Learning from lockdown – a lesson in 6 quotes

Caroline Doherty
Caroline Doherty
It is my great joy and pleasure to present the Key Voices podcast each week. Over the last few months, I have talked to a lot of folk in and around education, about both Covid and non-Covid related topics, and I wanted to share here some bite-sized nuggets of ideas that sum-up lockdown learnings in the words of my wise and wonderful guests.

“Trust the people on the ground” 

This came out loud and strong from 2 different conversations I had with school business professionals. It points to the challenge policy makers and guidance writers face when they attempt to create a one size fits all model. We saw time and again leaders on the ground making the right decisions for their communities, paying attention to the guidance but not being slaves to it. It would be great to see more of this confidence from the sector in the future, and the government understanding that they need to consult with schools or, even better, to trust that leaders know what is right for their individual communities.

“Making great practice common practice”

Dr Kate Chhatwal spoke about the professional generosity of members in the Challenge Partners network, in particular, those who responded quickly to the shifting demands of the pandemic. All over the sector there has been a collaborative spirit that has transcended existing groupings. Somewhat strangely, given many of us were not physically out and about, networking has been much more vital and vibrant. It was nice to see what can happen when barriers such as cost, accessibility and availability, were suddenly much less of a blocker for attending events. 

“The next normal”

Sir David Carter talked about a report from McKinsey, and the concept of preparing for the ‘next normal’. The idea that things will go back to the way they were before, is unlikely to help anyone. It has been inspiring to hear from so many people about what they want to change about the way they live and work post lock-down, rather than harking back to the way things were. It is going to take belief and leadership to realise these potential opportunities though, I think Michael Pain summed it up well when he said trust leaders are “dealers in hope”. Those leading our schools have had to inspire huge amounts of faith in their staff and communities and that pressure has been extremely tough. Dr Becky Allen confirmed when we discussed Teacher Tapp findings that Headteachers were much more likely to be thinking about leaving the profession than other staff in schools.

“Humans first teachers second” 

John Tomsett, in our discussion of his and Jonny Uttley’s book, “Putting Staff First” borrowed these words from Mary Myatt.  But teachers and school leaders often feel like they have to be superhuman and many are, by nature, extremely selfless people working through all kinds of tough situations. “How are you today?” shouldn’t just be a trivial way to start a conversation. Teachers can’t teach, and learners can’t learn without some basic aspects of their physical, emotional and psychological needs being met, and this crisis has really forced us to think about that. 

“Pride and purpose” 

This is the phrase that Sinead McBrearty from Education Support used when we were talking about how society, particularly parents, have a newfound appreciation for what teachers do, and that this was giving teachers a boost. Parents are also thinking differently about their relationships with school as we heard from Dave Sammels at Mayflower Community Academy, and Claire Heald, from Inspiration Trust, even mentioned some parents keen to train as teachers because they had enjoyed their experiences of lockdown education so much (I think they might be the exception).

My final quote comes from Professor Barry Carpenter, and I admit my voice was cracking somewhat after he said it. We were talking about his many years in special education, and this is how he described the people working with children with SEND – but I think it applies to everyone working in schools as well. 

“They have treasure in their hands and that treasure, when used wisely, can transform lives”

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