Hello and welcome to Heads Up.
We are trying to use this to relay our business as usual information, keeping it separate from the daily bulletins that you receive around Covid-19 but it is inevitable that there will be overlap with the pandemic and its associated conditions being such a massive part of all of our everyday lives for the foreseeable future.
Key to offering the best possible environment for our children to return to is to make sure that we are in as good shape as we can be. The strain of the adaptation to unprecedented circumstances and for some, of having changed work requirements, children at home during the day or other family members who need support is significant. I encourage my team to take daily exercise, to take some leave where they can be away from the pressures of emails and we make time at our virtual meetings to check on one another’s wellbeing almost as part of an unspoken agenda. I firmly believe that this practice is not only beneficial but essential to us.
That lead me to wonder, with all of the work that has gone into ensuring our children are as safe as possible, are teaching staff and education leaders looking after their own wellbeing? Please do take the time to check in on one another, to encourage downtime where possible and to create an environment that will support each other. Maintaining one another’s physical and mental wellbeing now will pay dividends later on down the road.
Speaking of the journey ahead, some of you will know that I have been quite taken by the newly issued guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation. It fits with part of my DNA - the bit that says research informed practice for our most vulnerable will make a real difference to the wellbeing and achievement of all.
They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ so while our pupils and teachers are having to stay apart, this might present a real opportunity to refine our online learning. Encouraging virtual peer interaction and using technology between pupils has been shown to be effective as has getting pupils to reflect on their learning and the progress they’re making.
Involving all of the family can also provide a really strong base for effective home learning so a real challenge for every school is how to communicate most effectively with other members of families about home learning, ongoing school developments and how children are coping.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to this but, in the midst of all the EEF newly published guidance these struck me as being real measures schools can take:
• Develop a clear plan for your communications with families
• Audit your current communications (especially with less-involved families) to assess what is, and isn’t, working well
• Try to personalise messages as much as possible.
• Frame your messages positively, such as celebrating home learning successes so far
• Reinforce simple, encouraging messages around home learning, routines and study tips
• Consider how emails, phone calls and text messages may be combined effectively
• Avoid, where possible, complex communication about curriculum content
• It may be beneficial to involve other family members, not just the primary contact, if possible.
So, in essence, whilst online learning can reap the great benefits of all of our advancements in technology, it cannot take the place of human interaction, even remote, for creating that sense of self within the child that will motivate them both while they are away from schools and keep them involved to get maximum benefit when they return.
Which leads me back to wellbeing. Our children are going through a period of considerable stress, adaptation and trauma, from being separated from their friends and having a strict and limited regime imposed on them to maybe losing a loved one without any real opportunity to say goodbye. Now, more than ever, is the time to reset how we interact with them.
I will leave it there and sign off by saying that I hope you keep safe and look after yourselves. As I say, you will still receive daily bulletins as guidance around Covid-19 evolves and I be will here – same time, same place – next week.
With best wishes,
Assistant Director for Education Services