With the summer holidays underway, what do Head Teachers from small rural schools do? Six weeks of indulgence with plenty of coffee, cake, and a holiday? – Well partly right.
My six week holiday always falls into three distinct parts and getting these parts right, allows me to be ready for the September term. I always look forward to getting back to school and facing the challenges ahead, but without the right summer holidays, the new term can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Part 1 – Finish Off and Sort Out.
Finishing off of the school year is a hectic time. Publicly we have the plays, the reports, the trips, the sports days, the special assemblies. However, there is a plethora of unknown ‘stuff’ happening usually in the heads office. The majority of the self-evaluations and projects from the term/year are coming to their end. These all need to be evaluated to measure their impact on pupil learning. We complete the tracking reviews and 1-1 interviews with teachers and last years development plan is fully evaluated. This effectively closes the loop on the self-evaluation cycle and leads us to determine the priorities moving forward. The creation of a schools development plan is completed with key priorities formalised. Although like most, this is completed during the last few weeks of term time.
I always find the first week of the holidays, I like to reflect on the case studies, re-look at the pupil tracking, and cross-reference the outcomes of these against the development plan. This is simply to explore if all the bases are covered for the year ahead. Inevitably, some minor amendments are needed to next year’s plans, but nothing drastic. After this, I can finally put the school year to bed.
But of course in a small school, like the one I work in, the sort out period is just beginning. With contractors on-site painting and decorating, other contractors creating and repairing, it is a never-ending case of, “I’m just popping into school…” Phone calls concerning the colour scheme are aplenty, and switching off is difficult as we all want it just right. Then comes the deep clean… more contractors on-site, washing, polishing and buffing away. Come week three, the calm usually descends on the school.
Part 2 – The Rest and Recuperation.
This is a significant and most needed part of the summer holidays, a time to be away completely from school – no phone, no email and definitely no ‘just popping in.’ It is a time to unwind and get away from it all. It is during this time that I realise how much the previous school year has taken out of me mentally. This is a time for putting my family first and spending as much quality time as possible. Holidays or lots of days out form a key feature of this part of the summer holiday as well as plenty of time gardening and enjoying the freedom of no timetable.
Part 3 – The Preparation.
The first two weeks of the September term are always hectic and in my experience to date, I have found being prepared and having a few things up my sleeve, saves a great deal of stress and can reduce anxiety during this period. Leading up to the inset days, I usually prepare a few assemblies that I can roll out with little preparation. I write my termly newsletter in advance of the inset day, so I am not rushing it too much and miss key information from it. I prepare some pages for the school website in advance and sort out what I will be delivering on the inset day to the school staff. I run through key priorities of the schools development plan and look at tasks/actions for the first month. All of which aims to reduce bureaucracy in the first few weeks, and to return my own professional focus.
The September inset days are key for any school leader/headteacher. Whether it is a specific training event delivered by myself, or someone else delivering the training, it is an important few days. I use it always to refresh people on our priorities, key dates for the term ahead, staff meeting/CPD calendar and how this all links to our school development plan. This allows the team to focus on what is important to the whole school.
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For me, all three parts of the holiday are equally important if the start to the new school year is going to be a success. So, not quite six weeks of indulgence…
My top tips to successful summer holidays:
- Get everything sorted and finished as soon as possible.
- Take a break – no phone or email allowed.
- Refresh mentally.
- Enjoy your family time.
- Get ahead for the new term by;
- Focusing on the school development plan
- Sort/remind yourself of school calendar key immediate events
- Prepare any newsletters/letters
- Prepare a couple of assemblies
All that remains is to jump back on the carousel ride for another action-packed school year.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Clem Coady and published with kind permission.