What should school leaders prioritise for reopening?

Should curriculum catch-up be the biggest concern? What about pastoral issues and behaviour? Tes asked a primary and secondary headteacher for their thoughts

Grainne Hallahan

back to school

After months of online learning, teachers might rightly feel like the term “catch-up” are the verbal equivalent of nails down the chalkboard. After all, lost learning isn't something we all agree even exists.

Semantic objections aside, schools are set to start reopening to all students from 8 March, and at that point leaders will have to make choices about what to prioritise with their pupils.

We spoke to primary and secondary headteachers to hear how they plan to approach the task.

The primary leader

Andy Brady is headteacher at Chelford CE Primary School in Cheshire and says his plans focus on ensuring his students have their social and academic needs met when they return to school.

“Once we have our children back in our classrooms [then] reconnecting with them must take priority,” Brady explains.

Relationship-building moments have been lost in lockdown, and so Brady says time needs to be invested in making these happen, in order to make learning a possibility.

“Connections are so essential in inspiring our children,” he explains. “They help to promote a shared togetherness, trust of one another, being on hand to provide the encouragement for that child to finally summon the courage to have a go. This, for me, is the biggest loss.”

But, he continues, this doesn't mean prioritising only pupil and teacher relationships. When his school reopens to all, time will be given to facilitate the wider sense of community.

“Schools and classrooms specifically are incredibly ‘connection-rich’ environments,” he explains. “Not just between a pupil and teacher, but pupil to pupil and relationships with teaching assistants, visitors, trainee students, parent helpers, mystery readers. All of these connections contribute to achieving a sense of belonging, and creating the safe place for children to learn and grow."

The secondary leader

Jo Facer, headteacher of Ark John Keats in Enfield, says that before they can be sure what the priorities are for catch-up, they need a return to normality.

“We have a step-by-step plan for how to tackle catch-up, and the very first step will be letting the children return and re-establish routines and culture,” she says. "We need to reset, reteach and support.”

Only once that has happened will they be able to move on to gap analysis, she explains.

“We’ll be asking: did they learn what we taught them in lockdown? Do we need to alter the curriculum now?

“Once gap analysis has been done, we will look at our teaching. And then there might need to be operational changes. I'm definitely taking a ‘let's work out what we know first’ approach.”

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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