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Research School Network: Unprecedented times but our response should be predictable How post-pandemic leadership should rely on evidence and find reassurance in what we already know

Unprecedented times but our response should be predictable

How post-pandemic leadership should rely on evidence and find reassurance in what we already know

by Manchester Communication Research School
on the

We have all heard and seen the phrase unprecedented times’ in recent months more than anyone could have predicted a little over a year ago. As with any phrase that is overused, it can become tinged with irony, sometimes humour, often losing its truest meaning and sentiment. Whilst that may still be the case in this instance, for many, this phrase will continue to be loaded with emotion, perhaps a sense of loss, fear and risk, anxiety and uncertainty. Add on top of that the use of the term recovery’ in its many different contexts, not least in relation to our young people and their future, and it can feel a little like we are drowning, not waving.

As school leaders, we have a responsibility to buffer and protect our young people from this deficit narrative. However, with the looming awareness of the changes and the uncertainty about what is ahead, not least for GCSE and A‑Level students, we too can feel at a loss as to what to do to best respond.

At MCA, there are two fundamental ways in which we are tackling these challenges. Firstly, we will be actively and consciously avoiding any deficit language. Ours is not a recovery strategy but a growth strategy. This reflects the opportunity for growth for our students, our teachers, our leaders and our community. There is no limit to the potential for growth and we are all able to grow no matter what our experiences. Secondly, we will be informed by the evidence of what works, placing our best bets where the research is encouraging and using our knowledge of our context to know we are best placed to make evidence-informed decisions about what will be most beneficial for our students and our families. Whilst these times are indeed unprecedented, our response does not need to be. This is not the time for inventing brand new, shiny ideas or for coming up with a lengthy document that creates new and additional priorities. Good implementation relies on identifying fewer priorities that address the right problems. It can undoubtedly be tempting to identify long lists of interventions, actions and responses – I have grappled with that temptation myself – but it is important to come back to what we know works based on the reliable evidence we have. More support for effective Implementation can be found here: https://educationendowmentfoun…

At MCA, we have revisited the Improving Behaviour in Schools guidance. Not because we are anticipating a decline in student behaviour but the first four recommendations are centred around culture and routines. Whilst leaders will be adjusting the curriculum, our guidance for teachers will be a reminder of the principles we have previously focused on. Those principles have been borne out of our understanding of the guidance report on Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning and informed by the dimensions in The Great Teaching Toolkit ( Teachers should be empowered in their knowledge that it is in their classrooms, as a result of the relationships they nurture and the decisions they make that they will give our students the best chance to grow.

Undoubtedly we are living in unprecedented times. However, our response as teachers and leaders should be quite predictable in that we make evidence-informed decisions and place our best bets for our individual students and communities.

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