Supporting teachers in a post-Covid world
Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive Chartered College of Teaching, considers the future of the profession in a post-Covid world.
It’s the teachers who will make the difference
It has become increasingly clear that it is the individual teacher who has the greatest capacity to make a difference to learners. Therefore, at the Chartered College of Teaching we believe a clear focus on teacher development, growth and celebration of professional expertise is central to the future of education. We need to invest in building career-long opportunities for our profession to become informed and to have the confidence to question. Essentially, I believe that through lifelong professional learning we have our best chance of eradicating inequity. The more that our teachers and leaders have a wide teaching repertoire at their disposal the more likely it is that they can tailor that repertoire to the particular needs of a specific cohort or individual. The more that teachers learn about barriers to understanding, the more likely it is that these can be overcome. The more that school leaders are liberated to focus on core areas such as building language and reading fluency throughout their school community the greater the chance for gaps to diminish. This rationale is at the heart of the Chartered College of Teaching.
Teaching in the spotlight
Since March 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, education has been in the spotlight. Communities in lockdown looked to leadership from their local schools. Frightened, but inspired to help, colleagues across our wonderful profession sought wisdom, practical guidance and moral support from cross-sector and international collaboration. Additionally, the events surrounding the death of George Floyd in the US caused widespread concern about the voice and lack of agency of the global majority.
The gap in education
The world stopped and amongst the fear and uncertainty a realisation occurred that a dramatic change of pace and priorities could potentially give thinking time about the future of education. Core purposes of education deserve our immediate attention. How might we promote social mobility through education? How can we ensure that we listen to the experiences of our students, to colleagues, to parents and wider society? How might we rebalance curriculum design to ensure all voices are recognised? Developmental issues such as enabling language-rich provision for our youngest children and how we find a way through to enhance learning for those with additional needs, are paramount. These are all long-standing important issues that contribute to the ‘gap’ in education. It is time to begin addressing these needs.
Build home-school connections
In consideration of the breadth of educational impact we would be wise to build on the progress achieved in many schools during the pandemic of establishing greater connections between home and the classroom. Understanding the needs of the child both within and beyond school gives a greater chance of supporting their mental health and wellbeing but also places them at the centre of our collective ambition for their future.
New guidance in England surrounding the introduction of relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) is an important addition to the curriculum and time will need to be given to support full implementation. Consideration of the impact of all staff on the culture and efficacy of the school is also important. The vital role that every adult in school plays in educating children both formally and informally; valuing and effectively deploying teaching assistants is a powerful example of this.
Use of technology
There can be no doubt that technological advances made a huge difference when society was asked to stay at home. The usage of Zoom and Teams to maintain contact with family, friends and work colleagues became a lifeline for many, but also further isolated those without access.
It is important to consider the positive and negative impact of online and digital learning beyond the immediate demands of remote teaching, towards consideration of the un-tapped potential of technology in support of education. There can be no doubt that the necessity of using devices over the past two years has precipitated a revolution in teacher capacity and appetite to explore this in the future. As internet devices become ubiquitous however, there is a crucial role for educators to develop and teach greater skills of discernment and criticality.
Building learning independence
I have long been an advocate of giving children and young people the opportunity to surprise us. As soon as we view our pupils with fixed certainty about future attainment, we risk limiting opportunity. For some students, lifting the need to attend school provided a relief. What does this say about the efficacy of our current system? In pursuit of building learning independence, we discuss a range of strategies and approaches that show promise for the future. Building independence is about reducing control whilst unleashing freedom to learn.
Ultimately the future of teaching must be about hope and a collective opportunity to improve. Discussions about the future of teaching give greater collective recognition of inequity, not so that we can make excuses or wring our hands, but because through truly understanding where and how the gaps form, we can do our utmost to bridge them. Compassionate leadership throughout our schools must be the way forward.
I warmly encourage you to join our professional body, celebrating teaching and educational leadership as a global career.
Dame Alison Peacock is the Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching.
Membership is open to teachers around the world. See www.chartered.college
FEAtURE IMAGE – with kind permission from the Chartered College of Teaching – EARLY CAREER CONFERENCE 2019