Our WE virtual meetings are designed to support you during this challenging time. They are an opportunity to learn with and from colleagues across the country during this fast-moving situation. Discover our WE ‘Summer Curriculum’ for Trusts, Primaries and Secondaries.
This week three school leaders shared the ways they were thinking about a return to more open schools- Jon Clarke from Walsall Academy, Jez Bennett from Shenley Brook End, Five Dimensions Trust, and Gareth Williams, LiFE MAT.
Some practical considerations and solutions leaders shared as we return to ‘more open’ schools.
“Don’t do the thing that’s right for us if it’s not right for students and staff.”
1. Can schools provide additional transport options? Extra school bus services with sensible social distancing practices could reduce the number of students using busier public transport options in some school contexts.
2. Ensure you have realistic expectations around school uniforms. In order to enable families to wash, iron and/or tumble dry clothes daily in line with best hygiene practices, usual uniform policies/expectations may not be realistic during Covid-19.
3. How can we constantly remind and reinforce the messages around hygiene/social distancing as students return at different times? Schools’ experience has been that, as numbers gradually have increased since Easter, the new students arriving haven’t always remembered social distancing. Schools have had to constantly reaffirm the message.
4. Explore ways to set work and give feedback without exchanging books. Enhanced hygiene measures may mean schools forego exchanging books. What other ways could you give students feedback?
5. Could we keep students in the same seat, all day? One school was exploring this, based on the idea that almost all the risk came when students were moving around the school building. Keeping students in their seats (except for during break times) and having teachers come to them would significantly reduce this risk.
6. Alternative timetable structures can help schools maintain social distance. Walsall Academy has just two, long lessons in the day. This was designed to help students go deeper in the learning, but the longer lessons will have a significant additional benefit during the time of Covid-19 of less student movement.
7. A one way system in the school can help maintain social distancing. Introducing a one way system can reduce corridor interactions and maintain social distancing when students and staff change between lessons.
8. Adapt eating arrangements to reduce risk. Trusts were exploring staggered lunches and inviting some students to take food home, or to other locations in school, to avoid crowding students close together.
9. Give special consideration to supporting the students that have been in school all along – especially the vulnerable students. It will be a big shift for these students to go from being in a small group, alone in school, to a busier (and eventually full) school. Can you preserve this small group, who will have spent lots of time together, as a school-within-a-school?
Preparing our teams for return
“We see it as a bit like preparing staff for a new term after a long holiday – they need support and their confidence building.”
1. Many staff are apprehensive and need support. Leaders agreed that many in their teams were not feeling confident in their practice after the past few months – perhaps in a similar way to staff returning after a long holiday.
2. ‘Create a community of extraordinary people’ and find ways to draw on all their talents. Even as more staff return to school, there will be a number working from home or in self-isolation. What are they best at? How can we maximise their talents?
3. Colleagues continuing to work remotely may have the space to focus on more ‘innovative’ and strategic concerns. While colleagues in school are dealing with the day-to-day, is there space for colleagues working from home to do things differently?What would you want yourself or your team to do if you were removed from the business of day-to-day school life?
4. Could you provide staff and students with continuity and stability by maintaining current classes and curriculum through September? This reduces the disruption of internal transition and gives some familiarity amidst all the uncertainty. Some WE schools are planning to move to the ‘new academic year’ in October or November.
Doing things differently in the future
“Things shouldn’t return to how they were.”
1. Schools felt this moment was a glimpse at the future. Greater online learning and working across multiple settings weren’t going to go away, so schools were keen to maintain what was good and prepare for more of this in the future.
2. Let’s build on the inspirational work schools have done at the heart of their communities. Leaders were keen to continue to harness the community spirit and compassion that has been such a ray of light during this crisis in the future.
3.This crisis has forced schools to embrace more flipped learning. Pushing learning into students, on their own, in their homes, has worked better than expected in many cases. This opened up lots of possibilities for a future mixed model of teaching that allowed schools to make the most of teacher expertise and student agency
4. Let’s build on the trust we have demonstrated towards students and staff. In the future schools are exploring how to support people to work more independently. For example can staff and students work from home more often? For independent tasks that don’t need collaboration or staff/student interaction, can students/staff work at the time that suits their rhythms, working patterns and home lives best?
5. Build remote peer review and feedback. The biggest challenge in remote learning has been giving meaningful feedback. Walsall Academy are investigating a process to effectively support remote peer review and feedback – both now and in the future.
6. Jon Clarke at Walsall Academy has developed a mixed model for the future, based on what they’ve learned during this time. You can see Jon’s slides from a recent Ted-style talk on this topic in the Whole Education Google Drive (link emailed to members).
Register your interest in the series to share your ideas with other secondary leaders across the country and find out how they are tackling shared challenges.