Life in a small school…

All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost

Avicii – Wake Me Up

When my contract ended in a large primary school I struggled to find a job.  Being told several times over that you were second best on the day eventually grates on you and you start having feelings of self doubt about your own abilities (the worst was when the pupil council wanted me but the HT didn’t)

Eventually though I found a job share in a small, rural first school.  This is where my real journey into teaching started.

You see, people think small schools are an easy ride.  Don’t feel guilty about that, I did too at first.  I had a class of 15 (yes, you read that right) year 4s who were just lovely children.  Living in rural Northumberland has that effect on people.  There’s not much to get angry about, the countryside is stunning and it’s perfectly possible to live an almost idyllic lifestyle.

But it’s not an easy ride.  Can’t find the computing coordinator?  The music coordinator, the MFL coordinator, the PE coordinator?  Then it must be you.  We need a DPO you hear?  Well it cannot be me because I’m the computing coordinator.  But there’s nobody else with the knowledge. Well I’ll do it in the interim…

Take this week as an example.  Monday is normal, I teach my Y4 class (28 this year, don’t get excited by the low numbers I had last year).  We are just back from residential so all our work is revolving around this as a project.  We skip between writing diaries to doing statistical analysis of who liked what activity best, second best and least.  Then it’s staff meeting and home.

Tuesday.  The day starts with a phone call from someone who is running an EEF project I showed an interest in – we are too small a school to take part though.  It is nominally my PPA afternoon but today I have a governor coming to visit me to talk GDPR.  I’m meeting our visiting rugby coach to talk about the competition he is organising later in the month.  I also have to complete my proposal for my NPQSL project, do playtime duty and write a letter to parents about the rugby competition, organise the transport, do the EVOLVE etc. Planning can wait until the weekend…

Wednesday.  Teach my class in the morning, carrying on looking at presenting data in chart forms, breaktime answering an email about LED lighting in school and dealing with quotes for new IT equipment before sending the office an order form for some Raspberry Pi stuff.  Then it Y2 registration, KS1 PE (athletics this half term), read Y2 a story before home time then a cup of tea with the boss.

You see this is the thing with small schools.  Everyone has to pull their weight, there is no room for excess baggage.  I’ve learned more about schools in the last 18 months than I possibly need to know, from budget issues to kitchen staffing, from dealing with the local MP visiting to leading the school Christmas concert.  But I love it.

Every day is a challenge. Every day is a test.  There’s no year group partner to bounce ideas off, no phase leader to act as a buffer between SLT and the shop floor.  It’s a collective in the truest sense of the word.  I know every child’s name from Reception to Y4, we all know the SEND issues in our school and because we all run some kind of intervention group during the week with children from all year groups, we have a real sense of where all our children are at academically.

I know my story is not unique and I know I am not special in any way.  What I commend you to do though is find a small school and go for a visit if you have never been in one.  You might get more than you bargained for…

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