Mary-Jo Hill

23 Sep 2020
The humour, humility and fragility headteachers have been showing, even under an immense amount of pressure, is nothing less than impressive.

This year has been one of the most difficult ones. The change, fear, sadness and complexity COVID-19 brought to our world and the reality of what we have now is definitely something that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. While as a parent I watch the daily challenges that headteachers, teachers and wider educational staff are going through, I also have the opportunity and immense privilege to work closely with some of those professionals as a coach. And I have to say that this experience has been constantly blowing me away.

The humour, humility and fragility headteachers have been showing, even under an immense amount of pressure, is nothing less than impressive. In my sessions with them, I can see the commitment to their schools, staff and community in these difficult times. The huge effort in trying to keep everyone safe and still offer a good experience for pupils is non-stop. The long hours put into the development of new measures and guidance, with ever greater demands of safeguarding whilst following new procedures means that headteachers are excelling at one of their core skills. Effective, responsive, reactionary management. So what becomes of leadership? How do you ensure that you are setting aside the time for thinking as well as the doing?

The first fortnight is now behind us, so will headteachers and senior leaders and middle leaders now have the opportunity to get back to usual business? It takes tentative steps to consider how many staff feel competent and able to commit to further on-line provision whilst still holding a class in situ. Do schools really have any slack to be able to give the time and attention to this? Most, probably not. How robust is that contingency plan for home learning? I kid you not that this is the rhetoric schools will be experiencing. Move on quickly from the laptop provision debacle. Move on quickly from the access to broadband. Ofsted will still be calling.

But maybe we have taken quite a lot from the recent experience. Will school improvement shift to a more conscious and realistic co-constructed conversation? Are we still really chasing an ‘outstanding’ judgement? How can coaching really help your self-improving school agenda?