WE believe… During the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, schools have been inspirational, stepping up to meet the needs of their communities in ways they could never have expected. They have returned to their most important mission to keep children and families safe and happy. In doing so, they have positively reshaped the perception of schools – and education – in many communities.
Leaders in the Whole Education network are keen to build on this beyond Covid by working more closely with their communities and reframing education. Together they hope to construct a new vision of education which is judged by more than just exam outcomes, league tables and Ofsted grades (although all of these are of course important).
Whole Education values
At Whole Education, the third element of our definition of a high-quality whole education has always been ‘Supports learning across various settings (online, outside, at home and through volunteering and work) while engaging the wider community’.
The work schools have done to achieve exactly this during the Covid-19 crisis has been inspirational – and in our conversations with school leaders at primary, secondary and trust level we have been struck by the shared desire to build on this going forward.
1. Building on stronger relationships to more fully engage our whole communities…
Beyond Covid-19, there is an opportunity for schools to deepen their relationship with some of the families that they previously found it most difficult to engage.
A number of our schools have told us their relationships with these families have never been better – because the school has been seen to provide real, meaningful and visible support.
In the past, many vulnerable families would only hear from schools when their child was in trouble. During this crisis however, the schools have provided a lifeline for many of them; from the food boxes they have delivered, to all the supportive check-ins and chats that make such a difference to wellbeing, to the security of knowing their child is looked after, safe and around friends in a time of uncertainty.
Leaders have told us they are keen to nurture this improved relationship going forward. They have discussed a whole range of ways to continue to engage with a more representative cross-section of parents in the future and ensure all voices are heard – from creating community champions, to helping them co-create the school’s next steps, or refining their vision and values with these parents.
2. And together creating a new, broader definition of the purpose of education – remembering what really matters.
With the narrow view of league tables, Progress 8 and Ofsted pushed into the background, schools have been judged by a broader question during this crisis – how well they support their community, children and families.
For many schools this work – providing food, supporting family wellbeing, checking in to ensure children’s safety – is not new during Covid-19. This is the work that they have to do day-in day-out, before they can address their other educational priorities. This ‘unseen’ work, unrecognised in accountability frameworks, has been brought to the fore during Covid-19.
The most important things have been how well they communicate; how effectively they can identify the needs of families in their context; how flexible and brave they can be in delivering on them.
Many schools that were previously seen as struggling or inadequate – a perception often shaped mostly by Ofsted judgements – have been transformed in the eyes of the community without the schools, their teams or their values changing.
A great example of that can be found in LiFE Multi-Academy Trust.Their schools have always focused on exceptional work supporting families – and now the communities are seeing the importance of this. Braunstone Frith Primary School, for example have done remarkable work supporting vulnerable children and families, providing food boxes, and delivering remote learning for all. Parents have valued this enormously – they now see the school as ‘a pillar of the community’. Read our spotlight on Braunstone Frith’s approach during this time here.
This is enormously promising – it suggests that out of the huge challenges schools have tackled so impressively, there is the potential for something positive to emerge beyond Covid; an opportunity for permanently reframing education in the minds of society. This can start with a powerful shared story; a recognition that when things got really tough, that it wasn’t league tables or Ofsted grades that mattered to us most.
If you share our vision of reframing education around a more balanced whole education, join us and help change the story. You can download a summary pack on our core offer for primaries, secondaries and trusts at the links, find out more on our website, or contact us here.