2021 Spring Term 1

The know zone

  • Embracing change
    Bob Jackson, Assistant Principal at Goole Academy, on how online lessons have consigned 'snow days' to the past. More
  • Covid keepers
    ASCL Specialist, Hayley Dunn, shares some of the positives that have emerged from the pandemic. More
  • Get your finances in order
    The way you use money in the short-term impacts your future financial freedom. Here, with tips for getting your long-term finances in order, is Joshua May from income protection insurance specialists PG Mutual. More
  • Change must be sustainable
    If FE is to play its full part in the country's recovery from the pandemic, it must be funded realistically, argues ASCL Senior Advisor Anne Murdoch. More
  • Visions of 2020
    There's no doubt that 2020 was a year like no other and one that most of us would like to forget, but among the doom and gloom of the pandemic there have been many stories of positivity, kindness, inspiration and laughter. Here, ASCL members share their views... More
  • SEN-sational!
    Director of Inclusion Dr Nic Crossley says being a member of ASCL Council enables her to be an active voice for the special educational needs (SEN) sector and for women leaders. Here she shares her passion for Council, leadership and... shoes. More
  • Splendid isolation
    What are the rules regarding pandemic social etiquette when it comes to teaching and meetings? Debrett's has yet to pronounce on this delicate issue, so how are we supposed to know how to behave in front of a screen or at a social distance, asks Carl Smith. More
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ASCL Specialist, Hayley Dunn, shares some of the positives that have emerged from the pandemic.

Covid keepers

Coping through the pandemic and implementing changes at pace became the norm for 2020, and for many it was the hardest year of their career. But school and college leaders are saying there are some changes worth keeping.

Virtual interaction

Cloud-based systems and remote access eased the transition to remote working and ensured that essential work continued. For many, ‘hybrid’ ways of working are going to continue, particularly for those not directly teaching or delivering a front-line service. Remote working has become normalised and has changed how we connect, communicate and create.

Many meetings including leadership team meetings, parents’ meetings and governors’ meetings swiftly moved online, as virtual technology allows frequent and fast connectivity. It has been an essential tool to enable speedy responses to emerging issues.

Teachers gave feedback that they found online parents’ meetings less stressful, and the ease of connecting online from almost anywhere meant they had higher parental engagement.

Online governors’ meetings have ensured that governance and oversight continue while also saving travel time and providing more flexibility on timings. Strong challenge and scrutiny can still be achieved.

In schools and colleges, staff meetings worked well online and social activities such as quizzes helped to keep up staff morale. Virtual assemblies and events for students saved time and meant children not having to sit on hall floors for long periods, and, in secondaries, allowed more time in tutor groups afterwards for reflection and discussion.

Developing new skills

CPD for staff and governors easily transitioned to online learning with many schools utilising the ASCL ‘Leading On’ webinar package and conferences (www.ascl.org.uk/leadingon). Again, it proved to save the time and expense of travelling between locations.

There was unprecedented acceleration of progress of staff capability and proficiency of utilising technology effectively.

Flexible working

Schools and college leaders are also looking at re-defining and getting a better understanding of the purpose and scheduling of meetings and activities, along with reviewing in a new light what is reasonable and achievable with flexible working. This offers all sorts of future possibilities.

Operational adaptions

Finance managers and central teams found more suppliers willing to be paid electronically, particularly small, and local suppliers, removing or reducing the need for cheques and improving payment processing times. But it also required more vigilance with the emergence of Covid-related scams, particularly from cyber criminals.

Some of the revisions to the school day will be worth keeping. Some schools are looking at their newly constructed timetables and taking time to reflect on and re-assess long-established standard operating procedures. Examples that have worked well in specific contexts are separate entrances, staggered exits and split lunches, staggered start and end times and separated lunch arrangements that anchor lessons in bubbled areas with staff moving around more. Re-imagining traditional vertical house structures and thinking about whether horizontal structures work better for pastoral care are also under consideration.

Improved safety

Everyone has become more aware of health and safety. Some have found that using one-way systems around school and college buildings makes it safer travelling around the site and improves movement time between lessons. Year group groupings create calm and order. Re-designing timetabling, such as running a two-period day, enabled a reduction in contacts. Zoning break spaces, social zones and toilets supported new pupils, particularly those who moved up to middle or secondary school. Staff placed strategically for duties, monitoring safety measures and greeting pupils has proved to bring a positive start to the day.

Hayley Dunn
ASCL Business Leadership Specialist