What a difference a week makes to school priorities

25th May 2018 at 00:00
With the key stage 2 tests over, Year 6 teachers’ attention turns to sports day, secondary transition and the dreaded sex education

They say a week is a long time in politics. I don’t know much about that, but it can certainly feel that way in schools sometimes. This time last week, we were all emerging from key stage 2 testing, only to be reminded that we weren’t allowed to talk about it. Teachers used coded messages on social media and in Tes forums, or gave broad sweeps of judgement about each test (from “nightmare” to “much easier” for the same papers in some cases).

Now, just a week later, it seems like it hardly matters.

I say “hardly” when the truth is, of course, far from that. But the people for whom it matters are very different. As a new headteacher, there is the lingering thought of how significant each one of those final scores may come to be. For the next six-anda-half weeks, we wait in limbo for the conclusion of those few vital hours and the consequences they bring.

But in Year 6 classrooms now, nobody cares a jot about alternative names for cute animals or the details of possessive apostrophes. That’s not to say that teachers will stop revisiting topics, or that maths and English will go out of the window – but I wouldn’t expect many classrooms to be building nets of dice any time soon.

Priorities lie elsewhere, although quite where depends on your likelihood of receiving a writing moderation visit. If you’ve already got a date lined up, no doubt writing will suddenly become the all-encompassing activity. If you are off the hook this year, chances are that things will look slightly different. That’s not an indication of cheating, just of wanting things to be just so when you have guests. You can bet that no school ever failed its Ofsted inspection because of a missing display border but you can be just as sure that no school ever went into an inspection without bothering to check every last staple.

A busy timetable

If you don’t have that ahead, then there’s plenty more to keep Year 6 classes busy. Whether it’s auditions and rehearsals, cycling proficiency, or perhaps the last batch of swimming lessons, the things that have been put on hold all year suddenly make a bid for every available slot on the timetable.

Best laid plans of sticking to the routine timetable become harder to maintain as the school photographer appears, cricket tournaments pop up, and the pressure is suddenly on to find a slot for the dreaded sex education sessions.

Then it’s secondary transition. After the initial hubbub of the letters arriving on 1 March, attention has been largely back in the primary classroom, but with just weeks to go, secondary school looms on the horizon. For Year 6 teachers, it means a bit more paperwork and wondering if anyone will actually read what they’ve written.

Before you know it, we’ll be facing sports days, summer fairs and end-of-year productions, and the trials of trays of melons and mysterious board games will seem but a distant memory. It turns out that a week is quite a long time in schools, too.


Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979

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