Since the very start of this pandemic, Teachers and school leaders have been on the frontline.
Over the past few days, the way in which they have been vilified by some politicians and certain sections of the media, has served no one, least of all our children.
Amidst the high degrees of change and uncertainty brought about by this global crisis, it is both mis-leading and mis-guided to characterise those who work in our schools as either “too lazy” or difficult”, when they have expressed valid concerns about the re-opening of schools.
Unity v’s Division
The disparaging way in which their concerns have been presented has not been helpful. By belittling the very legitimate concerns held by unions, school leaders, teachers and parents alike, the discourse around school re-openings has sadly become divisive. At a time, when a spirit of unity has to be at the centre of all efforts to move the country out of lockdown.
As an accusatory finger is being pointed at teachers and school leaders, what is patently being ignored is the fact that teachers and school leaders do care! The vast majority care passionately about the profession they have chosen to be a part of. They care passionately about the communities they serve.
We need only look back over the past couple of months to see ample evidence of this: from hand-delivering food packages to their most deprived families, facilitating community initiatives (with everything from virtual choirs to helping create masks for the NHS), to of course, providing a range of online learning.
They have done this because they care. Not because they have been told to. Not because it will increase their schools’ ranking on government league tables, but because they know relationships and connections are at the heart of school life.
And it is these relationships and connections that must be secured, protected and nurtured as school’s begin to work out a way for safely re-opening.
There is too much at risk here for the re-opening of schools not to be given the due care and attention it needs. It cannot be rushed. Of course, teachers and school leaders, want schools to re-open.
Of course, they want to bring their communities back together again. Talk to any teacher and school leader and they’ll tell you how much they are missing the once taken for granted human interactions that make up school life. Many will also tell you that as they begin to map out a new future for our schools
“ The emotional and social development of our children is paramount and cannot be a rushed unsafe return to constant invigilation”
This is all they are seeking to secure. To re-open schools in a manner that is supportive of the development of the whole child, whilst doing everything possible to protect the health and well-being of staff and children alike.
Teachers and School Leaders need to be trusted
It is therefore not unreasonable for leaders to voice their concerns about a lack of PPE, testing and the viability of implementing effective social distancing measures in certain contexts.
It is right to ask and openly explore these questions to find a solution; particularly as the ramifications could be significant for the health and well-being of their individual communities, something which should rightly be a key priority for any school leader.
Without any meaningful dialogue about how to ensure a safe return to schools, it is not too difficult to conceive that long-held feelings of alienation regarding years of changing education policy will only intensify.
Considering that attrition rates within the profession continue to rise, ignoring the concerns of school leaders at this time could prove to be an extremely damaging misstep by the government.
Teachers and school leaders have valid opinions and they need to be listened to, if we are to find a viable solution for the re-opening of schools.
Scientists and medical professionals have been trusted to guide us out of this pandemic. Likewise, teachers and School leaders need to be trusted to help us map a safe way forward for the re-opening of schools.
We all want to find solutions and these are best advanced through constructive dialogue. All parties concerned need to model how this can be done; not only for the sake of school leaders and teachers, but for the sake of the education system and the unity of our society as a whole.
Support in times of Challenge
As a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of the Headteacher role has grown exponentially.
Every school leader in the country has witnessed an enormous amount of change in terms of what their life, their role and school now look like. Today, like never before many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters.
These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! As a result, there is understandable anxiety about the current situation we are all in. Feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, isolation and stress are prevalent.
Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring.
In times like these, we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect. This is a time, when different types of conversation and leadership support are needed. It is a time when we can be explicit and openly address the fact that we are all in a time of transition. It is a time that requires open and honest discussion about what this period signifies for us all and collectively, how we can assist each other to find a way through to the other side.
It is for this reason we have developed our new “Staying Connected” Leadership Support Programme to provide bespoke support for Headteachers as they navigate their way through this crisis.
This new eight week online programme has been designed to help leaders personal and professional challenges that have arisen from the current crisis, as well as explore and consider the type of leadership needed for these times.
The programme will consist of three elements:
– 4 x ZOOM Masterclass Discussions: These involve thought leaders from the education sector and beyond on topics pertinent to the current issues leaders are now facing.
– 4 x Group Coaching Circles: These sessions are so that Heads can find support, stay connected with other Heads and share expertise through these challenging and uncertain times.
– Online Leadership Community and Resources: leaders have access to various online leadership resources and the option to join an online community of support.
The purpose of the programme will be to provide safe online spaces where school leaders can:
– Stay connected and in relationship with fellow Heads whilst social distancing measures remain in place
– Be a part of in-depth discussions around what matters most, as schools seek to navigate their way through this crisis
– Identify meaningful solutions for addressing the unique challenges that have arisen for school leaders during this time
– Strengthen their own personal and professional resources for remaining well and focused on their sense of vocation and purpose
If you would like to find out more about the programme, please follow the link below…