5 ways to 'plan' for January school announcements

Trying to cope with constantly changing Covid guidance is difficult for schools – but Clive Hill has some tips to help
21st December 2020, 2:00pm
Clive Hill


5 ways to 'plan' for January school announcements

Coronavirus: How Schools Can Cope With Changing Government Covid Guidance

If 2020 has brought anything to the fore in education, it is the expectation from the government that schools will "improvise, adapt, and overcome" when a minister hints at plans in the press and then offers school leaders the sparsest of details at the 11th hour. They then send us over the top, like this is some sort of assault from the trenches.

I'm probably more used to this situation than most in the profession: with seven years of Army service as a non-commissioned officer, and then 12 more in operations management within the logistic sector, often dealing with government agencies. This sort of thing was my "normal" long before Covid.  

How should we best try and cope?

Coronavirus: Coping with last-minute guidance for schools

The first thing to accept is that the government's plans will change all the time.

This is something that you become habituated to when dealing with the Ministry of Defence and crisis-management situations. But, traditionally, education moves far slower, so I can understand the stress that people are feeling.

Unfortunately, under these circumstances, you will never have the perfect plan.

My experience leads me to keep things simple, especially when we have more questions than answers, and the Department for Education has said "more announcements to follow". If you attempt to pre-empt the order, you are going to waste time and energy by having to repeatedly revisit plans - you will scream when things change and the communication is poor.

January schools announcements

In addition to this over-arching advice, I have five more specific tips for you for coping with incoming government directives.

1. Take a step back

Sun Tzu said: "So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak." Know that we have already done most of the leg work to accommodate the demands of government. Do not try to reinvent the wheel: your own and your staff's wellbeing is critical right now. Work smarter, not harder - focus your efforts on the things that are most pressing.

2. Remote provision

Use Oak National Academy to provide lessons that meet the requirements for a full-time remote education. We have to acknowledge the poor rollout of laptops, etc, so to provide alternatives, textbooks would be a good go-to. If this isn't possible (I know subjects like English have limitations with these) then a little networking on Twitter will no doubt see you right with booklets that can be printed and despatched to those needing them.

3. On-site learning

All staff are in. Critical-worker children are in, as are exam groups. This doesn't have to mean drastically different timetabling, etc. Sure, class sizes may be tiny, some might not exist. But you now have the staffing to support the rest of your unknowns. Staff can be contacting kids on Microsoft Teams, etc to keep community cohesion, and support tutor groups. It isn't our usual method of doing this, but it isn't difficult if we are keeping things simple.

4. Planning for testing

You cannot plan for testing. The Armed Forces are experts in setting up these "pop-up" testing facilities. The DfE has just barked the order; we now have to "hurry up and wait". Worry about what can be controlled by you at this time.

5. 'No plan survives first contact'

The key is to make your plans as flexible as possible. We have a week to complete this task, with a reduced number of students on site. We have the space to do this (with some moving around of rooms that can be deep-cleaned). Our largest barrier is the volunteers and supervision of no DBS-cleared people on site. Always choose the options that make future change easier.

Clive Hill is a lead practitioner (science) and the founder of NetworkED East Midlands. He tweets @clive_hill


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