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Leadership in a time of crisis

In this video various senior leaders discuss their roles and how they have addressed the challenges they have faced during the Covid pandemic.
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So working in a school during the pandemic, throughout Covid 19, it has been tricky and it has been intense. It’s been very interesting. It’s been challenging and I feel that it has brought us together as a leadership team and it’s made us a lot closer and a lot more tight knit. As an independent school we were compared to state schools. We had quite a lot of literature from Unions saying don’t do this, don’t do that, and I think it was challenging because we, as an independent school, stood out and we had to deliver online teaching. I don’t think any teacher was prepared for it if I’m honest.
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The challenge has been trying to support those students that have not had that social interaction with their peers and actually identifying their needs, and making sure that their welfare is key to us and it’s the things that you can’t do. So as a chemist, you know, I can’t do any of the practicals as much as I’ve recorded something, it’s that interaction with the students as much as you can give them retrieval practice questions to do online. You can give them tasks to do. It’s just not the same environment that you would have in a classroom. So the main issues that we faced with the pandemic were the constant change in expectations.
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The change in how we operated as a school, working toward risk assessments and basically changing our day-to-day working patterns. The curriculum changed. Routines, it was taking half an hour to get a class of children in from break time because we were having to wash hands constantly. The government have left schools to make decisions, like the testing program that we’re currently doing, and all schools are doing up and down the country. The process of how we’re going to grade the students. But for me, personally, I would say for anybody starting in an assistant headteacher role it’s tough.
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But to start it in the middle of a pandemic has really opened up my eyes to the difficult decisions that have to be made at the top. As we brought students back into school, on the back of hopefully the end, or the tail end of the COVID pandemic. We found that a lot of them are very appreciative of the provision they’ve had whilst at home with online learning. But we have all had a shared experience. We have all had a very difficult few months, and I’m finding that many of the students have not only the appreciation, but that sort of feeling of bonding.
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When you realise that people are stuck, if I use that word, and you’ve got to know that actually, you’ve got to understand why they’re not moving, and then you’ve got to zoom in and ask for support. Now sometimes as a leader, the member of staff might find that as a bit of an interrogation. They could look at it as ‘I don’t want you, as my line manager, I don’t want to tell you everything’. So then you could buddy those members of staff out with somebody else within the team and offer those resources.
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So delegation is huge, that’s on the course, delegating duties, communication obviously, keeping communication, clarity of vision and even though lockdown wasn’t my personal vision because I had my own ways of moving the department. It was a pandemic and we had to get through it, and it was keeping the momentum going. Trying to do your job remotely has been just a lot, a lot harder. Whether it’s from setting an assignment on teams to marking it online, to picking up the calls and checking in on a student. It’s had its own challenges all round, not just for me, but for everybody in the school community.

Watch the video in which various senior leaders discuss their roles and how they have addressed the challenges they have faced during the Covid pandemic.

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