Somewhere in the garage I have a bicycle. Back in October 2018 I bought it on the Cycle to Work Scheme and rode it for about three weeks before my aching limbs cried out for a seat on the bus. It's a decent machine, by all accounts and I bought panniers to carry all my work, lights, reflectors, a helmet and so on. Had I stuck at it, I could have been riding for miles around the Warwickshire countryside now. There are some nice trails hereabouts - or so I'm told.
But I never understood about gears. So every day, as I negotiated Coventry's backstreets on my way to work on the other side of town, I would fiddle with the gear levers constantly, resulting in a lot of clunking, grinding and whizzing as I subjected my bicycle chain to cruel torture through my ignorance and, probably, made a lot of unnecessary work for myself, too.
I didn't cycle out of any concern for the environment or some kind of kamikaze desire to get bundled into a ditch by a passing lorry. I did it because I don't drive. I never learned. I did ride a moped once, a 50cc Piaggio Zip but I gave that up when one of my children asked why I rode something that sounded more like a food processor than a form of transport.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes - gears. Why did I mention them? Well, even though I don't drive ... or even ride now ... I know that you can't 'jump' gears. You can't start your car up in fifth gear or it will stall and the engine will eventually burn out. Neither can you miss gears out; you have to move through them one at a time, steadily increasing your momentum. Either that or the chain will fall off which, for me at least, would be curtains for my bike ride.
So why are we leaping from what could only be described as second gear at best - a fraction of one or two year groups coming into school to put their 'toe' in the water with a few English and Maths lessons - to overdrive without trying out something 'in between' first? After all, while I have a 'Couch to 5K' app on my phone, which I did use briefly, I haven't come across a 'Couch to Ultra-Marathon' App. You simply couldn't make the leap. You'd have to do a 10K, then a 20K, then a half-marathon, then a full marathon. Even then, it would be a steep learning curve.
Our schools need running back in. Like a vintage car that's been put away over the winter months they can't roar back into action as if nothing ever happened. Just as the car is going to need a few runs around the village before you even contemplate that road trip you had in mind for August, so schools need to work their way up through the gears. We can't just jump in again in eight weeks time, turn on the engine and put our foot to the floor. The engine will pack up. And so might we.
So take a look at Cyclical School. A second, or possibly third, gear for schools. A way of working that warms our school communities up again before we get back into training for another marathon. A structured and scalable approach to school at a time when we have to keep our distance from one another. If we don't do this and just go straight back into full training with 25+ hours contact per week, everyone on site, no rotas and no excuses there are going to be a lot of unnecessary injuries ahead.
And maybe, God forbid, a few thousand more deaths.