What Can We Leave Behind?

Building a manageable and purposeful legacy of Lockdown

With all pupils returning to school, the SAfE team have been reflecting on the last nine weeks. We have all recognized the marked difference in schools’ remote learning offer during this Lockdown compared to the first, and how schools have really stepped up to the challenge and delivered a remote learning offer that has maintained the quality of education much more in line with normal practice.

This can be seen in our very own ‘Voices from Schools’ Vlogs on remote learning.

All school staff should be proud of what they have achieved during this time, and despite the media representation, we know this has been no easy feat and has, to the contrary, added to teacher workload. This is particularly the case in small schools or schools where they had a large proportion of pupils in school throughout Lockdown whilst still providing remote learning opportunities for pupils at home.

In addition, schools have ensured disadvantaged pupils have access to technology and internet for remote learning, provided eligible families with free school meal vouchers, and safeguarded vulnerable pupils as well ensuring the well-being of staff. Secondary school leaders have even had to roll out large scale medical testing procedures!

After acknowledging and praising the hard work of our colleagues in schools, our reflections turned to what positives can we take from this period of rapid innovation and problem solving.

We all laughed at the concept of ‘Building Back Better’ and its’ Brexit connotations, because let’s face it, look where that’s got us? But building back better really does have value here, as Peter Hyman, Big Education, explains in his vlog about Learning from Lockdown.

“What can we re-think? What can we change? In other words, what can we build back better?”

In reality, we can all identify new approaches and ways of working we want to keep post lockdown, but as one of my colleagues put it, what can we leave behind? The opportunity of reflection and thinking space the lockdown has created has given rise to many new initiatives and practices, not least the refreshed emphasis on the role of technology in learning. But in our haste to get back to normality and ‘catch-up’, there is a possibility all our optimism for change may be lost and forgotten by Easter like the child’s PE kit lost in the first week of term.

Thinking about how to introduce new initiatives and redesigning can be daunting in the normal context of the school environment; especially when it is time to review your school development plan and you realise that you are nowhere near where you wanted to be at this point in the academic year and you now have little more than a term left.

Indeed, when I was speaking to a headteacher earlier about participating in our Assessing Progress without Statutory Data project, she expressed her concern at introducing anything new to staff when they really needed to focus on the existing school priorities. In the interests of everyone’s sanity and wellbeing, there is not enough time to do it all!

Whilst we cannot get back the lost time, we can make sure the time we do have is efficiently used.

So rather than focusing on how you can introduce new things, what can you leave behind that was having little or no impact? Or perhaps you have forgotten what the purpose of it was and therefore it is not effectively meeting that purpose anymore.

Many schools have carried out parents’ evenings virtually over the past year and this has made leaders, teachers, and even parents reflect on the purpose and the impact of traditional parents’ evenings that are mainly information giving sessions.

Parents are more engaged now than ever before with their child’s learning and want to know meaningful feedback and strategies to support their child’s learning. So as Michael Chiles, author of The Feedback Pendulum, points out, parents’ evenings can be “a waste of teacher’s time” and become an administrative task that has little impact on pupil outcomes. It no longer seems effective to continue the traditional model and as Chiles says, “there are missed opportunities in doing it in a different way”.

Is this a ritual destined for the scrap heap, or at the very least, the recycling in the post Lockdown era?

Before it is too late, I encourage you to take the time this week to ask all stakeholders, what can we leave behind? Let this be your impetus to building a manageable and purposeful legacy of Lockdown.

Roxanne Gumbs, English Teaching and Learning Lead, Schools Alliance for Excellence

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