Back to School Diary of an Assistant Headteacher in England

The following diary entry comes from Daniel Bull in England, as part of our ‘Back to School Diary’ series.

September 1999

The barber had assisted my mother’s request for a standard ‘back to school’ close cropped back and sides (thank goodness the bowl cuts that I’d received years earlier were now a thing of the past); my brand new Blue Umbro rucksack which had my ‘South Park’ pencil case neatly inside and please note the pencil case was crammed full of every stationary item available and of course a packed lunch to keep me fuelled – sandwich, crisps, chocolate biscuit and fruit. I was of course fully prepared in terms of the equipment checklist.

I was dropped off for my first day ever at big school. I remember walking up towards the front entrance of the secondary school on my own and had a deep knot in my stomach of nervousness to the extent that I could have cried. However, the first day was of course fine and I never looked back. I still stand by school being the best days of your life.

So we fast forward to 2021 and the back to school phenomenon, anticipation, worry and excitement surely has now worn off? Since the start of the 2019 academic year we have gone ‘back to school’ more times than I can even remember as cohorts have been told to stay at home or the ‘pingdemic’ has had them in out in out and coming ‘back to school’ quite regularly. The back to school was always tainted with a what if we get another case, what will the government do, what is the guidance from the DfE going to look like….the list drags on.

However, this time feels ‘special’ as we are slowly returning to normality in the United Kingdom, restrictions are limited, school bubbles will be popped, we can see a return to sport, music, drama, science experiments, playing with friends and in person assemblies. These things are so vital to restoring and restabilising culture within the school. I have missed presenting a weekly assembly to my students like you would not believe and I am sure deep down the students have also missed my anecdotes, poor jokes and inspirational themes. As the Secretary of State said:

“It is the point when our focus can shift away from the disruption of covid and on to learning, enrichment and recovery.”

So as a school leader what do I believe our focus should be all about. Let’s start with behaviour and culture – this is our chance to re-establish our expectations, aspirations and values in the school. Never assume that everyone knows them, remembers them or believes in them. Every assembly, every meeting, every interaction look to inspire by reminding everyone what a <insert your school/academy name> student, visitor or staff member will get being part of your community.

School is a safe, consistent and inspiring place for everyone who enters and don’t forget that. We must use our fine-tuned skills as educators to build relationships, boost self-esteem and develop the characters of our youngsters and staff….including your own.

Routines and expectations should be embedded again and again and again and again. You can never go wrong by doing this that is for sure. Remember, we as humans are creatures of habit – we love the familiar, we love the things we know, we love an element of certainty. Think of the impact a teacher not being in front of their class for one period – it certainly has the potential to cause a few ripples.

The secret to your success is your daily routine. A lack of planning can constitute a crisis.

We must get straight back into teaching, straight into the learning, straight into inspiring our students once again. I hope that we can avoid all of the administrative nonsense that usually comes with back to school, becoming a more important focus than the students themselves being in front of their teachers. I am excited for next week, I love being a teacher and I love being a senior leader. We have been so resilient as a sector over the past 18 months and demonstrated time after time our ability to create the next generation of stars in our country. This has and will always be more than a job…teaching is so much more. Welcome BACK TO SCHOOL.

Author: Daniel Bull

Assistant Headteacher, England

Daniel is Co-creator and editor of @_Morethanajob podcast. He is an Assistant Headteacher and has been a qualified teacher for over 10 years experiencing a range of settings and contexts. Daniel qualified with a 2:1 Ba (Hons) in Business Management and Law, his specialist subjects include Business, Politics & Law at both GCSE and A-Level.

As a senior leader he has portrayed high standards to all members of school communities by setting out a clear vision of fun, passion, commitment and consistency within in his roles, building a strong presence and having gravitas within school communities to inspire trust, confidence and commitment. He has experience leading on multiple whole school initiatives in all areas of senior leadership focussed on whole school improvement.

Daniel has a passion for enhancing life opportunities for young people through building systems that embed strong culture, experience, recognition and identity.

Daniel led and implemented a widening of the curriculum area to a new lesson for students called ‘Wider Perspectives’. Whilst there is a clear intent to broaden knowledge of wider issues, it has been designed to focus on literacy and numeracy skills with the themes of Humanities, Science and Current affairs being the basis of the curriculum study. This has embedded further cross-curricular support and learning to ensure all students develop and extend fundamental skills in literacy and numeracy to support their academic journey. This is in addition to students understanding the wider world and how it may influence them and how they may influence the world and build the components of their own cultural literacy, significantly impacting on future understanding and access to texts, experiences and the 21st century world. Students experience topics including British history, British values, criminal law, business & enterprise, climate change, significant moments in history, space exploration and conspiracy theories.

Daniel is a sports fan, still playing cricket and golf and road cycling. He has a huge interest in current affairs and values the importance of enhancing all student’s cultural capital.

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