For want of a nail

We bought new, sturdy, simple, colourful music stands. They replaced the flimsy, fold-up, entangling sort that folded into a crate that was a struggle to pick up.

The new stands took up floor space, so we had to engineer space that did not restrict access, did not reduce the usefulness of spaces and could be easily accessed by children when the stands were needed.

The pandemic came and we changed many aspects of daily life in school, for everyone’s safety. One of these was to close our changing rooms and to have the children come in PE kit as needed.

The visiting peripatetic instrument teacher provision was suspended – to minimise the number of adults on staff.

We restricted pupil movement and implemented room capacity limits to cut down on the number of contacts each of us had, and the level of mixing.

The music stands were not being used, as choir, orchestra and wind band were all suspended (along with all large gatherings and mixing activities).

The changing rooms sat unused apart from being a very secure store space for things we would eventually ship out to our sister school in The Gambia.

We closed off certain airless, unventilated, rooms until measures were largely removed. This meant that when peris started coming back into schools we could not put them in the spaces we had used before.

But this meant putting a brass teacher in a kitchen, a woodwind teacher in one of the changing rooms (with a small window and a door from the hall) and a strings teacher in a room within a room. PE lessons were difficult, assemblies (small in number of participants) were disrupted, interventions and meeting were disordered by the noise, unfortunately. A better solution was needed.

Converting one of the changing rooms was the solution. The doorway from the hall was closed off, and a new doorway opened from the bottom of the stairs outside the music room.

But that meant the cupboards, holding school’s stock of brass and string instruments, needed relocating, and the music stands needed a new home. They were being stored right in front of the new door to access the new room. There was no point simply filling the room with music stands, so that had to go elsewhere.

The room we have created is great; just needing a little finishing off. However, we have created a problem in having to move those music stands. They have been moved into the other, unused, changing room, but this is further from the place of use, behind a door and with an awkward turn. It also uses up that space, and it recently became highly desirable.

Governors, at a recent committee meeting, were asking various subject and other leaders what they needed to help their area move forward. The answer in SEND provision was the conversion of the second changing room (having appreciated the quality and impact of the conversion of the first) into a sensory room. There is considerable demand for a better space we can equip and dedicate to that work.

Like many a home, that changing room is full already, and to reconfigure and repurpose it we would need to empty it. The challenge starts with finding money to do the job - £6,000 for the conversion and perhaps the same for equipping it – and then finding another, better, home for music stands, trestle tables, a floor buffer and a lost property trolley (which might nudge something else along one).

The odd-looking decision is to delay a ‘design, plan and build’, not because we are short of the funds to do the job but because we don’t know where to put the music stands!

We could use the music room, but not be able to use it for teaching, or the PE store – but where would we put the table tennis tables? We could shift some dining tables – into the middle of the hall floor and stop PE lessons? There is a grain of an idea (lose a few dining tables and clear one storage bay at the back of the hall), but it needs testing out to see what unintended impact it might have. We’ll see.

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