Leading A School Through COVID

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Leading A Ghost Train


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How are all our school leaders doing at this current time?

Over the last two or three weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of my spare time talking with school leaders in a wide variety of school settings…

It is clear that school leaders are working in extremely difficult circumstances.

All teachers are working in challenging circumstances

Teachers, working in their ‘bubbles’, are essentially glorified cover teachers, particularly those in secondary schools moving between classroom spaces. Teaching in dedicated year groups and subjects classrooms (they may not be familiar with) and without the necessary resources or facilities.

Entire year groups have been sent home in week one of the academic year.

Some pupils have been sent home to be tested, with availability becoming an increasing area of contention, and some schools asking for evidence (and others who aren’t) of negative results before a child return back to school.

As of 14th September 2020, the Department for Education guidance on its website, test kits for schools says:

“Schools should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.”

This really places school leaders under very difficult circumstances, pitching parents against school leaders, and parents who are under increasing pressure to start working again, made harder if they cannot send their child back to school, or access a testing station near their home.

In other situations, teachers are also having to self-isolate and schools are running out of supply teachers (in their bubble) who can cover for absent colleagues. School leaders on foot patrol around the school, are now walking the school corridors and covering their daily mileage by 11 AM break time!

It appears that it is going to be incredibly challenging for anyone to get through to Christmas…

How is everyone else finding it?

On my Linkedin profile, Catherine Hulme, a colleague provided one of the best analogies I’ve heard since pupils have returned to school. It highlights the situation all school leaders are all working in.

“Yesterday, a secondary head teacher asked me:

‘How are all the other heads you’re working with? How is everyone else finding it?’

Quickly thinking about the common themes I’ve been hearing, I said,

‘It’s like they’re on a ghost train. They know they’re committed to the ride, they know there is joy and purpose in it, and they know freakish surprises are lurking in the tunnel ahead.

They just don’t know exactly what, when or where they’re going to jump out. But for now, all eyes are focused straight ahead as they wait and see what happens.’

‘That is exactly how I feel,’ [the head teacher] said.”

And it’s exactly what I’ve been hearing also.

It needs to be said again and again. I have huge admiration for all school leaders and teachers keeping the education system running across the UK at this time. The complexity, the workload, the decision-making being made on a day-to-day level will never, ever really be captured.

It is critical that parents, politicians and the media do all they can to support all of our teachers. We all need to work together to keep our schools fully open…

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