Patrick and I are teachers at Cleaswell Hill School near Ashington. It’s the largest special school in the whole of the north of England, we’ve got around 180 children from 3 to 19 years old.
During the first six weeks of lockdown we had a handful of children in who were classed by the Government as vulnerable, and about five keyworker children. It then started to gradually build back up as things started taking a toll on families who weren’t able to cope, and by the end we had about ninety kids in.
I’m proud that we were able to do our bit, to do something to make sure all the kids were as OK as they could be. You felt like you were playing your part and it really was a team effort – the caretakers worked the whole time without a day off, some staff worked four or five days delivering work packs which the teachers had prepared. We just did what we were paid to do. I don’t think teachers are ones to particularly blow their own trumpet to be fair.
We were really limited with what we could do – learning is very context based for our kids so you can’t simply deliver something remotely. Some of our children won’t go on the phone or on screen. We made contact with all parents on a weekly or fortnightly basis to check in on how the kids were.
It was the weirdest thing as the school is usually so full and it’s a relentless job. We had a reasonable amount of staff in, about six I think it was, and it was so nice to see people because we were leaving home when no one else was allowed to go out. It was good to have a slower pace and just stop, because the job is so challenging.
At home we’ve got three sons, Hector is 6, Albie who is coming 4, and then Austin who’s 1 year old. They all go to some kind of childcare and we both work full time, although I’ve just gone down to four days a week. Me and Patrick worked alternate weeks during lockdown as we didn’t have our childminder, so we couldn’t be in school together.
To relax in lockdown we just went out lots, for walks and in the garden. The weather was so good we got the paddling pool out, just did really simple things and spent time together. We did loads of crafts, which the kids loved, and we’ve got them all pinned up. They did plenty of arty activities, usually related to the work sent home from school, so loads of painting and messy stuff!