The big social focus for 2020/21

Jonathan Benett
Jonathan Benett is a Pastoral Strategy Leader and RE and Citizenship Teacher overseeing transition at a secondary school in Manchester. 
Follow @MrBenett2
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How was your last term?

The final term of the year was obviously very different to normal. My school reacted thoughtfully and decisively to closure by setting up an online provision focused on supporting students to access education. The provision constantly evolved to incorporate different forms of education experiences, using technology to support students further.

At the same time, the school maintained regular and substantial communication with homes and placed an even greater emphasis on safeguarding and student welfare. As a Head of Year focusing on transition, my priority was to work to minimise the inevitable impact that lockdown would have on a successful transition from primary to high school. That involved lots of communication with parents, students and primary schools through phone calls and online conferences. It also meant providing online experiences for students through the ‘Transition Zone’ on the school website, an online Induction Day on the final Thursday before holidays, and transition activity booklets to be sent out.

Preparing to support the well-being of students in September was a key whole school focus in our final half term, and the subject for several CPDs and team meetings. We have developed a recovery curriculum for September, drawing on Barry Carpenter’s research on the ‘5 losses’ to routine, structure, friendship, opportunity and freedom following trauma. In my view, it is appropriate that schools acknowledge this trauma and work therapeutically with students to ‘recover’ from the losses brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic, whilst recognising that return to routine and structure – getting back to normal – is of real importance. How to navigate these seemingly contradictory objectives will no doubt have been a focus for many schools.

What priorities should teachers and school leaders have over the summer?

In many ways I think the answer to this question is the same as it always is. Summer needs to be a time where teachers switch off from work – and we are in a very privileged position to have this time each year in order to do that. It can definitely make us better at our jobs in the long run. 

This summer, I think it will be more difficult than normal to do that. As so many have gotten used to working - at least in part - from home, that physical separation from school and home life has, to some extent, fallen away and this has certainly made it more difficult to make a ‘clean break’. I found myself checking school emails on Monday, and even absent-mindedly opening the electronic sign in sheet we had been using. In recent years, many leaders have acted to support teacher well-being by banning work emails at weekends and holidays, by giving more time for strategic planning in term time and by incorporating well-being practices into CPD and INSET days, which goes a long way. 

What priorities should schools have as the new school year begins?

Teachers, leaders and schools interested in social justice and social equity need recognise the urgency of addressing prejudice and discrimination in schools. This requires schools to acknowledge that they operate within broader societal structures. 

Due to the significance of the historical moment we find ourselves in today, this means leaders and teachers making anti-racism an active priority in their schools. To start, schools need to reflect and clarify what it actually means to be anti-racist as an institution. The problem isn’t going to be solved by an ‘an-assembly-here-a-lesson-there’ approach. To promote anti-racism in schools means to look at the fabric of the organisation itself, from curriculum to staff attitudes, recruitment to funding. Two facts are true of schools in England today: while 25% of pupils in English schools are from ethnic minorities, 93% of heads are white British; 62% of black Britons believe that the education system has a culture of racism. There are systemic issues that need addressing. Schools do not exist in isolation to the rest of society and are in fact often reactive agents within it. For schools to move towards becoming anti-racist, it will mean supporting societal change as a whole and recognising the voices, experiences and values of those who have traditionally been disenfranchised by mainstream education – and crucially, making this part of the way the school operates, not as a one off, impermanent measure. This will inevitably mean teachers challenging themselves and changing aspects of what they do. A priority for leaders in the next academic year is to work with staff to recognise this. 

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"