Michael Hill

London is not particularly well known for beautiful wintery scenes – but this February, icy winds from Siberia brought life across Britain to a halt and even covered the capital with a thick layer of snow. Rural parts of Britain were hit particularly hard. I was planning to head out to the East of England for a weekend trip but many roads were blocked with broken-down cars and most trains had to be cancelled. It was unusually difficult to get around the city (and some Londoners began raiding their local supermarkets for supplies), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as what people in the countryside had to put up with. Farmers in particular were hailed on social media for their commitment to keeping food production going, as were doctors and nurses who defied the elements to care for their patients.

For pupils and teachers, the key moment on a particularly snowy day comes when their headteacher either decides to close the school or to keep it open – not an enviable decision by any stretch. My university friends and I got to experience how arbitrary this can seem from the outside when some of us were told to stay at home while others (myself included) had to brace the weather and make their way to school. In the end, what matters of course is that pupils are safe and well-looked after, so it didn’t feel much like a chore at all.

A few weeks ago (before the country broke down in a winter frenzy), I was able to attend a history teaching conference here in London, which was a fantastic experience. All of the workshops and lectures were led by experienced practitioners and researchers whose work we have been studying at university. Being in a room with my reading list was equally surreal and fascinating, and I left with new insights and even more puzzling questions. Getting to West London was a short trip for me, but history teachers from across the country travelled for hours and hours to attend. Once again, this made me realise just how lucky I am to be studying and working here, and that I want to seize every opportunity that I can. 

Our lectures and seminars at university are currently put on hold due to a country-wide strike of lecturers and university staff, who are facing cuts to their pensions. As I am currently on another school placement and only part-time at the university, this affects me much less than other students. However, my overall impression is that the vast majority of students, even though they are unhappy about missing out on classes, are behind their lecturers and support the strike. This is definitely the majority position in my own tutor group.

My current practical module has taken me to a new school in a different part of South London. It’s fascinating to see just how different schools are in a city like London – even travelling thirty minutes in the opposite direction means encountering a completely different demographic of students and a very different school life overall. I am thrilled to get such a breadth of experience out of my course and feel very welcome at the new school, so I’m excited to see what the next weeks will bring!