'I’m one of the luckiest headteachers in the country' - Robert Smyth Academy's head salutes Harborough’s 'incredible' community

“I’ve been blown away by the way people have got behind me and our school.”

By Red Williams
Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 9:40 am

The head of a Market Harborough school has declared – I’m one of the luckiest headteachers in the country.

Dan Cleary, the principal of Robert Smyth Academy, made the claim as he saluted Harborough’s “incredible” community.

Speaking as the top local school tackles the “unprecedented” coronavirus emergency, Dan told the Harborough Mail: “I must be one of the luckiest headteachers anywhere in the UK.

Robery Smyth Academy.

“I’ve had fantastic support right across the board over the last few weeks from the entire community – it’s been unbelievable.”

The Burnmill Road school boss added: “The reaction to this crisis from everybody has been just magnificent.

“My staff, fellow teachers, parents and students have all been brilliant at such a tough time for all of us.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more.

Dan Cleary, prinicipal at Robert Smyth Academy

“I’ve been blown away by the way people have got behind me and our school.”

Totally-committed Dan opened his heart as he has written a powerful open letter to the parents of every one of his 892 pupils.

Read his full letter by clicking here.

“I simply want to tell them what an amazing job they are all doing.

Dan Cleary, prinicipal at Robert Smyth Academy

“It’s been an incredibly challenging and hectic two weeks.

“We were given no advance warning at all that schools all over the country were closing down because of the coronavirus crisis,” said the popular dad-of-two.

“We had to be dynamic reacting to the announcement as the situation was changing all the time.

“So we all had to be very switched on and quick to respond when suddenly told we were closing.

“We had to prepare to look after the kids of key workers still coming in to school.

“And we had to organise remote teaching for everyone else at home.

“It’s unreal because none of us saw this coming just a few weeks ago and the whole world’s been turned upside down.”

Dan paid a heartfelt tribute to all-action mums and dads stepping up to look after children forced to stay indoors.

“Hundreds of parents are supporting their kids at home in a way they’ve never had to before.

“They are home schooling while still often holding down jobs, queueing to buy food and other supplies and caring for older loved ones too,” he said.

“People are juggling so many balls up in their air at the same time.

“And it’s such a worrying, stressful time for them as it is for the rest of us because no one knows how long this crisis is going to last.

“Kids are missing their friends at school, they can’t meet up with them out of school and it’s destroyed their normal day-to-day routines.

“So the last thing we want to do as a school is be pushy or get on people’s backs.

“We are approaching this as good human beings.

“Some kids will have taken to the new way of working while others will be finding it much harder.

“We have to think of their mental health, too, and their well being at this tough time.

“I’ve got two children aged four and seven and they’re anxious and not been sleeping well.

“I also have huge empathy for parents supporting kids with special educational needs – they face massive challenges.”

Dan said they have a “skeleton staff” in at Robert Smyth at the moment teaching fewer than 10 children of essential workers, such as NHS staff.

“Our teachers are working incredibly hard helping to support kids at home.

“The email traffic generated at times is like the M25 at rush hour!

“Our staff have taken the bull by the horns and been very impressive rising to this immense new challenge,” said Dan, who has about 54 teachers altogether.

“But parents are also playing their part to the full.

“I must have received at least 50 emails as well a lot of tweets from people thanking us as we strive to keep open lines of communication.

“They’ve stopped me in the street and in shops to say hello and have a word – they couldn’t be more grateful or positive for all we’re doing.”

He said it was a “heartbreaking moment for all of us” when the Department for Education announced this summer’s GCSE and A-level exams were being cancelled.

“Our kids have been working so hard towards taking their exams.

“It’s a cruel way to end the exam year and we certainly need consistency and fairness and more clarity on how grades will be awarded,” said Dan.

“This entire scenario was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

“But I am convinced that real good will come out of it.

“We will come through this incredible crisis a more positive, compassionate, stronger society with people really coming together and looking out for each other.”