Coronavirus a 'golden opportunity' to help teachers

Harris chief Sir Dan Moynihan tells Tes that schools can use 'down time' to reduce teacher workload for the long term

Coronavirus school closures: Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, says this is an opportunity for schools to find space to be 'creative'

The coronavirus crisis provides a "golden opportunity" for schools to reduce teacher workload, a multi-academy trust leader has said.

Schools can use "down time" while their gates are shut to develop "even more refined schemes of work", and create lesson plans that "everyone can use", according to Sir Dan Moynihan, Harris Federation chief executive.

Sir Dan, who oversees 48 primary and secondary academies in and around London, also told Tes that keeping schools open only for vulnerable children and children of key workers could provide an opportunity for disadvantaged pupils to "catch up" on core subjects.


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“I think it’s going to be a really creative period, actually," he said.

"We’re keen to be developing a curriculum, and we’ve got teams of staff who will be working on that using Microsoft Teams separately from home – by subject, both at primary and secondary.

Coronavirus closures allow schools to be 'creative'

"So we will use the down time for a lot of kind of curriculum development work that will benefit everybody when things start up again.

"We hope we will have even more refined schemes of work and lesson plans that everyone can use.

"And it’s a golden opportunity, isn’t it? To reduce workload and do that stuff better, as well as have teaching going on." 

He added: "We’ve got a range of different kinds of kids in school, and we will also have the most vulnerable kids in school as well as kids of key workers.

"So I think what we’re going to find there is, for the most vulnerable kids, we’re looking to kind of focus on the core subjects a bit – because it’s a chance for them to catch up.

“And others will get as varied a curriculum as we can provide with the kind of staff who are around."

Sir Dan said that staff will "rotate", so schools can offer "different subjects on different days", and make things "a bit more exciting" with longer, thematic lessons.

"All we know at the moment is there will be a rota which will provide different subjects, and we’re deciding we’ll use this time for the vulnerable and disadvantaged students who are often behind, to really focus on the core and get them to catch up," he added.

Sir Dan said the vast majority of students will follow a full curriculum from home, with teachers able to set work and interact with their classes using Microsoft Teams.

"We delivered training to all of the senior teams of our 48 schools, and we've delivered training to our 60 subject consultants who work from the centre – they're full-time employees," he said.

"And they've cascaded it down to subject teams in schools. 

"The idea is that they will continue to teach and be in contact with kids, and set them marked work.

"We aren't going to try and emulate the school day – that would be impossible for a teacher remotely. 

"But what we can do is we can look at a reasonable volume of work, and expect that to get done.

"It will be very varied. It's a complete package. And into the mix will be guidance to some online websites that carry useful content."

Asked how the trust would support pupils who don't have access the internet or devices such as laptops and tablets, Sir Dan said: "For sixth-formers, we’ve used some of the sixth-form bursary for disadvantaged students to fund dongles and the necessary stuff they need for access.

"And that’s a good and appropriate use for it – it’s designed to level the playing field and if that’s what we need to do, that’s what we need to do.

"And from two weeks ago we got schools compiling lists of how students will access – whether they’ve got wi-fi, whether they’ve got devices – and then they’ve been working to see who hasn’t, and then what kit they can lend to those that don’t."

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