During this challenging time, it is more important than ever to be part of a network; to have the space to talk to colleagues, hear what they are doing and share ideas.
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 our call featured an input from Neil Jameson CBE, the founder of Citizens UK.
1. How has our view of the purpose of education shifted as a consequence of Covid-19?
2. How does this impact on our vision of the purpose and role of schools within their communities?
3. Does a commitment to and realisation of whole education values better prepare schools and young people for learning in a virtual school setting?
4. As a consequence of Covid-19 how might an explicit realisation of whole education values be different/better?
What WE learned from Neil Jameson CBE, Founder of Citizens UK
1. The crisis has refocused leaders on what really matters; kind and compassionate leadership and leading kind and compassionate schools. Neil Jameson asked the question “how do we sustain the compassion and kindness we’ve seen in society without the virus hanging over us?”. When it had really come to it, leaders had returned to their whole education values: that supporting happy, healthy children and families was the thing that mattered most.
2. The importance and power of schools as anchor institutions. Neil argued that schools and trusts were perfectly placed to act as local anchor institutions. In the crisis they had demonstrated this- working with local healthcare providers to make PPE, providing meals for the community, or using their physical buildings as a local hub. After the crisis, schools and trusts could continue to reach out and engage the world beyond the school and acting together on shared issues (mental health; climate change); hiring a community organiser role would be one practical way of doing this.
3. The need for schools to work ever more closely with all their stakeholders – particularly parents and carers. To provide a true whole education experience, schools need to be bringing the community in and working with stakeholders. Children are only in school for 15% of their time. The stakeholders that children are interacting with for the remaining 85% of their me (parents, friends, social media, faith groups, gangs or clubs) will be having their own impact, good or bad, every day. This crisis has highlighted how similar other stakeholders’ interests are; safety for children, good education outcomes, and happy and resilience children. So we should tap into that.
Responses and provocations from Trust leaders
4. Is the Covid-19 crisis leading us to redefine success? The way we perceive and value schools in society seemed to be shifting. One trust leader shared the story of one of their schools that had been perceived as ‘struggling’ – certainly the school in the most difficult circumstances. Over the past few weeks, the perception of the school had been transformed locally – it’s the school that has done the most to support its community, with best practice on safeguarding, providing food and making PPE. It’s now a place the community looks to for support and answers. It was a ‘failing school’, now it’s vital and valued. Its progress 8 score hasn’t changed. The metrics of success, for now, have though.
5. A whole education is more important than ever. Student agency has proved to be more relevant than ever; the students that are coping best with remote learning are the ones who have been supported to take ownership of their own learning around genuine passions and interests. The classes and schools that have prioritised embedding agency have taken to the transition most comfortably too. To this extent, one Trust has even re-written their improvement plan to include greater explicit mention of the crucial importance of providing a whole education.
6. Empowering and support staff is crucial. In these challenging circumstances, leaders agreed that their teams had been the most important asset they had. Their ability to make a difference was completely dependant on their teachers and leaders. As a result they had been gaining a greater understanding of their teams’ individual strengths and needs, and finding new ways to help them be the best version of themselves. Keeping this culture on return to school would help to more deeply embed a whole education in schools.
7. This was a moment for schools and trusts to show real leadership, to step up in a moment of crisis and lead the system. Things shouldn’t just go back to the way they were before. Education had responded inspirationally, adapting to all the challenges and focusing on the things that matter most above all else. Trust leaders now had the opportunity to influence the system and help shape the environment that schools return to, post-crisis. The Education Act was passed in 1944, before the end of the Second World War. What would our Education Act of 2021 look like?
8. Following the crisis: post-traumatic growth? Things are hard, and many teachers, leaders, families and children are dealing with very difficult circumstances. As an education system however, we have done inspirational work so far responding to this – and we will continue to do so. Adversity can make us stronger – as we come back to the norm we should do all we can to ensure people are confident, to emotionally support each other, and honestly reflect on the experiences we have been through.
Register your interest in the series to share your ideas with other trust leaders across the country and find out how they are tackling shared challenges.