School leaders and their teams are busily working towards being ready for the new school year. Of course, this year, everything is different. COVID-19 continues to exert a grip on our lives and this has an inevitable impact on schools and schooling. COVID-19 is likely to be here to stay until a vaccine is developed and administered worldwide, therefore schools will be planning to offer alternative approaches to learning for the whole of the 2020-21 school year.
As schools prepare for a very different start to the year it is important that school leaders remember their moral purpose, vision and strategic direction.
COVID-19 has created a ‘new normal’, but the fundamentals of education remain the same – students deserve to receive a quality learning experience in a safe environment provided by schools that are trusted by their parents.
So, how are schools preparing for the new school year? Carefully, is the most obvious answer!
So, as a parent, what can you expect from your school?
First, you should expect to have high levels of clear communication that keep you fully informed about the plans a school has to ensure your child is being given the opportunity to learn. You can also expect increased requests for your opinion on the approach the school is taking, an even closer partnership with parents is essential during these challenging times.
Second, you should be assured that providing a safe and healthy environment for learning is clearly outlined. School plans should prioritize student and staff health, safety, and wellbeing; physical distancing and hygiene standards will be of paramount importance. Schools will seek to manage safe transition between home and school and will be seeking high levels of cooperation from parents. Schools will be following international best practice and will be expected to meet all relevant COVID-19 guidelines.
Thirdly, you should feel confident that your school is offering a learning model that suits you and suits your child. Learning must continue irrespective of the mode of delivery. The range of options offered by schools will vary but typically schools will offer online learning, in-school learning or a blended approach. Clearly, the best option for all students is to be in school, socializing with their friends and interacting with their teacher and all schools will be seeking to maximize school based attendance; but schools will also recognize that some parents do not feel confident and will wish their children to remain at home. For some children in vulnerable groups the only option will be online learning. For some parents, with work and business commitments, the in-school model will be the best option. Schools may offer a blended approach where the student will spend some time in school and some at home. Make a choice that is comfortable for you and for your child, keep that choice under review and stay in close contact with your school and don’t be afraid to change your decision based on your circumstances or new regulatory advice.
Finally, each of us will have a different level of concern and a different response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are working hard to ensure they are ready to support learning, parents can support schools by ensuring their children are ready to learn; together, with strong cooperation, the close partnership between school and home will ensure the new academic year is a success for all.
Mark Whitfield, Education Director of Britus Education
As Education Director of Britus Education, Mark comes to the Britus Education with more than 20 years of experience in the education sector. A qualified teacher, Mark spent thirteen years working in the university teacher education sector in the UK and for the last 7 years Mark has worked in the schools sector in the Middle East. An inclusive educator, Mark’s philosophy of education is uncompromising in a belief that all students have the potential to succeed and the right to a good education. Mark holds an MA in Education Leadership and Management and a BA in Religious Studies and Education, both from the University of Lancaster.