A flurry of headlice treatment adverts can only mean one thing: the autumn term is well and truly underway.
As the start of term dawned, social media was awash with seasonal emotions – the nostalgia of parents as they packed their babies off for the first/second/twelfth year of school; the indignation of the nation as we realised we’d been cheated out of a decent August once again; the anguish of teenagers as they wrenched themselves out of nocturnal holiday habits to stagger, blinking and confused, back into a daily routine.
And, of course, there were the back-to-school jitters. All of which seemed to be coming from the adults.
The apprehension was unsurprising, given the challenges schools will continue to face this academic year (members of The Key for School Leaders can log in to read our article on future challenges for schools. Then I suggest you seek some light relief with our much jollier article on using dogs for therapy and literacy.)
As if that weren’t enough, there was also the unexpected hurdle thrown in teachers’ way by the thoughtless behaviour of One Direction. Fortunately, TES is on hand with tips for teachers in the wake of 1D’s ill-timed split.
I refuse to accept the too-often touted premise that the education sector is one great disaster zone. It certainly has its struggles, but it also has its joys, and once I started digging around it didn’t take long to find them.
“New beginnings, fresh starts, shiny, huge uniforms. I’m excited about change, moving on and moving forward.”
When I asked school leaders, teachers and support staff what they were most looking forward to in 2015/16, I wasn’t expecting to find that it’s the challenges themselves that are exciting many of our educators.
One told me how he’s looking forward to the challenges that changes to the English curriculum will bring, while another is keen to get stuck in to a new Key Stage 5 history curriculum that he hasn’t studied since his own A-levels.
“I’m looking forward to putting my new programme in place for primary kids that have been excluded. Such a fun challenge.”
That word “new” kept popping up. It’s hard to tell whether an environment that changes so much creates or attracts such a resilient workforce – probably a bit of both – but it was great to hear from so many who are throwing themselves headfirst into the unknowns of 2015/16.
“Seeing how my kids get on with Shakespeare Schools Festival this year, being supported for the first time by student directors.”
One teacher’s excitement about her school building being “razed to the ground” was a touch concerning – until she mentioned that the school is moving into a completely modern environment.
“I am most looking forward to seeing the new year 11s in their suits and ties, transformed into young men for their last year with us, and the new year 7s looking rather in awe of them.”
New uniforms are undoubtedly one of the best things about a new academic year. This is particularly the case in secondary schools, where as a teaching assistant I spent the first few weeks of September untangling children from their own ties.
It sparks fond memories of my own start to year 7, clambering onto a bus with a rucksack the size of a wardrobe and a blazer that, thirteen years later, I still haven’t grown into. I can only be grateful that I had two weeks to settle in before getting braces.
“I’m looking forward to watching the new year 7s finding their strengths in the secondary curriculum.
“I’m also looking forward to preparing year 11 for their first big life-changing decisions as adults and getting them excited about the opportunities that are open to them.”
Since The Key launched its #CelebrateMySchool campaign at the beginning of September, we’ve heard some fantastic stories about school staff who’ve made a difference, from geography mavericks to headteachers with booming voices and bucketloads of faith in their pupils.
The stories have come from all sorts of people in all walks of life, but one thing these people have in common is their gratitude towards the school staff who inspired them. This school year will fly by, but your impact upon the children and young people you inspire in that short time will most certainly stick.
Of all the responses, my favourite came from a year 2 teacher:
“I’m looking forward to hearing more of the funny things children say! I asked my new class what different things I might like to know about them. There were the typical, year-2-style answers: favourite colour, best subject, best friends …
“One child raised his hand: ‘Allergies and intolerances?’
Members of The Key for School Leaders can log in to keep on top of the year’s important dates and deadlines with our interactive online calendar.
Elsewhere on Key insights, we look at schools that will be taking on very different challenges – like floods and reindeer stampedes – this academic year.
What are you looking forward to this year? Join in the Twitter discussion and tell us what excitement 2015/16 holds for your school #CelebrateMySchool