Coronavirus: Leadership in lockdown (Powys)

Crickhowell High School, Powys
Headteacher Jackie Parker shares how her school has been handling the many challenges experienced during the coronavirus outbreak, and how positivity and collaboration have been key to their focus. 

This has certainly been the most extra ordinary period in my career as a school leader and certainly one which poses new and unexpected challenges every day. I did not believe it was possible to be busier than ever whilst our school is operating remotely and our childcare hub is open every day.

I am constantly amazed by the dignity and courage of parents working in the NHS as they drop their children off at the childcare hub and briefly discuss their work day ahead on a COVID-19 ward , always placing their patients’ needs first and at the same time, showing such devotion as parents.

Other key workers are equally impressive, and this includes our teaching staff, leadership teams and our site managers, support staff, catering staff and cleaners who make so much possible in such a strange and anxious time. My leadership team have been amazing and all my staff; I feel very lucky.

Whilst there continue to be many challenges, it is a privilege to work with staff and other school and college leaders who are all focusing on the best for all our students and constantly thinking outside the box to improve learning platforms and opportunities for every learner.

Whether I am in the childcare hub welcoming our key workers’ children or in another Teams meeting with school staff or across Wales, or with County Hall, I feel privileged to see what is being achieved in such a short space of time.

Positive action
I am sure that life in Crickhowell will never be quite the same again and as we strive to remain positive as a school community, we are also trying to use what we are learning to good use both now and in the future. I suspect Teams meetings may be more frequent in future and there may be less travelling to meetings; I am sure teachers and students’ IT skills will be transformed.

More importantly, I sense that positive collaboration and being even more ready to work positively across different sectors may reveal many more possibilities across our nation, and allow us to further refine our new curriculum with a keener focus on what really matters: what an amazing difference good education and school communities make in people’s lives.

As we run a cluster childcare hub in Crickhowell all the cluster heads are in contact daily and we meet every week on Teams, without fail. They are such a great group of heads and it is such a joy to work with them; we have always worked well together but this experience has allowed us all to appreciate each other’s expertise and support much more. I am sure we will be able to keep that increased trust and more powerful use of our shared expertise going forward.

Our shared purpose in caring for all our children, whether in the childcare hub or as we operate e-learning platforms for our students studying at home is making a real difference and such a privilege to be a part of.

Staff across our cluster have gone above and beyond to support our students and each other, and to find new ways every day to overcome the problems of remote learning in keeping students safe and our communities connected. Professional learning is moving at a fast pace, driven by the need to refine our pedagogy through e-learning and to look at how we approach transition for new students entering the school in the new academic year, and as students move on to the next phase of their learning, both now and in the academic year ahead; whatever the new normal may be as we go forward.

The art of the possible
We are taking each day as it comes and each challenge as it comes with a significant focus on positivity and good news; very much the art of the possible!  Our staff are keen to raise money for the NHS and to improve lives for the better and this includes making PPE equipment and being available to support families in need.

A very strong and effective communication network has proved invaluable, keeping everyone informed and reminding our community of the value and significance of everyone within it. This is the toughest part: that we can only communicate remotely and not in person.

It is especially difficult when speaking to families who have experienced bereavements or who have family members seriously ill in hospital. 

As school and college leaders, we must do all we can, and I think we are all acutely aware of how significant our role is within every community across Wales at this time. As Martin Luther King said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others’?”, and the current COVID-19 crisis brings this statement into even sharper relief!

ASCL has been providing fantastic support: knowledge, advice and challenge to policy where needed. Being able to work so closely with other school and college leaders across Wales and supporting each other has never been more important and more appreciated.

Jackie Parker is Headteacher at Crickhowell High School and ASCL Cymru Immediate Past President 2019/20

Posted: 06/05/2020 08:46:22