31 Aug 2020
By Mark Richards
The horse has already bolted, so to speak, and we are now a week away from the start of a new school term. It is more than likely, that schools will be trying, as much as they can, to get things back to normal as soon as they can. However, the COVID lockdown did represent an opportunity to reduce teacher workload in the long term.
The crisis, inadvertently, provided a golden opportunity for schools to be creative, and to streamline and refine existing schemes of work and practices. Of course, it would be harsh to criticise any school that hasn’t made the most effective use of the extra time that the lockdown afforded schools.
The situation was unprecedented. Schools remained open to educating key workers’ children. Advice and guidance from the government, especially regarding exams, often appeared to be rushed, cobbled together and almost thrown at schools at the last minute. Schools would be totally forgiven for simply ‘coping’ as they all tried to figure out the best course of action for their pupils. Long term or even medium-term planning was hardly likely to be at the top of most school’s list of things to do – especially as nobody knew how the crisis was going to develop.
However, even with all that considered, the lockdown did create an opportunity to focus energy on the kind of curriculum development work that will benefit everybody within a school when normal service resumes – whenever that might be.
What that actually looks like will really depend on the individual institution. Some schools have looked to refine schemes of work and lesson plans. Some schools saw the opportunity straight away to use the lockdown time as a way of supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils to focus on catching up in the core subjects.
As schools battled quickly to get to grips with the opportunities (and limitations) of Microsoft Teams and Zoom – two of the most popular platforms for delivering online learning – it will have become apparent that it is impossible to emulate a normal school day. However, as full-time employees, school leaders could still expect all staff to have completed a reasonable volume of work during the lockdown.
As previously mentioned, the Coronavirus epidemic laid a massive load of problems and challenges at the door of schools. Those challenges will continue – probably for at least another full academic year – as schools try to help students to make up for last time. However, we should reasonably expect schools to have worked on some positive developments during the lockdown. Even if this development work hasn’t taken the form of a whole-school approach, there should have been time for teachers to move some things forward.
Even if teachers took the opportunity to catch up or to focus on things that they’d never found the time to do before, it will have been time well spent. The most beneficial work will probably have been carried out at the departmental level. Lockdown will have given middle leaders a real chance to re-assess development planning.
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