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School & trust leaders

Guest blog: Extraordinary leadership


One month ago as I write this, the Prime Minister informed us that schools would close indefinitely. The past weeks have felt like months and the uncertainty generated across our education system has been very hard for many to cope with. Of course very quickly we recognised that because our schools were only closed for educational purposes but would remain open for child-care and to support vulnerable youngsters, our governors and headteachers would be suddenly required to respond to previously unthinkable challenges. 

As Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching and as a career-long teacher and headteacher my instinct as this announcement was made, was to metaphorically embrace the profession and offer calm leadership. I took to social media and began offering words of encouragement about selflessness, courage and professionalism with the aim of reassuring teachers that although they may be experiencing isolation they were not alone. My emails to our membership have focused on warm encouragement and an offer to share stories of practice across the education system that would enable colleagues to recognize that the difficult decisions they were taking were in common with thousands of others. Additionally, working with ITV we sought to praise teachers and all those in education as keyworkers. The profession has been rewarded with video clips of teaching colleagues addressing the nation in support of #BritainGetTalking.

As a member of a governing body you will have offered leadership to your school. This is the kind of leadership where you know that there is much at stake that is unknowable and frightening, but that courage will be found through conviction about public service and doing what feels right. Ultimately this is all any of us can do. Leading a school or trust through this pandemic is not a competition but a balancing act driven by humility and collaboration.

Some leadership teams in response to the first days of lock-down insisted all staff remain in school, spending their time in classrooms preparing lessons, putting up displays, organizing assessments.  Quickly, however, it became clear that trying to replicate school at a distance was neither possible nor desirable. Rotas of staff were established providing care for children, delivering food, or hanging on the phone to EdenRed. Teachers have begun planning for remote learning and a huge variety of educational companies have started offering resources to help with this. This week the BBC began broadcasting lessons and the DfE have published a list of curriculum resources and video lessons too.

We are all doing everything we can to support our colleagues to provide an education for pupils, who are at the heart of everything we do. Across the profession there are a great range of free resources readily available. Now more than ever, the profession needs to work together and collaborate. We want to avoid needless duplication and staff having to start from scratch when the tools are easily accessible. With this in mind, we are regularly updating our COVID-19 page with links to resources for the profession and parents to use.  

It is at times like this that school leaders really need and appreciate their governing body. You provide wise, measured advice. You ensure that safety is paramount and above all, you are part of a team doing the very best they can in impossible circumstances. Thank you so very much.

One day in the future let’s hope we can look back and agree that somehow we found a way through for our children, our staff team and our families and that we all learned important ‘never to be forgotten’ lessons along the way.

Membership of this professional body is open to all governors as Professional Affiliates. More information can be found at