By Andrew Browne, headteacher of Wantage CE Primary School

DURING lockdown, my 16-year-old son decided to teach himself a set of new skills which he believed would help him in later life.

He has mastered basic chords on a guitar, juggling with three balls, splitting an apple in half with his hand, riding a unicycle, and spinning a basketball on one finger.

As I write this, he is outside the window attempting to juggle and unicycle simultaneously.

This is the perfect metaphor for what it has been like for headteachers and senior leaders across the land since March.

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The National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) does not contain a module on ‘managing a school during a global pandemic’, and there have been days over the last five months where it has indeed felt like I have been learning to juggle while pedalling a single-wheeled cycle.

We have moved through the same stages of lockdown as everyone else: the initial ‘will we, won’t we close’ when we began to prepare for lockdown; the stage of home learning while remaining open to children from our key worker families; reopening to selected years in the summer term; and now the full reopening where we have welcomed back every child this September.

At Wantage CE Primary School, each stage has been successful due to the massive team effort that every member of our school and trust community has played in keeping everyone safe, happy and able to teach and to learn throughout such a challenging time.

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We have been blessed by tremendous help and advice from the Vale Academy Trust, our governors, the Oxford Diocese Board of Education, and Oxfordshire County Council.

I am indebted to our wonderful families and children, who have coped with pages of information, instructions and procedures that we have sent out over the last five months.

When we reopened in June, we set up a one-way-system, which required families to enter the front school gate, drop off or pick up their children, and leave via the rear school gate.

This worked brilliantly, although for some parents, if you had children in several years, it meant walking around the block multiple times.

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It became like Groundhog Day as I repeatedly welcomed the same families as they came round for the second or third time. I am so grateful to them for their smiles and greetings every day.

I must also mention the school site teams, cooks, office staff, cleaners and caretakers across the county who have played such a key role in keeping schools safe and open.

We have a superb premises team at the Vale Academy Trust which has been a great support in providing PPE, signage, staff and advice at each stage of the pandemic.

A lasting memory for me will be the sight of my caretaker at the top of a ladder pushing open roof vents which hadn’t opened for years like a World’s Strongest Man contestant, all to maximise ventilation for our Year 5 and 6 classes.

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Our school’s tenet is ‘life in abundance’ for everyone,where learning, being inspired, flourishing and enjoyment is at the heart of what we do.

Throughout the pandemic this vision has endured, such that many of us may well have assimilated new skills for the future.

Now, where did I leave that unicycle?