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
Communicating openly with stakeholders about risks and mitigation
1. Giving security and confidence to parents and teachers was again the main priority for Trust leaders. All trust leaders agreed this was an incredibly difficult situation – in many cases without an easy set of solutions. Demonstrating the precautions trusts were taking and the thinking behind their decisions is crucial to try and get buy in and reassure stakeholders.
2. Seize the agenda at a local and community level on a story that is currently being dominated by the national conversation. The narrative around school reopening is currently being set by the back and forth between the biggest players – the DfE, politicians, unions and national media.This needs to be balanced by a local narrative – especially as different places, schools and trusts are often responding differently. Explain why you have taken the approach you have and why.
3. Be open about what you’re doing and seek feedback from parents and the community. Can you co-construct your next steps and find out what they would find most useful? One school is setting out the different options around staffing and capacity (and how to balance their focus on remote learning vs catering for those planning to physically attend school) to seek their input. Another trust was co-constructing their next steps with their staff and parents. This is much more likely to lead to a coherent approach – especially if you acknowledge your vulnerability and the things you would value wider input on.
4. Risk assessments were consuming a lot of trust leaders time – and proving very difficult, as during such an unprecedented pandemic the truth is that risk is present. Consider demonstrating how your trust is mitigating all key risks as a more honest approach. Risk assessments – or reductions – are another document that some trusts are co-creating with their community and peer reviewing.
June: increasing in-school provision and more online learning?
5. Despite all the national debate, leaders were all solely focused on making the right decisions in their context for their community. For one secondary trust that was confident they had set up systems for a high-quality whole education to be provided remotely, they had made the decision not to bring more students back until September.
6. Trusts were also keeping a sense of proportionality – that at secondary, the number of students attending would be a minority – so were focusing on their remote provision. The majority will not return until September, so they were focusing most of their attention on continuing to improve their online learning. One trust had noticed that online engagement had gradually dropped off as more children got stuck – so was focusing on helping them keep progressing.
7. This extended to their staffing decisions. A number of trusts were planning to focus most of their staff capacity on great remote learning rather than spending a huge amount of available teacher time and capacity on a very small minority.
8. Can you focus on bringing more vulnerable students into school? One trust felt that if they were going to expend energy on getting more students in school, they should focus this energy on those who would benefit the most, those who were at risk of falling behind, or widening their definition of disadvantage.
Supporting your teams
9. School and trust teams had done inspirational work, rising to the challenge of the crisis to support children and families. Now, however, some were beginning to find it more difficult – and amongst all the discussion of the potential safety of schools (or otherwise) were feeling less confident. Leaders were also exploring ways to communicate and support staff anxiety through this.
10. Trusts were trying to work out how to support staff who had young children of their own. To manage the need for certainty around childcare, a number of trusts felt they would have to relax rules on staff bringing their own children in.
11. Trusts were planning and evaluating their staffing capacity to use all their teams most effectively. As we have heard before, staff self-isolating in many trusts will be tasked with strategic and long-term work.
Focusing on the wider provision of a whole education – now and in September
12. Trusts were exploring more ways to offer the wider aspects of a whole education remotely. LEAP will be using social circles to maintain culture and social connection for children, dividing them into their own bubbles. Other trusts are using student voice more to help understand children’s wider social and emotional needs.
13. With Trusts gradually formulating their plans for the rest of the summer term, attention was now more focused on what a recovery curriculum for September onwards would look like.
14. All trusts intended their recovery curriculum to prioritise reculturing. The most important things for leaders was gradually socialising students back into school life, supporting their wellbeing and helping them process the past few months. Mentoring was one of schools’ key tools to achieve this.
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.