We have invited school leaders from SSAT member schools to share their experiences and any lessons learned over the last few weeks during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Angelina Idun, Director at SSAT, acknowledges the remarkable work that they – and their teams – have been doing to support their entire communities.
At SSAT, we’ve been struck by how school leaders and their teams have responded in recent weeks to a level of challenge, change, uncertainty and unpredictability that nothing could have prepared them for. Not to understate matters, we know that there is so much incredible work going on in school communities across our national and global network. All of this is fuelled by the extraordinary passion, commitment and care of every adult connected to your schools. All that you are doing continues to act in the very best interests of every child, their families and each member of staff.
The mission that has been thrust upon you in your professional role is one that is being juggled alongside multiple roles, responsibilities, and demands as parents, as carers, and as family members. Balancing all of this at the best of times is a feat. How much more are the efforts you are making drawing on your own emotional and physical reserve bank as you even more intensely support the health, wellbeing, educational, social and long list of other needs of those around you? When this crisis is over, and we can resume air travel, we’ll again hear the announcement to put our own oxygen mask on before helping others. Metaphorically speaking, how many of us have been able to step back and do this in recent weeks?
Everything I’ve said so far, you’ve witnessed. I am simply echoing what you have told us about your experiences in the last few weeks.
Like me, you will all have got into the habit of joining others in your neighbourhoods and streets to clap for our carers on a Thursday evening. I’m sure that for anyone reading this, when the weekly celebration of NHS and other frontline staff comes around, there are additional claps, whoops, cheers and rounds of kitchen pot banging offered up for colleagues and partners associated with our schools. So well deserved!
It’s been a pleasure and privilege to talk to school leaders and read their accounts about events of recent weeks. There is much that we can learn from the insights into how school leaders have dealt with the fallout of big announcements and policy decisions (indecision?) from government; how they have galvanised and organised non-teaching, teaching and senior staff so that their school sites can remain open, clean and safe for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable; and how they have done what it takes to make sure that quality learning and pastoral care for all children can continue and staff can stay connected.
So much inspiration can be drawn from the way in which leaders have worked with their teams to prioritise and directly meet the daily practical needs of families in their communities, delivering food packages, paying for broadband connection, producing PPE in their DT classrooms. This crisis has brought with it renewed and heartfelt respect and appreciation for things we know people in schools do every day. Some examples: bringing out the best in others so that they are confident, motivated and able to go further; collaborating and creating networks which offer mutual guidance and support and remind us that we’re not alone; harnessing a skillset to communicate, clarify, reassure and take decisive, principled action.
Pride is the emotion that is most mentioned by those of you who have been in touch with us and this is no wonder given the immense contributions being made by the people around you.
Frustrating though things may be, school leaders are not fazed by the unknowns and the fact that the only thing we can be sure of is that our lives, our schools, our children and our communities will never be the same again. There is a determination amongst those in the profession to navigate whatever the future brings in the spirit of hope and optimism.
The conversations we have had with you this week and reflections you’ve shared have been shaped by these seven questions:
- What’s it been like to lead your school/academy/organisation through the Coronavirus crisis?
- What have you learned about leadership or about yourself as a leader during this difficult time?
- What has challenged you the most/what’s been your main concern?
- What positive from this situation would you like to highlight?
- Please share three emotions you’ve experienced in recent weeks and what’s triggered them.
- What one piece of advice or guidance would you give to others leading their school/academy/organisation through this or another crisis?
- If you could ask for one piece of help or support for your school/academy/organisation as we go into the summer term, what would it be and who would you ask?
Thank you to the leaders from across the SSAT network who have already shared their experiences with us; you can read their answers to our questions in the Coronavirus: Lessons in leadership publication which is available to download.
As term begins, we know that some of you will be holding virtual Inset Days for your staff. We would encourage you to adapt and use our questions for the reflective, lessons learnt sessions you have planned which will be immensely helpful as we take our schools into the next phases of leading through and exit from lockdown.
Please do share your stories with your Relationship Manager. We are keen to continue to make your voices heard, share your experiences and support schools, students and teachers as much as we can at this difficult time through our webinars, email and message forums and other activities.
Thank you for all that you and your teams are doing.
Download now: Coronavirus: Lessons in leadership