The Jack of all trades.

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Reading some posts today and I totally get where some people are at. Increasingly the job is removed from the job I applied for. The pressures have never been greater. Sometimes it feels like a knife-edge. At some point it becomes impossible. These are good people who have driven to this point by a system that is crumbling around them. Schools have filled the gaps, but we all know that’s not the same as having the right resources there. At some point inevitably something will be missed and the consequences could be dire.

My job itself has dramatically changed in the last few years. It was already changing but COVID led to a fundamental change. In a post-COVID world, as cuts have bitten into other services I find myself stepping into roles that frankly I do not have the skills to do. Don’t get me wrong I make a grand cup of tea and I’m really good at listening, I also have biscuits. On occasion I have been known to give a mean hug, but let’s get it straight…

I am not a Social Worker! (We have an endless parade of supply workers, who come and go and there is no consistency.

I am not an Attendance Officer! (I love the data though)

I am not a Parental Support Advisor! (They vanished in 2017)

I am not a Prevention Officer,

I am not a counselor!

I am not a Police Officer!

In the last three and a half years many of these services have been stripped away. We haven’t seen a community police officer since 2019, ours (who wax brilliant) got another job, no sight nor sound since then.

The impact on my most vulnerable families has been dramatic. Let’s get one thing clear I am not in any way blaming any of the people doing those jobs. I see they are run ragged on a daily basis, they have case loads and workloads they cannot possibly keep up with. We are sadly the ones however who see the impact. It impacts on how our children enter school. It impacts on our pupils ability to learn. Rightly or wrongly we have stepped into the void. To be fair my deputy and I try to keep this from impacting on the staff so they can do their job. I worry hugely that this stops us getting on with the job of running a school. We never seem to have enough time. Then again I don’t think anybody does. As a school we are vigilant, we do something called ’60 second monitoring’ which helps us keep an overview of the challenges. We adapt provision to support those young people so they can learn.Our priority is to ensure our young people are safe. As the external support has dropped we see more and more children at risk.

The problem is for many of our families they don’t know where else to go for advice and support. Some are crying out for help. They just often need someone to talk to and a bit of time. However increasingly they need someone to help them.

I have visited doctors with families to help them get the support they need, I have been to court to help parents fight for their child’s entitlement to disability living allowance. I collect children daily to make sure they get into school and then take them home at the end of the day. I have helped them access food banks. We do this because it ultimately helps our young people get on with their job of learning.

Getting CAMHS support feels nigh on impossible. There are massive waiting lists after referral and in many cases they are just rejected once they finally get seen. We did a counsellor in school (We found the money) but now we can’t afford that. Fact is really we just scratch at the surface of the need.

I know some people will say that it is not your job. Thing is by us doing the things we do, we support our most vulnerable children in accessing their education and I still firmly believe education is the key. If we didn’t do the the things we are doing, some of our children would be lost to education.

I do have some skills, my Dad’s teaching me the basics of plumbing has been massively handy, and my time served cleaning schools while I did my degree means I am a dab hand with a mop.

Point is you can only do what you can. Anyway whether I wanted to or not, I couldn’t do it any other way. It’s what the job is. I know in some ways I’m lucky, our school is part of a trust which supports its heads brilliantly.

So to those who’ve hit that wall, I wish good health and bright futures and also thanks for highlighting the current increasingly impossible demands of a job the we love. If we want the best people leading our schools we need to look at how the system supports and sustains them rather than drives them away.

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