Dear Mr Williamson,
It has been a while since I last wrote to you. In a number of ways many things have changed. We have welcomed back almost all pupils and greeted them with smiles, warm hearts, cheeriness and sensitivity as they have returned to school this term, no doubt anxious about what it would bring.
We have taken that anxiety and turned it into engagement. We have reassured, comforted, rebuilt, laughed, assessed, taught, caught up, rebuilt trust. We have done all of that in the space of 15 weeks. It has not been easy, and we are all tired, but it has been rewarding and inspirational at times to see just how adaptable, resilient and wonderful the young people we teach are. The profession needs to look back on this time with immense pride at what we have achieved in a short space of time. The media and, at times, your own government would have you believe that this would be a generation lost to education. It is an easy narrative to push and it is one that plays on parents’ anxieties. I’m confident they won’t be for two reasons – their own abilities and those of the teachers who care for them.
So, a lot has changed. Schools look a little more normal, the routines have been established and risk assessments are working out. In terms of job satisfaction, as we move into Christmas, I feel it is high. My team have worked wonders and I can evidence we had caught up the missed 15 weeks within 6 weeks of being back, for some children.
However, my pride is tinged with disappointment. Disappointment, that despite how much has changed, there are still fundamental things that remain the same. These things are not deficiencies in schools or staff, but deficiencies at the very top. The DfE is there to support a profession. Yes, to hold it to account, yes to lead the way on policy, but ultimately to be there for us and stand up for us. This is where nothing has changed. I feel unsupported and unvalued by the Department.
Still I step into holidays waiting for the extra workload that more guidance will bring.
Still I work against decisions that smack of trying to people please rather than being thought through.
Still I learn information through the media rather than through the department.
Still I try and reassure a staff team that want certainty but get anything but.
Still I have to bring together an anxious parent body.
Still I have to look inept when parents ask me questions to which I have no answers as no details have ben forthcoming beyond the headlines.
It seems as though we are actively being worked against. I cannot fathom why decisions are made as such late notice. That make no acknowledgement that things are changing because of a previous misjudgement. I could accept that a lot easier than the pretence that it was always this way and I must have interpreted previous information wrongly. You must have received many letters such as this, and been given plenty of feedback to this effect. Why has no action been taken or improvement been visible. Despite the claims you make about your respect and gratitude for the profession and what we have done I see nothing but a Department which holds us in contempt. A Department that takes for granted the good nature of the profession and their willingness to make things work and a department that does not speak for me. Trust is a huge part of leadership and without it, leaders cannot function. It has saddened me to see my trust in you being eroded over the past months. I have long held the view that as a state funded school I should try my best to carry out the wishes of the DfE, but I have become more and more disillusioned with this as time has passed.
So, I feel pride, not in conjunction with the Department on a job well done, but pride in myself, my team and the wider profession for what we have achieved in spite of the Department.
As I said, I am disappointed. I go into Christmas with yet more breaking news stories and unknowns as we move forward. Conflicting messaging and plans that have little or no regard for how schools run. I will be spending this time reflecting positively on what I have achieved in education this term. I would ask that you do the same, and genuinely reflect on whether your Department has done the best it could for not only the children in its care but the thousands of staff it represents?
Christmas is about giving, and I will continue to give my all for the children in my care – not because of anything I feel is done for me by the department and no longer through any sense of loyalty, but because as always, the children come first and we will do our best for them, despite hindrances in our path.