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.
What Trust leaders discussed this week?
1. Would some vulnerable students benefit from being back in school? Some trusts had seen a steady increase in the number of students attending school from their lowest point (after the partial closures were announced) with daily attendance rising. Whilst not significant this may be an indication of the differing demands of families that schools will need to plan for in the coming weeks/months
2. As the length of the lockdown increased, staff wellbeing had become an increasing concern. Trusts reported that across their schools they all had a few staff they were worried about. Juggling home life and remote working seemed to have got more difficult after the initial few weeks of busy, rapid response, activity, for many.
3. Trust leaders were seriously preparing for schools being more open in the next few weeks – but uncertainty made this work difficult. Trust leaders shared with each other various documents preparing for an easing of restrictions at a school, trust and locality level.
At this stage, though, there were still a great many unanswered questions, reflecting the uncertainty. This is making both short and longer term planning challenging.
4. The challenges of a ‘mixed model’ remote and school based curriculum. Trust leaders were concerned that, even with a sufficient lead in time to more normal operations, there would be significant challenges in managing and staffing a mixed remote/virtual and school based curriculum and ensuring that the quality of both offers is maintained.
5. Finding approaches for schools and trusts to communicate clearly with stakeholders to manage their anxiety. Leaders expected a number of parents not to send their children back, even when the rules are encouraging them to do so. Managing their expectations and reassuring the community around what they’re doing and why is a crucial task to get right. Vital to that messaging is…
6. The need for schools and trusts to be protected by clear government decision making on what comes next. Trust leaders were very uncomfortable with the idea that some key decisions about passage and the process of moving back towards a normal school offer might be left up for individual schools and leaders to make. This could lead to a high level of risk – and to really unhelpful variation and comparison between schools.
WE Trust Leaders are clear these decisions can’t be delegated to educators – to give confidence to parents, children and teachers, the decision needs to be taken by politicians, based on expert medical advice, at a regional or national level.
Some ideas that trust leaders are using to prepare
1. Positive approaches trusts are planning to manage parents risk
+ Consider creating a risk contract with parents Peter Rubery, CEO of Fallibroome Trust suggested such a contract could clearly summarise lengthier LA risk guidance documents, and parents could then understand what they were choosing to actively consent to (or not).
+ Develop an FAQ. Trusts and schools were receiving a huge volume of questions and concerns from parents who are understandably worried. Creating a list of the most frequently asked questions could help save time and capacity for busy school staff. It could also identify the areas most in need of DfE/government clarification.
+ Reassure parents with ways of showing the modifications and changes to routine being made to keep children and staff safe. Richard Spencer told us that CMAT was exploring a virtual video tour of the school to showcase modifications they had made to the infrastructure as well as sharing news and images of deep cleaning and other changes to school life.
2. Schools and their trusts are starting to get an accurate picture of online learning engagement and success – can you start to construct a big picture of what’s working and adapt what you’re doing to make it even better? Initially reporting at Anglian Learning had been to tutors and within classes, but now that data was being aggregated across phases, subjects and schools to give leaders really useful insight.
3. Use surveying tools to adapt and iterate your trust’s practice. At LEAP they are surveying parents, students and staff regularly to continue to iterate and improve their practice – with 60% having ‘no reason to think they’re making less progress’ online. Similarly, Pioneer Education Trust are survey tools to get feedback and adapt strategies for different groups across and within their schools
4. One trust’s focus is to constantly develop their online learning so it’s as good as learning in school – ensuring gaps don’t widen as families re-engage with school at different paces. LEAP is using all the data they’re gathering to aim for e-learning that is ‘so good there’s no reason to come back’. The trust is using 4, 1 hour, live lessons a day and the Seesaw platform, which they have really committed to using during the remote learning phase of lockdown. This is helping them to provide this high-quality online learning and prevent gaps widening during their remote phase – meaning students can more gradually reengage with ‘normal’ school life in a way that allows for greater, guided parental choice and confidence.
5. Take advantage of remote student voice. CMAT are using virtual student council sessions with real success, generating lots of insights about where students are at. To their surprise, their key concerns were the mental health of their peers (they knew some would be vulnerable and were worried about them) and how they would measure their own academic performance without other students around for informal, social comparisons.
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.