The rhythms of a school year really matter. This year, they’ve totally disappeared – for me, right now, being on maternity leave where I’m currently away for the longest I ever have been. And for everyone else with home learning and repeated isolations.
But the government announcements through t the last academic year and a half demonstrate that they have no idea how tightly structured those rhythms are.
September brings the hope and promise of a new year. It’s a new planner, clean pencil case, pens with lids intact, fresh books. Everyone gets a new start (which is why we don’t continue exercise books from one year to the next) and a new opportunity. I firmly believe no matter what your age the promise of September stays with tug throughout your life!
The run up to Christmas brings different things at different stages. Nativities and winter concerts progress alongside revision for mock exams, and balancing the excitement and tiredness of the autumn term is a skilled task.
In the new year there’s another ‘new year’ focus, and with the dark mornings and evenings it’s important to keep spirits up, consider staff training needs and after school meetings carefully. It’s a true janus time for exam classes, with mocks behind them but after Christmas the real things are close now, in a way they aren’t in December.
Easter feels like the top of the rollercoaster, just before the downward slope of the summer term. Usually there’s a few weeks before revision leave so it’s plugging gaps, building resources and creating confidence. There’s a shift towards non exam classes, and a looking forward towards the next academic year: what’s worked and what hasn’t, what are we keeping and changing, how can we fully finish prepping the other years to move on in their school life?
Our summer term is packed with activity – weeks of projects, rewards, catch ups, and a bit of an easing off the day to day.
The rhythms matter. Not only because we’re used to timetables and schedules and have been kept adrift but because time is so precious. Not in terms of ‘catching up’ but because we’re used to measuring schemes in half terms or weeks or lessons. To having pockets of activity and pockets of time to balance it out. It’s one of the things that makes teaching interesting and manageable.
The DfE and Ofqual announcements don’t heed those rhythms and arguably can’t – unprecedented times etc- but it seems that they don’t even realise that they exist. Announcements that exam boards will let us know at the end of Easter aren’t good enough. That the budget calculation has been shifted by months. That the breaks shouldn’t exist (and should be seen as a ‘step change’ whatever that means). That students’ time at home is the same, but not the same, and needs ‘catching up’ as though we can manufacture time. These announcements never have enough timely detail and while staff across education have made them work, the rhythms are seriously broken.