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What really matters

16 May 2020   |   Chris Jessup   |   Wellspring Academy Trust

The current crisis brings with it – as all crises do – a high level of uncertainty for leaders. Have decisions been made too slowly or too soon? When and how do schools attempt to return to anything like ‘normal’? How will schools be measured for effectiveness in the future?

But out of every crisis, come opportunities. Opportunities to reset values and reevaluate what is important. Above all, to think and to choose how we as educators see the world. It is a time to consider carefully what really matters. A confident, self-improving, ethical profession that has assurance, inclusivity and creativity at its heart is an opportunity afforded to us during this time. It is one we must grasp with both hands.

The clichéd shorthand view of schools and teachers – 13 week holidays a year, in at just before nine, off at half three – has forever been buried by the Covid-19 crisis.

Schools have been reestablished at the heart and soul of their communities. Teachers are essential workers in every sense and have an enormous amount of respect and goodwill from parents and colleagues in social care as a result of their actions.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, we will no longer applaud on Thursdays. The previous order will try to reassert itself through Inspection frameworks (more important than ever according to Ofsted), accountability regimes based on flawed testing and a presumption towards a style of curriculum and delivery of said curriculum based on a model that is – to say the least – contentious.

The DfE has decreed that much data ordinarily submitted by schools is not required at this time – prompting the inevitable question around the use of this information at any other time. Education is data rich, but information poor. The data is unreliable, poorly understood, and of little use to leaders in their overall decision making. It is designed as an extension of external and arbitrary performance management metrics. This crisis is a crucial chance to move on beyond these crude accounting measures. As this crisis has shown, schools are very good – and very used – to constant change.

From organising online learning platforms within days to delivering free school meal vouchers, to sorting the logistics of rotas, schools have a default ‘can do’ attitude to short termism. Real innovation in pedagogy and measuring what really matters – a transformation in approach – is always at the mercy of these external pressures and short term world views.

By connecting confident, skilled and ethical leaders together and providing them with the expertise required to inform their thinking, we can use the opportunity provided by this crisis to truly create an education system with care and compassion, beauty and inspiration at its heart.

We have communities on our side. We have had the opportunity to think deeply around a post-Covid curriculum and the pedagogy required to deliver it. We have networks of operational excellence supporting our leaders. Above all, what is needed now is the confidence to say that this is what we stand for. This is what is important for our children and the communities we serve. We cannot afford to let this crisis result in a return to the status quo. We need manifestos of change and the leaders to deliver.

We have communities on our side. We have had the opportunity to think deeply around a postCovid curriculum and the pedagogy required to deliver it.

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