Following part one of our blog, on lockdown life (read that here), WE asked some of our friends across the system what they’ve learned about leadership from the crisis, and how they hope we build on that in the future.
What have we learned about leadership through this crisis?
Hannah Wilson: I have really enjoyed the flurry of online opportunities, remote learning and virtual events that you can attend from the comfort of your own home, whilst wearing your PJs on your couch! I have realised that our leadership impact, our leadership legacy and our leadership reach can be as impactful and as far-reaching online as it can be face to face. I was blown away that 12,000 people watched our Periscope livestream of #DiverseEd, our 4th diversity in schools event.
I have really appreciated my network who have been extremely supportive of me as an individual transitioning out of a salaried, secure, stable role into my new freelance space in the middle of Covid-19!
Jason Scrimshire: “I believe we have all coped as well as can be expected. Whilst many of the macro challenges have been uniform across schools, settings and key stages (e.g. ensuring all students are engaging in remote learning); there has been great support and guidance towards each other’s micro challenges (i.e. those that are context specific) which shows how our profession is truly a collaborative one.
This message has seemingly become lost in recent years due to the fog of accountability, but we (and WE!) are clearly all keen to support one another and in developing a wholesome curriculum that all students can thrive in regardless of setting.
Karen Edge: 1. Care. Several years ago, we wrote a paper about leadership and the ethic of care. Most of the teachers shared that they felt that feeling cared for was one of the most important things their leader could do for them. Care was most frequently defined as leaders knew a bit about their lives outside of school and understood that sometimes they may need some time to sort things out. Work From Home has really tested this to the max but also created an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate care themselves or through their teams. Simply checking in on staff, not just about work but also about life, can make an incredible difference.
2. Be yourself. Over the last few years, leaders’ authenticity and vulnerability have been highlighted as important for building follower trust and commitment. Our current work conditions and the pace at which change is happening provides an even greater demand for leaders to demonstrate and discuss their own concerns, fears and decision making. It is my hope that this moment is one where current teachers and aspiring leaders are able to witness leaders.
3. Pace. The oft overused phrase ‘it is a marathon not a sprint’ is key to hold front and centre. I am rubbish at this so I say it as much for myself as for others. Think about what you can do for your own sense of ‘rest’. Enlist some folks that you can share your restful ambitions with and who can hold you to account. Try. Fail. Try again. “
Jason: Time is such a precious commodity (even more precious than I first realised!). Whether it be time to plan and deliver excellent remote learning experiences to our young people; time to ensure that all staff can access high quality professional development during lockdown or even just time to further develop myself as a leader through reading and discussions with like minded individuals from around the country (e.g. in the LAWES meetings every week), there just never seems to be enough of it (and this is with the vast majority of students not being in school!).
Moving forward, it is my ambition to ensure I create even more time for colleagues to work together towards ensuring all of our students shine brighter than they thought they could through meaningful collaboration and personal professional development. Personally, I need to be more strict with allowing myself more time to grow as a leader as I have found the opportunities for further reading, webinars and discussions highly inspiring and influential.
Based on this, what are your hopes for how we might do things differently in the future?
David Bartram: It’s been great to see how, despite the challenges of lockdown, teachers across the WE Network remain passionate about exploring opportunities to collaborate and improve outcomes for vulnerable learners. I think the current crisis has shown me that with the support of technology, being a little more flexible in our thinking and not being afraid to do things differently, great collaboration is still possible.
Alex Beard: We’ll understand education as a real partnership between children, parents and teachers – and we’ll strengthen relationships as a result.
Jim Knight: That we will stop looking to technology for a magic way to replace teachers and instead see it as a great set of tools to empower learners to be more self-directed and enhance teachers with more time and insight
Jason: I hope we keep the [Whole Education virtual leadership meetings] going – not necessarily weekly but certainly more regular than usual. They have been a great source of inspiration and support during the health crisis and the regular contact has strengthened my school’s participation in the WE network even further. This is something I believe we should endeavour to continue as long as humanly possible.
Hannah: I am in the middle of doing my MA in Education, my thesis is looking at Flexible Working. The business case for schools denying applications for flexible working imploded overnight as we all went into lockdown. We have all worked remotely and flexibly for more than 3 months now. Although it is not a good proxy for the most productive conditions for enabling different contract types, it also demonstrates it is doable, even in schools if we commit to making it happen!
Karen: I hope we understand and fully embrace the need to tackle equality and bias. I would have said this before the current global response to the killing of George Flyod. We need our students to have access to a full curriculum that directly addresses the issues. I strongly believe Have you Heard George’s Podcast, which added a Peabody Award to its growing collection of accolades should be mandatory listening for all school staff and, hopefully, at some point students. There have been advocates for racial equality for decades. Their work needs to stand front and centre to inform how we all think about education. Some of my go to academics over the years: @KalwantBhopal (Birmingham) @DrMoniByrne (UCEA) @DrAnnLopez (University of Toronto) @Lopezgr88 (Michigan) @NicolaRollock (Goldsmiths).
What do you hope leadership looks like after Covid-19? What have you learned – and how do you hope we build on it going forward? Tell us on Twitter @wholeeducation #wholeeducation.
Alex Beard is a Senior Director at Teach For All, author of Natural Born Learners and presenter of The Learning Revolution on BBC Radio 4.
Karen Edge is a Reader in Educational Leadership at UCL Institute of Education and recently served as Pro-Vice-Provost (International). Her Global City Leaders Project explored the work, lives and ambitions of Generation X school leaders in London, New York City and Toronto.
Lord Knight is Chief Education Officer at TES, members of the House of Lords, former Schools Minister and Chair of the WE Board.
Jason Scrimshire is Assistant Head of The Winstanley School and Lead Practitioner in Science at Bosworth Academy in the LiFE MAT.
Sam Twiselton OBE is Director of the Sheffield Institute of Education, VP (external) of the Chartered College of Teaching, and member of a number of expert advisory panels including the DfE Carter Review of ITT.
Hannah Wilson recently joined WE as Associate Director. She is a leadership development facilitator and was previously Founding Executive Headteacher of Aureus School and Primary School.