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Relentless positivity: why schools have no choice

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As schools in England start to plan for a phased return of classes from 1st June, there is a chance that the anxiety and fear of our staff, children and communities will start to increase from an already high starting point.

This is also not helped by the profession being front and centre of a lot of news reports. All of which makes it very difficult to think and act positively.

But we must. We have no choice.

As leaders, our teams look to us for the right way to act. We need to show them that, even if difficult, we can still be positive for our children, for our communities, and for each other.

The only way to do this is by reinforcing the positive messages that exist these days. Now, I am not advocating ignoring the horror of COVID-19, or dismissing how challenging this planning stage is… I just think we should continue to be a source of hope so that we can fight our way through, rather than drown.

Pause for thought

I want to take a minute to reflect on how utterly incredible you and your staff are being. Let’s remember, no one has ever led education through anything like this. And despite there being no blueprint, you’ve enabled your school to keep functioning (under the most difficult and complicated of circumstances) by:

  • Creating a curriculum for vulnerable and key worker children in school and timetables that consider the wellbeing of your staff.
  • Making sure that vulnerable children are being supported and cared for whilst their building of sanctuary is closed.
  • Supporting students learning from home by rapidly developing new resources and processes.
  • Risk assessing and planning so that more children can return to school safely.

And you have done all this with no preparation time and little guidance.

None of this was in NPQH. None of this has ever featured in a leadership course. This is all happening because of you. Your resilience, your creativity, your drive, and your passion.

We’re all awesome

Stop thinking of everyone else for just one second and say to yourself, “I’m actually nailing this!” As the leader, it is rare that someone on your team will say this to you, so I am saying it to you instead. You are awesome.

Your staff are being pretty awesome too, aren’t they? They haven’t been given facemasks, protective clothing or hand gel. And their efforts haven’t been recognised with free coffee, half price pizza or special shopping hours…

But they are working relentlessly to make sure the school and their children are safe, entertained and educated. They are also coming to terms with returning in June and what this means for the safety of the children and themselves.

They too have never worked like this before. And while they are under immense pressure and stress, they’re doing it with a smile on their face. That’s why we need to relentlessly thank our teachers, nursery staff, TAs, sports coaches, kitchen staff, site managers, cleaners, office staff and anyone else heading into a school to keep it running and thriving. Keep their wellbeing at the forefront of every decision you make and use every opportunity to publicly celebrate how amazing they are.

As 1st June approaches, we have no choice but to stay positive. You have to realise how remarkably you are leading your school right now and use every opportunity to thank your staff.

I know it’s not easy, but if you can do these things then together we can maintain a positive spotlight on education – even in these most difficult of circumstances.

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