Swinton pandemic

Over the past year, teachers have been at the forefront of the Coronavirus pandemic. From ensuring classrooms abide by social distancing measures to converting to online learning, their jobs have been far from simple.

While it is easier to reflect on the negatives of the past year, Dr Clare Campbell, the headteacher at St Charles’ Primary in Salford kept a ‘pandemic diary’ for Adamah Media in which she focuses on the small wins and joys of the past year.

Clare said: “I started doing a diary of the little encounters I had every day; it reminds me why my job is joyful.

“I kept it every day all last year, not really realising it was going to end up being in a global pandemic! It ended up documenting the pandemic, so I just picked out the best bits for the article.”

Clare has been the headteacher at St Charles’ for 10 years and really values looking for the positives in life, no matter how small, which is something she believes is helping her get through the pandemic.

Leading a school through a pandemic was certainly not something headteachers imagined would occur in their lifetime. With parents and students looking to them for guidance in March last year, the pressure was on.

Clare said: “It was really stressful, especially when people are looking to you for the answers and there are no answers! I’ve never lived through a pandemic before, so we were just kind of making it up every day as we went along and just trying to do the best and trying to keep everyone healthy and safe.

“You do feel the weight of it on your shoulders definitely, but I do think that the pandemic has brought out the very best in people. My staff team have been amazing, the parents have been really supportive and I’m really grateful.”

The children at St Charles’ have taken the new rules in their stride and have adapted remarkably well to wearing their masks, using hand sanitiser, and more recently the introduction of online learning.

As a Catholic school, having faith, and strong moral values is at the forefront of life at St Charles’, and is something Clare and her staff have been working to maintain despite not everyone being able to see each other face-to-face.

Head Girl, Emily.
Photo credit: Clare Campbell

“At the beginning of lockdown our head girl Emily was diagnosed with leukaemia, which just took the whole school community by surprise, we were absolutely shocked.

“We started doing things for her and that really helped to gel us as a school community.”

Some of the children made and sold little bead angels called Charlie’s Angels, while others took part in a sponsored head shave. A socially distanced community bike ride was also held to help raise funds.

As a result of these efforts, they managed to raise £4000 for the Manchester Children’s Hospital, and it helped to keep everyone together despite being apart.

Clare reflected: “It’s been a tough year, but we see a bit of spring now. I am seeing little signs of positivity. Emily’s dad has just been in to tell me that her treatment is going really well, her hair has started growing back, she’s getting stronger.

“We can see the spring flowers coming out, there’s hope. We are getting ready to welcome all the children back in, so it does feel like we’ve turned a corner.

“No matter how small and how simple, there is still joy to be found every day. We have to have hope for our children, we have to.”

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