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Isolation and the Importance of Teamness

25 May 2020   |   Chris Jessup   |   Wellspring Academy Trust

The current situation has harshly exposed the level of support available to leaders in schools across the country. Decisions are being made
that affect the lives of children, families and communities.

Expectations are being placed on leaders that many have neither the experience nor structure to feel comfortable in dealing with alone. This is a time where the assurance that comes from operational expertise – along with insurance via professional networks – can provide a roadmap into a post-Covid world. There is a huge opportunity and need for a ‘team around the leader’ that enables him/her to make decisions with confidence, clarity and confidence.

Leaders in schools already knew how challenged social services, Local Authorities and social care teams were before the pandemic, and how many children and families were getting through periods of real need without the opportunity for deep seated support to be put in place. Schools more often than not picked up the support, triaged interventions and went over and above in order to fulfil not only their statutory but their moral duty of care. Covid-19 has exacerbated these challenges to breaking point. There are many leaders around the country who now operate in a sense of heightened anxiety with the full range of matters they are responsible for laid bare before them – who is responsible for the Free School Meals vouchers? What about transition arrangements? Are any restructures in staffing to be placed on pause – and what effect does this have for staffing and budgets? What expectations should there be for staff not in school currently? Where can I access quality CPD? What are the cleaning arrangements? How do I provide learning for families with limited access to online resources? And so on…

Leadership always has the potential to be a lonely place. This period of crisis and uncertainty has highlighted just how crucial ‘teamness’ is as a concept – the ability to talk, debate, challenge and question ideas and process with like-minded fellow travellers and system experts. Having the support of an operational ‘team of teams’ and knowing they have the professional expertise to inform decision making is an enormous strength. It provides clarity of thinking along with interrogation of options which leaders require. Leaders unable to access this teamness remain at a serious disadvantage now and in the future – anyone who believes post-Covid society and education will revert to how it once was must surely be in denial.

Operational excellence as standard is a clear and achievable goal for Wellspring Academy Trust. Recruiting and retaining experts in positions of influence, applying clear metrics around expectations and ensuring over-communication to make these clear and transparent to all is the blueprint. It provides on the ground assurance and high level strategic feedback across the system to identify challenges and opportunities. Throughout all levels of the organisation, a clear ethical communication stream reinforces the culture. We operate as a ‘community of communities’ and no leader or decision maker is left in isolation.

No school is an island – standing alone has never been a sustainable option. Sustainability gives assurance and insurance against uncertain times. New ways of communicating and of working are being harnessed to add capacity to established networks. It is in times of greatest challenge that we test our assumptions and our processes. These are testing times for all school leaders. For leaders at Wellspring, operational expertise supporting ethical decision making enables them to act with confidence in the best interests of the communities they serve.

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