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How to effectively manage schools in ‘Lockdown’

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In my last blog, I focused on ‘Lockdown Leadership’, and why, more than ever, inspiration is coming to the fore. But as we know, to run a school effectively there must be a balance of leadership AND management.

Management is the job of organising the processes that keep the organisation functioning, i.e. improvement planning, budgeting, staffing and measuring performance. Leadership is very different. It is all about understanding your staff and aligning them to the school vision.

Leaders often possess these two traits in differing measures and in the normal working day, these imbalances are usually offset by having the skill set across your leadership team rather than in one person (the headteacher). But these are not normal times. Leaders are now being called upon to show incredible management skills AND inspirational leadership.
Having already looked at what it takes to be an inspirational leader in lockdown, here’s my thoughts on how we can effectively manage our way through these unchartered waters.

School Improvement Planning

Schools should begin to host virtual senior leadership team meetings in order to think about the priorities of the school for September onwards. Schools are doing a very good job of ‘crisis planning’ during these times, but leaders should now use home working time to begin their normal cycles of school improvement. Use survey websites such as Survey Monkey to gather the thoughts of your stakeholders and use video conferencing tools to discuss priorities as a senior leadership team.

Budgeting

As with improvement planning, now is the time to consider your budget as if we were in normal times. Schools already have excellent budget setting systems, but now we need to add our knowledge of the current reality into our future thinking. Do you budget enough for staff wellbeing? Is your school IT infrastructure capable of allowing staff to work from home? Does your IT hardware allow staff to keep in touch with children and each other remotely? Use what you have learned to prepare your school for a different way of working. Even though this is an unprecedented situation, there are things we can learn that will enhance our ways of working when things return to normal.

Staffing

Although it seems impossible, now is the time to start staffing your school for September and we have to assume schools will be fully open. Social distancing has decimated the usual recruitment process, so a new way of working needs to be considered.
Video interviews will probably become the norm but maybe ask for more information about a lesson that candidates would teach in a normal interview process. Request planning and structure questions around what you would want to see in a candidate lesson observation, such as differentiation, engagement, behaviour management and assessment. Safer recruitment should also be everyone’s first priority. Ensure all references are received before interviews so that questions can be asked should anything arise.

Performance Management

You could argue there is little performance to actually manage at the moment, but don’t underestimate the power of performance management in making your staff feel valued in these difficult times. Consider timetabling in performance management interim reviews; not to measure staff against their targets (there won’t be enough evidence) but to have an open discussion about how your staff are feeling and whether the school can help. Maybe change targets to ones that are now more meaningful based on the emerging roles staff are undertaking and wellbeing concerns that arise in these video meetings.

Schools have settled into the rhythm of daily life, so day-to-day management should be minimal. It’s now time to think about the larger processes in your school, as when this is over, schools need to hit the ground running. As senior leaders we should be planning for normal school life while the current situation affords us the time to do so. Remember, this situation will not last forever, so when and where we can, we need to plan for the future.

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