The demands of the Covid-19 pandemic have meant that by necessity, technology has become a greater part of our day to day lives than ever before. Technological means of maintaining contact remotely, via mediums such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, have replaced more traditional face-to-face encounters, as individuals have swapped the workplace for their own homes during lockdown.
Likewise, teachers and pupils have had to adjust to moving out of the classroom and carrying out education provision and learning, respectively, from home. Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, Sam Strickland, head teacher of the Duston School in Northampton which teaches pupils aged four to 19, hailed the impact of technology and expressed his hope that the profession can embrace it even further going forward to make the industry even more effective.
Although the Duston School is one institution that has remained open throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, the lockdown period has been anything but business as usual on a smaller scale.
Strickland explained: “Even though we have been open through the pandemic for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, we have had to be agile and responsive because changes can so often come at the drop of a hat. We have found ourselves having to respond at speed to new Department of Education guidance emerging as time has worn on.
“Adapting to remote learning has been a huge challenge, whether it’s been pre-recorded lessons, live lessons, individual exercises, work sheets, or even reading lists.”
For Strickland, the pandemic did not solely provide a challenge in how the school would continue to deliver education, but it also forced him to rethink his whole leadership strategy.
“The distance in leadership is another issue we have had to navigate. I have made sure I keep in touch with my senior leadership team through technological means and maintained confidence and clarity of communication with my staff, and the community at large. Despite the uncertainty around the future, particularly with variables such as a possible second wave of cases when pupils return, we have had to make sure we come across as assured and honest when communicating.”
The key to maintaining that vital contact and providing reassurance in Strickland’s view, was technology.
“It has been a real balancing act and we have used technology in ways we never have before with Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and I feel we need to embrace that as a profession. Further use of technology in our industry can only be a positive for the sector.”
Elaborating on these views, Strickland said: “We have learnt so much about the practicality of conducting meetings remotely during this time, and we can take that forward in the long run because some meetings on a national or regional level that are carried out in person can see attendees spending more time travelling than actually being at the meeting.
“Through online means, we can get these meetings done in a matter of maybe an hour or two as opposed to half a day. Furthermore, we can more readily access material from leading figures within the sector and other industries via online resources, rather than requiring them to travel and perhaps even having to pay them for their time to deliver a speech, assembly or seminar.”
When asked about his hopes for the Duston School in the short-term and his priorities for when its pupils return to school in September, Strickland said that the challenges ahead would involve a “re-calibration” of school culture.
“We were moving forward with great strides pre-lockdown, and we need to re-establish that when we get the pupils back in. My hope is that we can resettle the school community quickly, re-calibrate our school culture with the pupils, and that way things will largely be disruption free.
“I do hope that the sector as a whole will not have to undergo closures again once we do return in September, but we do not have a crystal ball and can only wait to see what will happen on that front.”