey hair during a zoom call talking to your much missed work colleagues you would love to be in an actual room with, please know you’re not alone.
Keep going we can do this.