For Alex Barnes*, head of a large secondary school in Yorkshire, the stresses of being in charge in the pandemic became too much. Last spring, just at the end of the first lockdown, she reached breaking point. “The demands were coming at me from every angle,” she says. “Worried parents bombarding me with questions, teachers and their unions demanding assurances that the school was safe. I became desperately worried that I’d be responsible for a rise in infections.
“One night I went home to my husband and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this any more.’ The look of shock on his face. He had never heard me speak like that before.”
Sophie Barwell* was just six months into her first headship when Covid struck. Suddenly she found it lonely at the top.
“All our teachers had ancient laptops they couldn’t use for remote working,” she says. The school’s finances were low. “Things reached crisis point,” says Barwell, “when I had to write complex health and safety assessments and I had no knowledge of how to do it.
“I just hadn’t anticipated the anxiety and…