Learnings from Lockdown

Your stories of hope during
the Covid-19 pandemic

Story 1 of 29
Welcome to Learnings from Lockdown

Introducing our learnings from lockdown

Living through this global pandemic has been the most unusual and challenging time and I wanted us to capture some of our learnings. Colleagues and children were asked to write about the following:

  • What have I learned about myself personally?
  • What have I learned about myself professionally?
  • What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)
  • What have I learned from others?
  • What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?


I hope you enjoy reading these ‘Learnings from Lockdown’ and ask you to watch this space – some of the ideas you read here will become a reality in the very near future.

Helen Rowland

Chief Executive Officer


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Pupils from Manor Green

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Erica Lees – Freehold Community Primary Academy

When coronavirus insidiously crept into our lives earlier this year, I was initially alarmed but confident that it couldn’t touch me and my family. I’d not heard of anyone in my circle who had been touched by it. It was something that was happening to other people. I was convinced we wouldn’t go into lockdown…and we did. I was sure no-one I knew would fall ill with it…but they did.

However, there has been a glorious silver lining.

Working remotely from home and not being among the melee, I will admit, was at first a slight respite from the crazy rat race we all scamper along as teachers. I enjoyed the opportunity to drink a morning coffee in the garden and stop for lunch when I chose (and go to the toilet whenever I need to!). However, as the weeks dragged on, that small relief turned to worry and anxiety. Everything just seemed more difficult and life was harder to enjoy. I worried about the children and if they were getting a bedtime story and any fresh air. My arms ached to hold not only my family, but my friends and colleagues – who are often the people who provide that daily comfort (I am a hugger – ask anyone).

Once I knew some of the children would return, though, I was torn between feeling concerned and looking forward to seeing their faces. I was pleased when I found out that a mixture of children was coming back, of all abilities. I thought that the higher ability children would understand and provide good role models for all the rules and regulations.

And this is where I learned my beautiful lesson.

All the children came back with the same resilience that I should have anticipated, knowing them as I do. They reminded us to enjoy each little moment and not to put our lives and fun on hold while we waited this virus out. Then one day one of our children chose to to play with the little small world farm set and busied herself setting up pens and fences. She mooed and baaed and unselfconsciously played, making us all smile.

Another child played alongside her with his dinosaurs. This child was our very high achiever. He made an intricate building to keep his dinosaurs entrapped and a ‘Jurassic Park’ style gateway and then proceeded to play in absolute silence, moving his dinosaurs around. After a while, he could not ignore the farmyard noises and he paused, watching his friend.

Eventually, he turned back to his dinosaurs and carried on playing…then we heard a small but definite dinosaur growl. Then another and then a really loud one! The adults looked at each other. We all had the same thought at the same time. We all had always known it, but we had forgotten. Tied up in progress and end of year goals and achievement and we had forgotten that everyone can learn something from somebody else. Our high achiever was great at listening to and understanding instructions and provided that positive role model for others, but the other children taught him to be less self conscious and to free his imagination and have fun. He changed from that day and was full of tales and silly stories.

I’m grateful for that opportunity to have the time to witness that moment. I move with this amazing class into Year 1 in September and I can’t wait to see what else they will all teach and learn from each other.

Erica Lees
Freehold Community Primary Academy
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Pupil from Old Trafford

Old Trafford Community Academy
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Pupils from Lyndhurst













Lyndhurst Primary School
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Emma Plows, Shibden Head Primary Academy

What have I learned about myself personally?

It has made me realise what is important to me, which is ultimately family and friends. I have learned that I can deal with lots all at once (stress of renovating and moving into a house at the start of lockdown, working and supporting others amongst other things) but have still come out the other end! I realise now how important it is now to make more time for myself and my interests.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

I have learned that as a person I am able to be resilient and adaptable to change. Support networks are important as is the need to support family and friends. I have also experienced lots of support from our school, other teachers/colleagues and parents alike. Because of this, I feel I have been able to complete my job well during lockdown.

What has been my most memorable experience and why?

Moving house at the start of lockdown and the relief of living in a house again after living in a caravan for three months when renovations happened!

What have I learned from others?

Resilience and adaptability.

Seeing how my lovely Year 6 children have coped with this experience and all that has been thrown at them. That they have missed out on some of their experiences, but my memories of them when they returned to their ‘bubble’ was lovely to be a part of. I am in awe of their ability to adapt to change and do their best throughout.

Staff, colleagues, family and friends – all have worked together to support one another through very trying and worrying times.

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

That children can cope in the face of difficult times, but that we should spend more time looking after ourselves (maintaining that work life balance and mental health strategies for others).


Emma Plows
Shibden Head Primary Acdaemy
Story 7 of 29
Rachel Buckley  – Teacher – Lyndhurst Primary School, Oldham

I think I’ve learned a few things about myself during the past few months.

  1. I need to spend more time outside because I take great comfort in the natural world.
  2. I am an enthusiastic but unskilled gardener.
  3. I have no willpower when there are biscuits in the cupboard.

I’ve surprised myself in terms of stepping up and being a leader. I have felt a great responsibility to look after everyone so that they feel able to do their best during the maddest of times. I have learned how proud I am to be part of a profession that goes above and beyond what might be expected.

Most memorable for me, has been the strength of my own children. My daughter lives and works in Sheffield, on her own. I wanted to speed over there and rescue her and bring her home. But she said no. She said she’d be fine. And she was. And I will never underestimate her ability to cope in difficult times again.

Others have taught me that communicating with each other is vital to our wellbeing; that in the absence of everything else with which we fill our lives, it is the one thing we can still do to connect and that is how we find the strength to keep going.

I hope that when the dust settles, we don’t lose that sense of connectedness and how amazing we can be when we work together. I hope we remember how important we are to the communities we serve and how thankful they are for even the smallest difference we make.

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Sarah Thornton – Shibden Head Primary Academy

Who would have predicted last September that our lives would have been disrupted so dramatically by Covid-19? Even in the run up to school closures and lockdown, it still didn’t quite seem real. Along with many others, I have reflected on my priorities in life and taken more time to consciously appreciate my family, friends, colleagues and circumstances. I realise I am lucky to be me.

On a professional level, I have been challenged with a whole new range of tasks and considerations, having to respond to rapidly changing guidance, sometimes without the opportunity to consult and plan ahead in the way I normally prefer to work. I have pushed my boundaries and grasped the use of new technologies, albeit somewhat reluctantly at first!

One of the most bizarre experiences was a virtual farewell by Zoom to our deputy head of 25 years – not what we planned as a leaving do but it was the best we could do at that time!

I have valued the trust and support of fellow leaders and colleagues – teamwork has never been more important. We have all pulled together and everyone has embraced changes and just got on with the job to be done. We look out for each other.

Going forward, we should remember that children are remarkably adaptable and resilient. They have settled back into new ways of working and surprised us with their capacity to take new routines in their stride. We should never underestimate or make assumptions about how children will cope in a situation.


Sarah Thornton
Shibden Head Primary Acdaemy
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Donna Tandy – Deputy CEO / Academy Improvement Partner

What have I learned about myself personally?

Lockdown didn’t impact too negatively on me as we have a small circle of friends where we go periods of time without seeing each other face to face but keep in touch via other means.

I’ve always liked routine and found that I made new routines so that timings of the day etc were planned out. I found this added much needed structure.

In January I started C25K with a local club and I have surprised myself by carrying on with this it on my own, without the motivation of the group twice a week.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

That despite working from home, I have felt a bit homeless! Even though I don’t usually have a permanent base, being out in the schools and being ‘in the Trust’ is important to me.

It has also reminded me that once an IT geek, always an IT geek!

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

Getting a new role! As this happened in lockdown, it has evolved in some way, but it will be interesting to see how this progresses and the development of the Director of T&L in the Autumn Term

What have I learned from others?

For me, this has highlighted the range of leadership styles we have across the Trust in how plans have been put together and implemented.

My learning has also come from outside the Trust e,g, GAT where this has been how to certain things, but also how not to do certain things!

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

The blended approach to staff development and the ability to reach out to more groups of staff using technology. I feel this will really enhance the ‘community’ of being a part of the Trust

Measures of accountability – being really clear on which ones matter to us

We are beginning to get our voice out into the wider world and we need to build on that – not an individual crusade, but a collective voice of great practice


Donna Tandy
Deputy CEO / Academy Improvement Partner
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Lizzie Egan-Walsh – Lyndhurst Primary School

What have I learned about myself personally?

I have the ability to change my emotional, physical and mental wellbeing by putting strategies into place to support myself in these areas – eg: walking, yoga, meditation etc. Sometimes I have strayed from this but know that once I get back on track the world seems better again and I find the resilience not only to cope but to succeed.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

I am an ethical, creative and resilient leader who isn’t afraid to sometimes show vulnerabilities. I am able to work through challenges independently and with the support of others when I need to.

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

Coping with immeasurable grief whilst trying to lead a school remotely and support others’ needs both professionally and personally.


I have been dealing with my own grief after the death of my Dad and attending bereavement counselling during lockdown, whilst trying to support my son with his grief, home schooling (I wouldn’t win any prizes for this part), whilst balancing my professional role.

What have I learned from others?

Strength, knowledge and wisdom in our wider creative team. Collective efficacy is truly at the heart of the Trust.

Everyone has different perspectives on things, you can try to look at things from different perspectives but your answers may still not be what others want to hear and that is down to perception alone – sometimes we can’t change perception but we can certainly try!

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?


Even strong teams have their wobbles and that is ok. It’s how we deal with those wobbles to rebond and unite us that counts.


Creative ways of working.

Continue to strive to be the best at what we do.


Lizzie Egan-Walsh
Lyndhurst Primary School
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Kathryn Straw – Shibden Head Primary Academy

What an ‘interesting’ time this has been with so much new vocabulary to learn: zoom, bubble, sanitise, furlough, social distance…

I’ve acknowledged that I am definitely a half-full type of person (or someone who lives in permanent state of denial!).  Even though I am sure I had the virus right at the beginning of lockdown, I still like to think that everyone I know and love will magically be ok.  Even having the virus had its positives as it meant that my daughter made a beautiful ‘Quarantine Quarters’ sign to stick on my door!

I’ve learnt that hidden in the dark recesses of my mind there is still some high school Maths, Geography and scientific knowledge lurking which I have dragged out to support my two with their home-learning.  This has been the ultimate CPD for moving to Year 6 in September!

I am incredibly proud to be part of such a fantastic team and to have had over 50% of the children accessing education.  Zoom meetings have been a revelation for time efficiency and I feel that they could still be used in some instances going forward.

Finally, I have been amazed by the resilience of children.  As a parent of 2 high school pupils, I could not be more proud of how they have adapted to home-schooling using Teams.  As a teacher, I could not be more proud of how my bubble have coped with every change we’ve made and still arrive with a smile each day.

Kathryn Straw
Shibden Head Primary Acdaemy
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John Taylor – Coppice and Roundthorn Primary Academies

Lockdown: a timely reminder that I have the power to bring great joy, comfort, reassurance, positivity and happiness to a lot of people at virtually the same time. And by definition, the opposite is true. Most days, with most people in many different ways I achieved the former. But you never win them all.

The technology! Streaming a live event to hundreds on a Saturday in May and seen by hundreds of others afterwards – what a day! I was back on my ‘Dream BIG and Dare to Fail’ mission, succeeding where I’d failed once before organising a large celebration event that few turned up for.

Failure is part of success: I’m proof of that.

Learning is the work. I’ve learnt more about when to go fast and when to go slow. When to use the latest tech and when to pick up the phone. To give clear direction to people and let them shine. That working from home has its place, but has many drawbacks too.

Let’s embrace the learning and bring balance. Let’s not default back to all of the old ways. Let’s find the ‘sweet spots’ that make the difference.



John Taylor
Coppice and Roundthorn Primary Academies
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Holly Dyson – Boothroyd Primary Academy

What have I learned about myself personally?

I have learnt that my health and wellbeing are important and how these can be managed in difficult times. I have learnt that my family’s health matters and how we can stay connected.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

I have become a more reflective practitioner as I decided to use the tools available to me to share and reflect on best practice more widely such as social media, blogging and class dojo.

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

I’ll never forget how I felt the first time I returned to work. I remember typing in the door code, signing myself in and stopping to look around. I felt emotional yet relieved. I had missed those little routines and the familiarity of a building and a classroom. It reminded me how lucky I was to be a teacher.

What have I learned from others?

I have learnt what it means to lead in difficult times. There was no precedent for the way leaders had to work and the guidance documents were pouring in from many directions and around the clock. Despite such rapid changes, we consistently demonstrated our values and commitments to our communities and staff- I know now that this will always be the place from which I make decisions.

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

The use of Microsoft Teams and documents has been a really useful tool for continuing to work and could save travel for meetings and paper going forward. I also think that this period has allowed us to look again at ‘holiday hunger’ and how we can support our families during the holidays with meal vouchers or access to charities/food banks.


Holly Dyson
Boothroyd Primary Academy
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Kyrstie Stubbs – Boothroyd

What have I learned about myself personally?

I have learnt that I am even more resilient than I thought and that I can deal with anything that is thrown at me. I have also learnt that I am a really positive person and am able to see positives even when we are in a crisis situation.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

Lockdown has taught me that I am a good leader who can lead through a crisis really well.  I am proud that the things I value such as wellbeing and positivity have come to the forefront and helped to support myself and my team through our worst days. Also that I was flexible, creative and empathetic.

What is my most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience has been my twitter experience- I started twitter as a way to have a personal voice online after encouragement from my CEO. During lockdown I have written my own blogs and have been asked to be a guest speaker on discussion panels. I have led some online lectures and supported others in their development of wellbeing through sharing resources. I am proud to have started a project with a group of like minded individuals to support schools in ensuring equity in their schools.

What have I learned from others?

From other leaders I have learnt to rely less on plans and more on instinct!

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace as an Academy/Trust?

My promise is to keep the following changes at the forefront of my leadership moving forward- we should all do this-

  • Helping others keep a positive mindset as a default
  • Being authentic-showing my human side even more
  • Accepting and building on my responsibility to my community
  • Accepting I do not need to take control all the time- flexibility and creativity
  • Reducing unnecessary reports and tasks


Kyrstie Stubbs
Boothroyd Primary Academy
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Helen Rowland – CEO, Focus-Trust

The decision to close schools to the majority of children on Friday 20th March 2020 will forever be etched in my memory. It affected me both as CEO at Focus-Trust and Mum to two teenage sons, one in Y9 and one in Y12. I like a routine, I like to be organised and I thrive with being around people. The uncertainty of the situation we were facing, not being able to go out, the worry about having elderly parents and a mother in law living alone, and two sons needing home schooling, was a challenge like none I’d ever faced. However, I remembered my Story of the Five Balls (family, health, friends and integrity being more precious than work), dug deep, connected with as many family and friends as possible using Zoom, dragged myself out running most mornings, walking daily with my husband and embraced this new challenge whilst being grateful for who I had in my life. I’ve learned I actually like a slower pace of life and it’s quite refreshing not to have anything planned at the weekends.

Suddenly, at work, our key priority was to keep our staff and children safe and we had to be reactive to a rapidly changing situation, deal with concerns from our Head Teachers/Principals and respond to the daily DfE guidance we were receiving. As a Trust, we pride ourselves on being organised and yet we were faced with cancelling all our forums and visits up to Easter and maybe beyond,, and the challenge of not having the answers to many of the questions we were being asked. In an attempt to be solution focused and supportive, I realised how important it was to connect and support our team (Central Team, Leadership Team of sixteen Principals/Head Teachers/Heads of School and our trustees and governors) but balance this without taking over decision making from them. Luckily, we’d invited Greenwood Academies Trust to our Leaders’ Forum on 12th March and knew the potential that virtual technologies could have on keeping staff and children connected and for sharing resources. Appointing Donna as Deputy CEO and our Digital Strategy Leader was key to this success.

Within the first week of lockdown we had lived out our value of ‘Dare’ and held our first Teams Board meeting, Zoom Team meeting and Zoom Leaders Forum. The first of many! I love working as part of teams and the importance of this has never been more apparent to me than this past four months. I am fortunate to work with so many knowledgeable, talented and creative people who I’ve learned to rely on to have the answers I don’t, and I’m very proud to be the conductor on the Focus-Trust train as we journey on this challenging Coronacoaster.

My most memorable professional experience has been having the opportunity to talk on behalf of the Trust to Baroness Berridge, the Academies Minister. She had heard of the great work going on in Focus-Trust academies and offered me a forty minutes call with her. This was such a privilege; I was able to take her on a virtual tour of all fifteen academies and talk about the wonderful work we are all doing for our families and communities. A very proud moment!

I’ve learned that so much more can be gained by reaching out, learning from and supporting others, admitting you don’t know the answers, asking for help and providing help to others. I’ve joined new networks, read lots of education books and raised my own and our Trust profile on Twitter – all of which has brought lots of new connections for me and our @FocusTrust1 team that I hope will continue.

I’ve been amazed at the benefits of using technology for professional development and the ability this has to connect wider groups of staff using technology, particularly our Community Champions and Learning Support Assistants.  I’m keen to ensure this continues as we develop our blended model of responsive professional learning.

Finally, I’m passionate about the power and potential of the collective voice of Focus-Trust to make a difference locally, nationally and internationally. Through the power of @FocusTrust1 #CareDareFairShare on Twitter we can share our great work, support others, become civic leaders and ‘a beacon Trust’, living out our values to make a difference to our children, families, staff and communities and help us achieve our vision of being ‘Great academies at the heart of our communities’.


Helen Rowland
CEO, Focus-Trust
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Andrew Chadwick – Wilsden Primary School

The big revelation for me personally was that I never give myself any time. Work I love. Family I love. I always incorrectly classed both as a hobby and lost myself somewhere along the way. Running taught me this. I’ve also learnt how finely balanced mental health can be.

Professionally, all I can be ever grateful for is that I’m organised! What a chaotic time. I’ve really had to learn to trust. Not just basic trust. But 100% trust and let go a bit.

My most memorable experience? There’s so many. Running 5K for the first time and seeing my family’s reactions when I told them! Taking the time to do things that I hadn’t before like going to the butchers and cooking properly. But the thing that sticks with me is that feeling on the “last day” when a parent walked passed and said, “See you on the other side”. I stood in the middle of the street with the last children leaving, and all I could think was, “I hope so”.  The flip side of the memory is now standing in the street welcoming the hundred and odd children that are filling school with laughter once again.

From others I have learnt to (try and) feel less guilty. Guilty not to be working all the time or taking out time to look after myself. And I’ve learnt to not rush in to get on with sorting things. Take some time. Think it through. Then tackle it with a fresh mind.

Moving forwards for me has to be to keep hold of the benefits of ICT. I asked a head for a bit of help with something and a quick Teams meeting later had everything clear and working. No driving 90 miles, not a million emails, not an awkward phone call trying to understand and visualise the other person’s screen.

Andrew Chadwick
Wilsden Primary School
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Cheryl Ballance – Old Trafford Community Academy

During ‘lockdown’ and possibly due to the lovely weather my training has mainly revolved around running. It’s been great! I’m seeing progress, so why not just keep going? Last week, I decided, possibly due to the poor weather, to change slightly and do some indoor body weight workouts. A simple 20 minute session involving 3 simple moves (squats, press ups, burpees). It went ok. However, the next day and for a few days later I was in absolute agony (particularly my bum). Why did I do that? I’m not doing that again! I’m just going back to running. However, deep down (and partly due to advice from my partner, who is a PT) I knew that the change was needed. If I now build that back into my training I will improve even more in my running and next time it will be less painful.

This made me think about work.

For a long time, many of us (well definitely me) have been doing the same thing. A similar way of teaching (yes, may be with a few tweaks) and we are doing ok. Schools are plodding along, children are learning. However, now we have been made to make some huge changes and it’s hurting, it’s hard, it’s new, the effects will last a while. We are all just thinking about getting back to ‘normal’, like it was before. But actually, maybe this change has some positives. Yes we need to get back to some things (like I am getting back to running) but some of the things we are now doing are actually really good. Proper ‘check in’s’ with staff. Genuinely asking and listening how people are getting on. A huge emphasis on the well being of children ( I know many of us did this before but it was easily forgotten about). Slowing down the teaching / expectations whilst increasing family time. People reflecting, rather than just ploughing forward. I am sure there are many more positives (Yes, I know there are also a lot of negatives)

But I guess what I am getting at is just like I don’t want to just go back to running (with no other exercise), I don’t want to go back to doing everything the same in school. I would like to take the positives and carry them on.


Cheryl Ballance
Old Trafford Community Academy
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Liz Davison – Thornton and Wilsden Primary Academies

Lockdown has been the strangest of times; lots of initial worry and anxiety but plenty of the ‘wartime spirit’ and community cohesion, bringing us closer together in different ways. I have really loved this spirit which has been evident everywhere; greeting others when out for daily exercise, checking in with family members who cannot get out, zoom quiz with the family (enough said about that) and then little projects to keep us entertained too. I have dressed up as an album cover, a lady in a painting (not the Mona Lisa thank goodness) and generally done things I could never have dreamed would be the norm back before lockdown.

I have learned that I am somebody who thrives in the company of others. Having the chatter and buzz of children back in school with an almost full complement of staff has definitely confirmed this.  I struggled with zooming at the start of lockdown; however, since time has passed, this has definitely had an important place. I have learned that I am very organized and have enjoyed the new challenges lockdown has brought in terms of organisation, whether that is planning where to buy the next pack of loo rolls, flour etc or on a professional level, creating new rotas as staffing has changed and adapting plans in light of new guidance emerging. I have experienced personal worry at a level that I have not done, probably since childhood (too many years ago to count!) but have also found that I am able to deal with this and help others to worry less too. One of the things that has been great about this time is the concern colleagues have shown for each other and sometimes when they have been dealing with their own worries and fears. One of the things that has struck me most during this time is to spend time on the things that I am in control of and not to worry about the things that aren’t. I have surprised myself that this little mantra has enabled me to box those things up and put them out of my mind.

As a leader, I have used a very autocratic style of leadership which is not the norm for me. This is now taking a back seat as restrictions ease but I have found that I have needed to be ‘the one with the answers’ and have even felt quite ashamed at the amount of control I have exercised and how I have felt nervous about letting this go. That is not me at all and I feel better now to be able to relax more about allowing others to step up again and be the strong leaders that I know they are. Also, professionally I have made great improvements to my ICT skills – things that I won’t forget and that I will use all the time going forwards. I have learned also about how much more important it is to focus on people’s wellbeing and how this goes hand in hand with their performance. Concentrating on the former is definitely the right thing to do whether in isolation or to tease out any performance concerns. It is definitely not helpful to consider performance in isolation. I already knew this, so it isn’t new learning but it has been very apparent during lockdown.

My most memorable experience has been about being out and about, enjoying great weather and beautiful views that are on my doorstep. I would not have made the time to do this as much as I have done during lockdown and it is something that I do not want to get out of the habit of doing. It has been uplifting thinking time, appreciating the environment time and spending time with the crazy spaniel time – and a great sense of having done something really worthwhile too. Having had health concerns within the family, it has also reminded me to appreciate those I love even more and check in more often with those not in my immediate bubble.

From others, I have learned that everybody deals with things very differently; some show no obvious worry whilst others do things that are completely out of character and this is out of fear for their own safety. I have learned skills from others too, ICT skills stand out but also tips on cooking, gardening and relaxing (something that doesn’t come naturally to me). I would really like to come out of this period and continue to use all of the new learning this time has taught me. I have learned lots of new language – perhaps words such as bubble, zoom, distancing and other covid related terms will always retain their dual meaning.

On a practical level, it would be great to keep much of the digital support to our working that has developed. Zoom definitely has it’s place (or Teams) and using Teams has been one of those things that I have questioned why on earth we haven’t discovered before?? Going forwards, at school it is important to carry on listening to others, learning from others both staff and children. I want to understand more about what makes people tick – I always thought I was a good judge of character and emotionally intelligent and this will help that to be even better. This is what I need to worry about more and how to protect them as much as I can from external pressures. I believe that the best comes when people are understood, feel safe enough to take risks and ask for advice if they need it. For my part, it could be fantastic news to wake up and find that Education was valued as a profession and the expectations we have for our children are for their happiness first and foremost and for them to thrive and achieve things because they are in a great school supported by nurturing adults. I fear, however, there will be a return to the ‘scores on the doors’ which doesn’t show everything about a child’s true potential.

Liz Davison
Thornton and Wilsden Primary Academies
Story 19 of 29
Mandi Reeve – Boothroyd Primary Academy

Going into lockdown – is this a dream or my imagination? No neither, this is real-life!

Therefore, during the past weeks, I have been crafting opportunities to discover my passion which has definitely materialised both personally and professionally.  I was unable to just sit on my laurels and wait for things to happen, so I jumped on the volunteering schemes that were appearing. I have always wanted to give something back as I feel extremely fortunate for the life I have.

Reflecting back, I can recall the first phone call I received asking if I would be willing to volunteer. I was delighted that I had been chosen and I can remember the anticipation and the nerves setting in of what would be expected of me.

What will I face?

Who will I meet?

Will I do what is expected?

However, these nerves soon disappeared as I found that I had no time to worry, but realising there are people out there who needed my help. The people I encountered were relying on me to deliver the basics just to survive, but also welcomed seeing a face. Some people who were on their own had not seen anyone for days. Can you imagine that? No it’s unbelievable and so this has to be the most memorable experience for me. But not only that I have truly enjoyed the experience of this every day. I have driven over 200 miles and delivered food to over 100 households.

What this has taught me is not to take things for granted, but challenge yourself with new ventures and create the passions that have been lurking underneath. I now know that there are barriers in our communities that people face daily, by being socially isolated, having a disability, or having to face things alone.

In conclusion, I have come to realise that going forward in life there is a need to break down these barriers for everyone in our communities to make our world truly equal and diverse, by overcoming these challenges together.  So I would say think of others and be compassionate. Do not judge as we do not know what will happen and will life ever be like it was before?

Mandi Reeve
Boothroyd Primary Academy
Story 20 of 29
Angela Leach – Freehold Community Primary Academy

What have I learned about myself personally?

That even all my many years of Headship experience were no preparation for the challenges of the current pandemic. However, my calm, measured approach has been effective in supporting my staff, pupils and families.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

Trust and communication have been the key to maintaining staff well-being and I really have to join the digital age.

What has been my most memorable experience and why?

Lockdown with my daughter and granddaughter. It has given me valuable time to spend with her when she is at such a lovely stage in her development. It has also made not being able to go anywhere other than work really enjoyable due to her ability to constantly entertain us all.

What have I learned from others?

I have been supported to develop my digital skills by a number of very patient people and this has been much appreciated.

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

New ways of remote learning when appropriate. Promote our excellence as both a Trust and a school.

Angela Leach
Freehold Community Primary Academy
Story 21 of 29
A Baker – Wilsden Primary School

What have I learned about myself personally?

How much I love and appreciate my family, friends and close work colleagues. Before the pandemic I would take these people for granted without knowing and not spend as much time with them. However, I will now take every opportunity to spend time with them all in the future.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

How much I love my job, making a difference and miss seeing those little faces smile every day!

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

Personally – I have been able to save a lot more money throughout lockdown and was then able to buy my first home with my partner! But most of all, my 91 year old grandad getting admitted to hospital 18th March with sepsis, getting covid-19 whilst in there and beating it all and 8 weeks later coming home and now he is back living independently in his flat! My hero.

Professionally – We have been very lucky to have tapestry in reception during these times and therefore I have been able to see all the wonderful work that my class have completed throughout these challenging times. Also, all the amazing and lovely comments left from parents who were kind enough to nominate me for the parent choice award.

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

That kindness costs nothing

Story 22 of 29
Tracey Thornton, Manor Green Primary Academy

What have I learned about myself personally?

That the people I love and care about really are the most important things in the world, I won’t ever take anything for granted again and I can actually cook!

What have I learned about myself professionally?

That I really can deal with any challenge that is thrown at me and really, really don’t sweat the small stuff!

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

Meeting one of my best friends for takeaway coffee and a socially distanced walk after 14 weeks of not seeing her.

What have I learned from others?

Passion, positivity and empathy can help you get through anything

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

To harness our passion, creativity and compassion to decide our next steps to become great academies in the heart of great communities.

Tracey Thornton
Manor Green Primary Academy
Story 23 of 29
Catherine Robinson, Wilsden Primary School

What have I learned about myself personally?

That I think I am more resilient than I thought I was; if you had asked me 4 months ago how I would have felt spending a lot of time at home with nowhere to go, I would have said that the thought of it would send me mad, but I enjoyed it, I have learned a few new skills and appreciated having time to cook from scratch, bake and just generally enjoyed a slower pace of life.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

That I enjoy working and being with my colleagues and have learnt many new IT skills from Andrew (maybe too many!).

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

Watching the children return to school smiling saying they have missed us.

What have I learned from others?

That one person’s challenge is another person’s fear.

What learning from this time do I think we should embrace going forwards as a school/Trust?

That the time children spend with us is short and make every minute count. I know they have to learn, but it should also be fun.


Catherine Robinson
Wilsden Primary School
Story 24 of 29
Victoria Wood, Thornton Primary School

It was such a surreal moment when the school as we knew it closed and everything changed. Up until then, I had been trapped in my bubble at work and I was able to forget about the craziness unfolding in the outside world. The children were happy-we carried on, grasping onto normality with both hands; running free at playtime without a care in a corona- stricken world. I had been on a residential with my Year 6 class one week and the next we were facing school closures.

I watched my class dwindle and felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness when I read the names of missing children-they were my class; they arrived each day and I cared for them, taught them, guided them through the day-we laughed together and I valued them all. I would miss them but I hoped that we would be back to normal before long.

Fast forward four months and the world and education has changed beyond comprehension. I am proud to be in a profession that has adapted daily and weekly despite the changes, uncertainty and everything a pandemic brings. I have found courage and an adaptability I did not know I possessed, focusing my attention on my pupils at home, supporting key worker children and embracing a new online community.

As I sit and reflect, I realise that teaching is such a supportive community and the children who I spent sleepless night worrying about, have in fact provided me with the strength I needed to navigate a turbulent time.

This is the time as a profession and with guidance from the Trust that we can embrace the reasons why we first entered the classroom. It is time for change in education and without forgetting the desperate times many of us have faced; there is also hope for an exciting new beginning.  It is time to step back and focus on what education is truly about and what is central to everything we do- the children.

Victoria Wood
Thornton Primary School
Story 25 of 29
Paul Leigh, CFO

I’ve always striven for continuous improvement and at the outset of the lockdown and remote working I was determined to find positivity against adversity.

Very quickly, I learnt new remote working technologies and embraced the new ways of working, as did others.

For me, I found that the remote videoing was not an issue and in some meetings I forgot entirely that the people were all on screen and not face to face. I think the human mind is incredibly adaptive; more so than we dare to think.

Very early on in the lockdown I had to ensure that the Trust’s governance continued to be strong and used video conferring technology effectively for our Audit Committee, Operations and Finance Committee and Board.

In fact, I found no real difference in how I could present the financial papers and reports to the committee meetings remotely and the trustees found they could still provide strong scrutiny, challenge and support. Sharing documents on screen for all to see is a great way of presenting information.

My key takeaway is that when things get back to the new normal, we will not just automatically go back to face to face meetings for everything.

We have been forced into using new technologies and introducing new ways of working by the terrible circumstances of Covid -19.

But this will not be in vain. We will take the best of what we have learnt and use this to build a “blended new normal” of face to face and video conferencing technologies working together in harmony. Just like paperback books and e-readers; like film streaming technologies and cinemas. Who would have thought?


Paul Leigh
CFO, Focus-Trust
Story 26 of 29
C Buckingam, Year 6, Elder Class, Shibden Head Primary Academy

What have I learned about myself personally?

  • I have learned that I can work a lot harder than I thought possible.

What have I learned about myself professionally?

  • When I returned to school, things were easier because of the work I had done at home.

What has been my most memorable experience and why? (can be personal or professional)

  • My most memorable experience was when I got to see my Grandma and I completed a challenge like Sir Tom of walking 6 laps of her garden!

What have I learned from others?

  • I have learned that even though it is tough times, we can get through it.
C Buckingham, Year 6 Pupil, Elder Class
Shibden Head Primary Acdaemy
Story 27 of 29
Michelle Whittlestone – Boothroyd Primary Academy

It’s been a challenging journey. My emotions during lockdown have changed daily, even hourly some days. I learned that I need to have a sense of purpose in my life. On the days I was not required to attend school, I really struggled with my general mood and outlook. I know I am a ‘doer’ but didn’t realise I needed to be a ‘doer’ to stay sane!

I missed school terribly. During the 1st few weeks of lockdown I kept a vigil besides ‘Class Dojo’ just in case I got a message from one of my kids-sad I know! On a brighter note, professionally, I had time to reflect on my narrative and reframe it internally- I’ve learned that I do have patience, and I found levels of resourcefulness and endurance I didn’t think I had. I realised that work is such a key part of people’s identities-especially mine.

My most memorable moments by far was my sons (important) birthdays. My eldest son, Chanse, was 21 and my youngest son, Reede, celebrated his 18th– both in lockdown- although we didn’t let lockdown spoil our family fun together.  A particularly sad time for me was losing a close friend to Covid. This set me back mentally, although I used exercise to unknot my brain from the constant barrage of negative thoughts I was having-it helped immensely.

Moving forward, this time has been a positive experience overall. I have spent most days with a smile and sense of gratitude. Focus Trust have helped support this by providing certainty in uncertain times, via email and twitter. I have felt reassured by the positive messages posted and feel grateful to work for such a caring trust.

Michelle Whittlestone
Boothroyd Primary Academy
Story 28 of 29
Sally Wilkinson – Thornton Primary School
What have I learned about myself personally – I have learned to not believe everything the media says and to find facts out from verified sources.
What have I learned about myself professionally – I am able to cope in a crisis and am hopefully good at putting things into perspective and listen to other people.
My most memorable experience has been doing three months’ worth of coursework in two solid weeks and passing my CSBM qualification during lockdown.
I have learned so much from working with great colleagues, sharing anxieties and gaining strength from their calmness. Week one of lockdown in work was scary but we got each other through as a team.
Moving forward as a trust I think we can do our bit for the environment and prevent several trips across the Pennines for meetings which could potentially be done by zoom or teams – this would save a substantial amount of money in expenses and staff time and also be kind to the environment!
Sally Wilkinson
Thornton Primary School
Story 29 of 29
Lucy Shaw – Teacher – Shibden Head Primary Academy

Lockdown 2020 … I remember the week before shutting, changing my role in school quite swiftly and heading into the school office. Answering questions on the phones, making lists of children that were key workers and needing a place the next week and most importantly driving around the community to drop off learning packs for the children who were already at home and then walking away on the Friday- fully thinking I would be back on the Monday.

That unfortunately didn’t happen, after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and lungs that don’t work at full capacity in 2015, the government had other thoughts – shielding! This hit me hard, but what I thought would be a weakness has actually been my strength!

I have attended more CPD than ever, spoken to families on a weekly basis – realising that we are all on a level playing field at a time like this and no one is invincible – no matter what status or how much money we have … but actually we have all had moments of happiness, moments of sadness and moments of despair. It made me realise that I will never take freedom for granted – ever again!

I have been primary school teacher, mum, nursery teacher, secondary school teacher, counsellor and friend. I hope going forward I embrace every opportunity that comes my way – I am stronger than I probably ever knew and work is my second home and family…bring on the future!

Lucy Shaw
Shibden Head Primary Acdaemy