On 13th January 2022, Shonogh Pilgrim hosted a virtual WE Inspire event. Schools from across the Whole Education Secondary Network joined.
With cases of the Omicron variant rising over December, the focus of this WE Inspire event was to discuss how staff have been dealing with this as they return back to school. Members of the Secondary Network were invited to share their experiences of starting this half term and an insightful discussion took place.
One of the great benefits of these WE Inspire events is the opportunity to share what has and hasn’t worked with a group of like minded peers. While all the schools in the discussion are different and have different challenges at the moment, it was interesting to see common themes and ideas coming up again and again.
Here were some of our key takeaways from the event:
With there being concern about staff absences across the schools, the subject of cover staff was discussed. It is clear that there are huge problems in recruiting supply teachers at the moment. This issue was being addressed in various ways: some schools had teachers covering out of subject, some schools utilised non-teaching staff (Heads of Year) and some schools had recruited more permanent cover staff. Whilst obviously a difficult situation, one positive of this was that by using a familiar and known member of staff for cover, the students responded better than how they would have done had it been a supply teacher.
Some of our schools mentioned how there was a significant covid fatigue, particularly in students and parents. With each new wave and each new variant, there seems to be less and less enthusiasm to stick to the rules and restrictions. With the future of Covid-19 unknown, this could be of concern. Regardless, one positive of this was that students were happy and excited to be at school as for them, it was very much a return to normality.
One of the biggest effects Covid-19 has had across schools is the disruption of momentum for both staff and students. For senior staff, long term thinking has at times needed to be put on hold for short term firefighting. Staff and student absences have led to a lack of continuity. Despite this, it was reassuring to hear from our schools that there has been more momentum in the 21/22 academic year than there has been since the start of the pandemic. One senior leader reflected on how they have been able to think about the five year plan and the school’s long term vision.
Across all of the schools in the session, it was apparent that the start of this term had been challenging and there were still many obstacles ahead. However, it was great to see that there was optimism for the future. The pandemic has offered a pause and a moment of reflection. The schools recognised that not everything they were doing prior to the pandemic was perfect, so as they transition towards normalcy, they have an opportunity to change the way they do things to improve the school for the future.
Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to this engaging and thought provoking session.
If you have any thoughts or reflections on returning back to school for 2022, WE would love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next WE Inspire event will be taking place on 26th January at 9.30am. In this session, we will talk about the benefits of house systems and how they can be developed to have the biggest impact on students. There will be input from Alder Grange School’s Simon Varley, CMAT’s Richard Spencer and colleagues from Passmores Academy.
The session is free to attend for staff in WE Secondary Member schools. Email email@example.com to register for this free virtual event.