Ever-changing situation for schools is ‘relentless’

With a 22-year career in education Andy McNaughton says he could never have imagined being at the helm of a secondary school as it is today.

Headteacher Andy McNaughton at the Covid lateral flow testing centre at Charlton School in Wellington, Telford
Headteacher Andy McNaughton at the Covid lateral flow testing centre at Charlton School in Wellington, Telford

This week he opened a Covid lateral flow testing centre at the Charlton School in Wellington, Telford, overseeing self testing for firstly staff and, later this week, pupils who are in school.

Lessons are being taught online and Mr McNaughton has been ensuring families in need can borrow laptops or have additional phone data to allow children to take part.

It is a far cry from either his early career as a PE teacher or even the start of his headship just 12 months ago.

“I never imagined myself and my staff would now be running a lateral flow testing centre,” he said.

Mr McNaughton added that the move to the post-Christmas lockdown took everyone by surprise.

“People don’t appreciate that we learn about the changes at exactly the same as everyone else, watching the announcement as they are made – we have no prior warning.

“We had been expecting a staggered return to lessons but, after the prime minister’s television appearance on the Monday night, we had to start contacting all the parents and finding out how many key worker and vulnerable children would be in school. Primary school heads had an even worse situation, which some having had children in that day,” he said.

“Working together as our Learning Community Trust is invaluable, everyone is pulling together.

"The help from the trust is vital, I feel very sorry for stand-alone academies.”

During the first lockdown which began in March Charlton had only about 20 pupils in school. Today that number is 100. “That is about 10 per cent of our pupils,” he said.

The changes for education continue with secondary schools now having to grapple with the cancellation of exams this year.

“Again we had no prior warning. The Year 11s worked tirelessly through the last lockdown thinking they would be sitting their exams. Now they have been cancelled again,” Mr McNaughton said.

“What is so frustrating is that there is no plan.

“If the government had announced there will not no exams but this or that would happen instead that would be one thing.

“But with nothing in place instead of exams we now have to work with the students to reassure them.

“The work for everyone in education, for all the staff, is relentless.”

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