On the eve of the return to schools in England, listen to this special episode on how to safely re-open schools, and what the priorities should be for this academic year. A selection of excellent national and international panelists discuss the current scenario and offer insights on how Australia, Canada and the United States have dealt and are dealing with school closure, lockdown and re-opening.
📎 Preparing for September: Lessons Learnt from Abroad and the ‘New Normal’ in Schools
How have different nations reacted to Covid-19 and has there been a measurable difference on impact?
Reopening schools - What does best practice look like and how can schools navigate new requirements?
What should the priority for schools be when back, Curriculum, Wellbeing, Accessibility?
PPE at School - Should all schools implement PPE as a standard?
Aftermath of the exam and accreditation crisis – can schools return to normal?
💡 Professor Karen Starr, School Development & Leadership, Deakin University, Australia
💡 Dr Paul Armstrong, Lecturer in Education, University of Manchester
💡 Aubrey Kirkpatrick, Director of Finance and Administration, Anglophone East School District, New Brunswick, Canada
Welcome all, my name is Steven Morales. I'm the Chief Executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership. I'm very excited to introduce our panel of esteemed education leaders from across the world. For the last six months. This group of international education leaders have been meeting on a weekly basis and the purpose of that weekly encounter has been to compare and contrast our own COVID-19 experiences. Today we're joined by colleagues from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, and each of those individuals will share their story, the challenges they face, the political backdrop and the measures and interventions that have been introduced in those various jurisdictions. I think it's probably fair to say that over the 20 weeks that we've been speaking things have overflowed, there have been spikes, there have been situations where there's been very little in terms of the growth of the epidemic and then, you know, we speak a week later and everything changes and that's been kind of the nature of the conversations, understandably. So I'm going to start with with just a very brief introduction to the panel, and then I'll let each of the panellists give a more detailed introduction, and then we're going to offer each of the panellists seven minutes to summarise their experiences. So that should take us to the 45 minutes. At that point, we'll hand over to delegates, and delegates can ask questions if you could, and we'll do our very best to marshal those questions and get you a a response. So we're joined today by Dame Allison Peacock, Professor Karen Starr, Dr. Paul Armstrong, Siobhán McMahon, Aubrey Kirkpatrick and Stephen Mitchell. So I'm going to start with Dame Alison and if you could offer a bit more of a detailed description about your role in the system in the UK, and then talk about your experience over the last 20 weeks.
Dame Alison Peacock
Okay, thank you, Stephen. So, I lead the Chartered College of Teaching which is the professional body for the UK. Over the last number of weeks I joined this group, it's been really valuable because of the international perspectives that we've been able to each appreciate listening to each other as part of being part of this group. So what we're finding I think in commonality is that teachers all over the world have responded courageously, but obviously, the is a real time of of fear for people. Yet they've shown amazing leadership. So we've been able to share from the perspective of schools in England about school leaders who have tried to make their best of the information that's come from government, but then made the decisions that worked for them most effectively. What we've seen is really strong collegiality, we've seen colleagues working together, listening to each other, trying to make sense of all of their health advice, making sense as much as they can of the advice that's been emerging from government trying to listen to what parents are doing. Then of course, really fundamentally learning really quickly extending their skills about how to teach in a remote fashion and because the inequity that exists within this country has become really very evident during the pandemic. We've seen some families where they've been able to homeschool their youngsters they've had all the facilities they've had the space in their their homes to be able to do this to be able to help their youngsters To study to buy books to have full connectivity and devices, we know that there are other families who perhaps just sharing one mobile phone between the whole family where they haven't got any space where they're all. It doesn't mean that they don't want to learn but the reality is, it's been much more difficult. We've had schools across the system trying to respond to all of this. So some of our schools knowing that the digital connectivity is very slight, have been busily reproducing resources and taking resources to the home. We've had other schools where everything's been taught through video. So we've had the whole kind of range of responses. When we first started meeting as a group, I think some nations were in a better place than we were. And there were times I must confess, you know, when I've logged on to these calls, on a weekly basis, and I thought, oh, my goodness, how on earth are we going to get beyond this and yet at the moment in the UK, we're looking at all our schools opening from next week if they haven't already opened this week. The government is very keen on all young people come back to school, that school is an entitlement and should be seen as such. We've even had headlines in the media about close the pubs in favour of schools if that's what needs to happen. Most recently, well overnight in fact, there's been advice about face coverings in secondary schools. What the government is saying at the moment is that this should be if there are areas of local lockdown then in places like corridors, areas of communal gathering that face masks should be worn by young people over 11 and adults in the building, but that not during lessons, but there's also a degree of flexibility that is being left to school leaders. This has been the case throughout and it's difficult, isn't it? Because on the one hand, you want that flexibility as a school leader, you want to be able to respond to your circumstance, your situation. On the other hand, this is a totally unprecedented situation and the idea that you are making decisions that potentially without being too dramatic are life and death time decisions being left on your own to make your own mind up about whether or not this should happen or that should happen is feels really stressful. So what we've been doing at the Chartered College is really listening to our members really trying to encourage people sharing best practice sharing case studies of ways in which schools have tried to get round, the best ways of thinking about social distancing about how to teach remotely. We've looked at the research about what happens when young people miss school, and what might be done about that. We're trying to engage with governments at all points and try and mediate the advice and the best way we can so that schools can make the best decisions for their communities. So I would say that at the moment, because we've had a long period of times that schools are fully open. We're at the point where we would normally go back after a summer break. I think the optimism from teaching colleagues is high. Let's see what happens in six weeks time when we're a bit more tired. At the moment I think we feel as though we've got this covered, and we're gonna make this work. But the the value of this of this group, and I hope for those of you, you know, listening today is that perspective shift all the time. And the virus is not something that's subject to political control, just because we want it to be alright, doesn't mean it will be all right. And so being able to hear from colleagues about what the situation is like now, compared with what it was like six weeks ago, even is really helpful because we know this is a fast moving situation. So I'm going to move on now and we'll listen to some of our colleagues. Then afterwards if there are questions, I'd be really happy to respond on behalf of the Chartered College of Teaching. Thank you very much, Stephen.
Thank you very much, Alison, for that very comprehensive summary. Okay, I'm going to now pass over to Professor Karen Starr.
Professor Karen Starr
Thank you, Stephen. Well, since we started this, this group meeting, we have had a dramatic change of events in Australia. We had the virus and we closed the national borders, locked it down pretty quickly locked businesses down, had restrictions on the population close schools and got rid of it pretty well. So then everything reopened and then a few more cases came around the states. Most of them got onto that. But then Victoria where I live, so there are eight states and territories in Australia. I guess New Zealand can be counted in this too. They've been successful. We all thought we'd had this pretty well sorted and then we got our second wave due to some hotel quarantine, breaches, hotel quarantine being compulsory. So now there are a couple of states that have a single digit cases that they're managing really well. The rest of them virtually have eradicated the virus and then there's this pariah state that's contained, totally locked in our borders a lot to all of the other states and it's where I happen to live in even in Victoria, which is the smallest state at the bottom in the southeast corner. It's only it's only Melbourne, the capital city really the rest of the states pretty well free. So we've got stage three locked down statewide, but in Melbourne, it's stage four lock downs. And that means that the scores they did reopen for a while for senior senior students and all for the juniors as well and the rest were taught online. But now every school is closed down every childcare centre, except for the students of essential workers. So now we have the curfews and we have, we have to work at home we have to wear masks and we can't be more than five kilometres from home where you're not out to buy food. It's it's done, this goes on until the 12th or 13th of September. So we moved from a state of emergency to now to a state of disaster. Now schools may be reopened on the 13th of September. If the numbers go right down. And the numbers have been daily in up to 700 which compared to the rest of the world is pretty minimal, I suppose now we're down into the one hundreds for this State, the whole country's only had 550 deaths in total, and 24,000 cases. So it's comparatively the rest of the world, not as severe but it's being taken very seriously here. So scores may be reopened in and if not, they will stay close, perhaps for 2020. If the situation worsens, we'll go to a stage five, which hasn't yet been invented. So we'll find out what happens there on mid September. If schools when we actually have schools opened, if there's one COVID case in a school, whether it's a student or a teacher, the school is immediately closed and undergoes a deep clean. That's a bit of an issue because the deep cleaning costs $30,000 per school, that's about £16,500 about $21,000 US dollars. And at the stage where we were at before we went to stage four lockdown where all schools were closed again. We actually had 90 over 90 closed schools and over 90 closed childcare centres. So when they go back it'll be the sorts of things we all know about social distancing masks will be compulsory. for teachers and students temperature checks will be happening at the door. No adults will be allowed on site besides the adults that work there. There'll be on site nurses and counsellors. There will be many, many cleaners that work throughout the day, not just at night. There'll be wipe downs after every session. And we're busing applies, it doesn't usually apply in the metropolitan area, but in the country areas and they will have this sort of double or triple the number of buses that aren't usual. 12 exams which are the final exams for senior secondary students, will go ahead and they will be delayed slightly every student will get a tertiary entrance score. And each student can apply for a consideration of disadvantage in every subject to find and their teachers for every student every subject will actually have to calibrate what they think their results would have been if the virus hadn't happened. So there will be some attention paid or the disadvantage that this virus has caused. Priorities now have been very much on health and safety in focus. We've now got new industrial manslaughter legislation, which will be very interesting to see in terms of teachers have mental health and wellbeing on the agenda. The students are getting daily logins to check that they're okay. This is all online teaching at the moment. And there's fortnightly surveys of students and teachers, very active support will be ongoing for IT for the online learning. An enormous number of devices, devices have been released free of charge. Obviously, an emphasis on cleaning which has become a new and very, very profitable profession.
Professor Karen Starr
Then I think there's some issues regarding schools and the last earnings that they've had. In 2019, we had 229,000 international students from China alone, and 1.43 million Chinese tourists that are elsewhere in the world. So, therefore, fee paying students and they're in schools as well as universities, our universities virtually rely on international students. They're not here, they're they're not coming back. won't be coming back this year. So we can't see when that will happen. So a lot of lost revenue. A lot of us revenue from renting out premises at night. A lot of very anxious staff. So there's now a lot of emphasis on mentoring and counselling support for staff and certainly everybody from teachers to education leaders and governing counsellors, everyone's finding that they're working much harder. Other impacts the government now will be as the guest health is the priority but as the economy is comes more The focus the emphasis will be on jobs and skills. So education is prime and we pay fees for university tuition. While teaching and nursing are now going to be heavily discounted courses, as will be science, technology and mathematics whereas arts and humanities will go up in price. There will be more vocational education courses will be free. There's a new respect in our community for teachers as people have been homeschooling. Therefore there have been some claims for higher remuneration for teachers. There will be a push for working from home allowances. And certainly in our society, we focus on the social you know, things like precarious work, social housing, difficulties in aged care, they've been the sectors that have been most most vulnerable. And as Alison said, it's the inequities in our societies that have been highlighted here. Big cities are like well, Melbourne is like a ghost town. Skyscrapers are virtually redundant and there's a fear of high density living, which is just at a time when Melbourne was building skyscraper schools, multi storey schools in city schools for the people, the children who were living in apartments. So, and I think another thing that's going to happen is a relook at our risk registers. The pandemic was always on there, but we never thought it would happen. It was always on the last of the list, and no one ever thought of cap is coming back. We're a country of 25.5 million people and as I say, it's like living in two countries. It's like there's Australia, which is virtually COVID free and in many parts of it, five of the eight states and territories are currently free and have been for a while the only people who have COVID are returning travellers, one or two people in quarantine. But it feels like we're in a separate little part here. I guess when we do open up, I think we will, I'm very optimistic that we will, we'll get through this again. It's a very compliant community, most people understand what's happening, why we've been in the state of emergency. Well, state of disaster, actually at the moment, and the current government is actually stressing that they want to a state of emergency for another 12 months those powers. So I suppose that we're not going to get out of this anytime soon until we get a vaccine. But I think we are looking at travel bubbles with New Zealand and Singapore in the South Pacific. I think we will get through this, the numbers are coming down in Melbourne. So I think we just have to stay the course and pray for a vaccine when a new normal and I think the old normal is a long way off. I'll leave it there, Stephen.
Thank you, Karen. It's obviously a journey that we've followed closely over the last 20 weeks with you, Karen and as you quite rightly stated, there was a period of time where Australia looked to be one of those countries that were weathering the storm better than the most and of course, you know, you've suffered, unfortunately, quite significantly in Victoria state recently. So you know, we wish you all the best and hope that things do start to return to normal in the not to, not to distant future. So thank you, Karen. Thank you for that account. I'm going to move over to Dr. Paul Armstrong.
Dr Paul Armstrong
Thank you, Steven and thank you, Alison, and Karen. Your insights are really, really helpful and interesting as it has been over the last few weeks and months. Again, I just like to reiterate the the usefulness of this of this group, I felt like a relative outsider in many respects, I'm not a practitioner. I don't work in a school. I'm an educational academic, based at the University of Manchester. So have a research interest in schools in how they run who works in those schools and the communities that they serve and I've spent the last sort of 15 years working with schools from a research perspective. So I've kind of got a front row seat so a lot of what's been going on without having had to get my hands dirty as the colleagues who are actually working in the school. So it's been fascinating to sit and listen with these, this esteemed colleagues and it's been a privilege for me to, you know, to be able to contribute to these conversations. I suppose, what I bring to the table is that kind of research perspective, that sort of objective look at what's sort of going on, particularly in the schools in England, I spend a lot of time visiting schools. So got a bit of an overview in that respect, and also the fact that I have time to sort of think about these some of these broader issues in a way that colleagues who work in schools perhaps don't because they're kind of a cold face or that chalk face if you like. So yeah, it's been it's been really sort of interesting and sort of sobering I think, over the last few months to see what's happened in society. Large particularly in England, but but across the world as well. Schools for me, you know, they mirror society they are a microcosm of the society. So, I think any changes that we're seeing in respect to the global pandemic, in terms of societal issues, I think they need to be connected to what's going on in schools, you know, schools cannot be dealt with as if they just exist in a sort of vacuum or a bubble and I think that's been one of the issues that we've had around this. There's been a lot of, I would say, and I can say this, because I, you know, I'm not tied to any anybody in particular, but I think one of the most dispiriting things about this whole situation has been the times and lack of coordination from government and from unions, and I think that's left teachers and schools in really difficult position. For me, they've been sort of caught in the middle of these kind of squabbles about what schools need to do in order to get pupils back in and caught in the middle of the health argument and the economic argument. I think at times that's led to sort of certain sections of the media, almost pitting the public against schools and communities, which is just not helpful for anyone at all. So I'm really hoping that the next, you know, next week and going forward that, you know, the majority of schools can open and do so safely. But ultimately, I think that's going to have to be a decision that's taken by individual school leaders in their in their communities, we know that there are clusters and cases in different areas of the country, we know that it's not a sort of level playing field in that respect. So I think there's going to have to be a sort of local response and a reasonable response to schools opening and, the extent to which they can open and all that sort of thing. So I'm hoping you know, that this sort of optimism that Alison was talking about, you know, I'm sort of feeling that as well and hoping that that will lead to some majority of schools open and indeed, we've got one member of the panel, Stephen Mitchell, who you'll hear from shortly, who's, he'll be able to tell us more about the situation in Leicester. Their schools have opened this week. So yeah, I want to talk a little bit too much more, I'll pass on to other colleagues, but I'll be happy to answer any questions from my perspective at the end of the session. Okay, Stephen, thanks.
Thank you, Paul and again, I really value , your particular perspective, you know, sitting to an extent on the outside looking in. So that's been I think that's been really helpful for the conversation we've had over the last 20 weeks. I think colleagues have appreciated your, your kind of analysis of, of where things are, are heading and have been so so thank you. Right. I'm now going to hand over to Siobhán, who joins us from the US. And I believe it's very, very early in the morning over there, Siobhán, very, very early and very, very hot.
Yes, it's, I mean, I'm from ABSO International, the Association of School Business Officials International, and we're based in Virginia, and we're hitting the mid 90s all week this week. So it's 6:30 in the morning here, and I just wanted to give you all a bit of an oversight of what we've been facing in the United States. The US arguably has had a slow response to the spread of the virus. Our first case was in January, we did not declare a national health emergency until mid March. We initially focused on closing our borders. But we did not ramp up testing or contact tracing in any cohesive national federal way. That's been some of the challenges we've been facing in the states to not have had a national strategy to fight the virus, this is what has been encouraged has been a state led approach. So all of the states here are acting like individual countries or individual guidelines, and that is certainly put some additional challenges on us. We are now over five and a half million cases over 178,000 deaths when I was looking at the numbers last night, so we've got some work to do in this country. So these weekly conversations I've been having with all of these colleagues has also been very helpful. I can see what it can look like. What we are doing in the in the states is we've also had probably similar to the United Kingdom, a heavily impacted our national economy. We're facing an increase of strikes and protests and in education and across our economy, early retirements, growing shortage of essential workers, and this is the same within our school systems. So it is coming. It is difficult and challenging for our school districts right now to open in the building open full time we have only just started reopening our schools and if we're offering anything other than the 100% virtual, what we're seeing is districts that are choosing to, to open the buildings or having to close the schools immediately after cases are reported. This is causing a disruptive school year, and absent to any nationwide directive. The local leaders are required to manage the pandemic in conjunction with their local health authorities and that's leading various success across the country. It's too early for us to talk about best practices and we're looking to all of you to get that on reopening the schools. As of now 21 of the 25 largest school districts have opened just 100% remotely. The next option and the data was struggling to even get the data in on how these and how the districts are opening. The hybrid model is an option and many districts are looking into, but they're facing significant difficulty in implementing that, we've just the struggled to get that open. What we are seeing is the priority for our members and I will say I sometimes feel like I'm the doom and gloom on these calls. But what I have seen is this huge tie of education leaders working together with this common goal of we need to be able to provide a safe and secure environment for our children to learn and for our staff to work in. So the focus for our members right now for the school business officials across primarily the United States, Canada and all over the world has been safety and equity. In the states over the last few months, we have had a huge spotlight put on the inequity in our education system when we go now and we're looking at offering virtual online learning. That's great for the families that have access to good quality Wi Fi. How do we educate the kids that don't? How do we feel the children that are relying on their one meal a day from the school, their school, and how do we get the kids to school is another thing we're still trying to figure out here with the retirement of bus drivers. We right now the challenge for our members is how do we get our kids to school safely, when we would be training our bus drivers several months ago to start off the school year. But with that, what's happening is we're having all of these conversations and actions on how we can work together and how we can develop that. So we're seeing everything pop up from learning pods that school buses are driving out into neighbourhoods that have no Wi Fi with a Wi Fi accessibility to allow children to be able to log on from home. Looking at high schools analysis, they're looking at how they can reopen what is the investing into the curriculum that we make sure our teachers have what they need to be able to teach in this very new environment, that they have the learning management systems that they need to be able to provide what they can for the kids and also for the for the teachers and for our administrative staff. COVID-19 has become sadly a highly politicised issue in the United States and that is going you can see that from the states you look at through mask wearing through providing protective equipment for our staff and for our requirements on masks, gloves, plexiglass dividers, basic cleaning and disinfectants. We're looking at all of the logistical limitations that we can have there, and how we deal with that with different state to state guidelines. But I would definitely say we are seeing that combination of leaders talking to each other. So in the United States the school business official is the person that traditionally is the one that gets to say no. We're the business decision maker with the purchasing where the and we're not necessarily always been invited to the table. Well, now in the school business official is an essential worker to get our school districts open. And we have had highlighted the importance of education within the country here and how the school itself is the centre of the community and some, sometimes that can be forgotten. So I will remain ever hopeful that as we continue on, but I wanted to just share that we are seeing this the collaborative nature that I have when I get on with my colleagues that are on this panel today. We're seeing that here, across the spectrum of leadership in the states for teachers unions, talking to the superintendence and how, how we provide a safe and equitable space for our kids to learn in a safe and secure environment for our staff to work in.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for that, Siobhán. I mean, I think it's very heartening to, to hear that that real sense of common purpose amongst the education leadership community, and it sounds like it's cutting across pedagogy and business, which is, which is, you know, perhaps a silver lining. Clearly, there are some huge challenges ahead. The virus has got a firm grip in the US and you've got the backdrop of a very important political face on the horizon. So lots lots to deal with but thank you, Siobhán, for that detailed account. I'm going to head over to to Canada now to join Aubrey Kirkpatrick. Aubrey, could you give us your perspective on things?
For sure. Thanks, Stephen. Good morning from Canada, everybody. It's good to be with my colleagues once again. My name is Aubrey Kirkpatrick. I'm Director of Finance and Administration for a District called Anglophone East in New Brunswick, which is in eastern Canada. My district serves 16,600 kids in 38 schools and we have approximately 2400 employees. The Canadian context for COVID right now is, I'm sorry that I'll just give you a Canadian context. We have 37.6 million people in the second largest country in the world. So we've got tonnes of space to physical distance, which is a good thing we share the longest border with the US at 9000 kilometres long, Siobhán we are considering a wall. We have a federal government in 12 provinces within the federal government and three territories. Education is a provincial responsibility and health is a shared responsibility between the feds and provinces. COVID situation today we've had 124,000 COVID cases in the country 110,000 recovered in just over 9000 deaths which results in about a 7.3% mortality rate, which is I think quite high when it when it come to the amount of cases. Currently we are averaging 380 cases a day which is good across the country. We flattened the curve by an aggressive lockdown for about two and a half months. And today most provinces are opened with modified you know, business and recreational activities. But so we're carrying on and moving towards normal operation within COVID restrictions. However, in the past couple of weeks, we started to see a surge in western promises summer here in Canada, it's a brief period of sunshine and warmth and people are letting their guard down a little bit. The education response to this situation. By mid March, most schools were closed until June our education semester ends in June. But we had two provinces that opened early in a similar to what the UK did in June and they saw 35% to 40% participation. Schools did while we were close service at risk and special needs kids up to the summer break. Our students are returning on September the 8th. So as you can imagine, with 12 provinces and three territories, everybody's returned to school plan looks a little different. But they contain about some of these following five keys to successful openin. One, which is not within our ability to impact as a school district but driving the community COVID numbers as low as possible is a no brainer. But what it requires is community compliance and so far in Canada, we've had great community and social compliance. Physical distancing, so we reduced class size, staggered arrival and transition time. So here in my province, we are doing a max of 15 students, three to five, its max of 22. Six to eight is no reduction. So that's 28. and high school students are going to attend every other day. So it's basically reducing the high school population in half. We're fortunate to have received extra FDA in order to implement some of these reduced class size. No parents or visitors that are allowed in the school only by appointment only and we're trying to use zoom and other electronic means. Our bus loads that we've reduced the busing to K to five one per seat and six to 12 two per seat but it's mandatory to be wearing a mask. We're also implementing assigned seating arrangements family members can sit together and bus drivers are getting curtain partitions. So the kids walk on. They pull the curtain off around when the bus starts, they push it back and we're Cleaning and sanitising the buses underneath run were bubbling up. So all of those classes that I mentioned earlier are staying within. They're staying in their classroom all day long. They will be able to go on recess but they'll be still in their bubble and not mixing with the other classes. They're maintaining a to disk, a two metre distance between the groups. And at the high school level, we're respecting two metres in one metre distancing, but community masks are required for transitions between in the hallways, as well as dismissal and so forth. So those have been mandated extracurricular activities have been paused and learning, special learning or sorry schools learning programmes have successfully opened that number two would be increased focus on personal hygiene. So if you're sick, stay home. That's the message that we better get to parents and as well as to staff have a plan if you're a single parent or with a working parent. Have a plan if your child gets sick. We really need to drive that home because that's one way to stop COVID spread is to make sure that we're not bringing it into the schools, frequent hand washing hand sanitiser, we're buying a hand sanitiser unit for every classroom and common area, increased cleaning three times a day for washrooms and high touch areas. So we're adding in in our district about 30 COVID cleaners, we're calling them for daily cleaning, to assist our regular staff. We're replacing all of our fountains with bottle fillers. And number three was provision of PPE. So we're providing mass and shields to all staff, reception and desk shields. So if a teacher wants a desk shield at the front, they can request that and they'll, they'll receive it. We've created outbreak cleaning kits, so if there's an outbreak in a school, the district will bring a cleaning kit to our cleaners or custodians, and they'll be able to address that. If there's an outbreak. We will be following directions from the public health department. We will not be manning the response. That'll be coming. directly from public health. The last one is ventilation. And we're looking at a lot of evolving science around ventilation. Yesterday we were told that schools will not be able to operate any kind of fans or air conditioners that are not part of the HVAC system and so forth. So in the event of closure once again schools will be prepared to deliver online education work has been done to tighten and reduce some curriculum outcomes. Over the summer IT platforms have been identified to help teachers deliver and over the summer as a result of planning and and really never letting a good pandemic or crisis go to waste. Our minister announced a BYOD one on one for high school students for laptops, and we're implementing that as we speak and that we're it's a subsidised programme. So if you can't afford it, then the government will be providing for it. So that's what's happening in Canada right now.
Well we thank you so much, again, you know, really important perspective from a jurisdiction which is perhaps experiencing the pandemic in a slightly different way. But nevertheless, you're having to be incredibly vigilant. We've got we've got to wait a few more minutes to listen to the to the final member of the panel, and then we'll move to Q&A So I'm now going to hand over to Stephen Mitchell, who, amongst other things, runs a trust in the Midlands, and I'm sure he will share with us some very live experiences, Stephen.
Yeah thanks, Stephen. Yeah, it's always fascinating to hear the content from around the world and the similarities and the challenges that we have in our different jurisdictions. As Stephen just mentioned, I'm Chief Executive of a trust in Leicester, Leicestershire. So those two areas have been subject to local lockdown within the UK. So we've had the additional pressures, not just the national lockdown picture, but as we've been coming out of that, releasing the restrictions, Leicester, went back into lockdown back a couple of months ago is just coming out the other side at the moment. Similarly in Leicester Leicestershire, As children are returning to schools this week, so we actually opened our secondary school yesterday, to years 7 and 11, and all of our primary schools were open today. The feedback we're giving is very live in terms of the challenge. If you're based in the UK and been watching the news over the last 24 hours, chances are you've probably seen I had teacher from our high school, talking about the processes that we have in place and the way the schools reopened last 24 hours. But as much has been said, particularly from the colleagues in the UK that my comments about what we're doing is very similar to what's happening elsewhere. Yeah, we've put in place the standard procedures in relation to the one way routes around the schools, we're looking at spacing of how we can fit the maximum space into our classrooms as possible. This is hand sanitiser points everywhere. We're putting in place a lot of deep cleaning routines. And we've done a lot of focus on what what resources do we have in the classrooms around the schools, and how are we making sure they're as clean as possible and for example, where the textbooks been used in the library, they're being returned to the library then they've been left. They've been sprayed and they've been left since two hours before being put back into general use. Transport is an issue and it's helping drive other better practices as well. So within the secondary, the children that come on school buses have to wear masks that's mandated now in the UK and that's forcing a desire or usage or actually availability on site of masks as well. So the guidance is changing nationally. Then Alison mentioned earlier, but change last night to national guidance for secondary schools. So students are already fairly ofay with it. And one of the things we've seen, particularly in the last few months is that children are very, very adaptable, and they're very resilient and I can be passed more so than many adults can be. And they'll adapt to the new normals fairly quickly. So we're working very much with them. But one of the key things that we've noticed, particularly as we've been working with children through the lockdown process, as we're getting towards the end of last summer term, as we opened up to welcome back some year groups was the mental health issues that we have and the priority focus for us now on being make sure we're addressing the baselining of all our students to try to understand what was their experience been over the last six months and how can we support them as we get back. So it's not, firstly about curriculum. It's about trying to understand and work with our students to make them feel comfortable to understand and to be able to address the needs that we have to put in place to be able to help them on their next journey. The worst thing we could do is go straight back into learning in detail without addressing actually the more fundamental needs of their own health, and the sentiment comments in chat about counselling, support, mental health support, I think that is something that is going to be an ongoing issue for us. Schools, we need to address we need to focus into that and really support. One of the big challenges we have, particularly private schools has been around catering and provision of food, ethical food, and there's been a lot of work and how we're moving the food around how we're making lunches available to our children be able to get those to join in a timely manner was making sure that we're practising the best safeguards we can in terms of moving around site and just restricting down the availability of chances for risk to maximise. At Manor High School and you may well have seen this on us. We've actually gone to a one subject day at a secondary level, then that's all about trying to reduce the movement around site to school that is built in 1960s. It's quite difficult to move lots of people around very, very easily. So the school have taken a focus decision to say, let's move to one subject day, which allows us to work very closely on detail catch up wider, wider extrapolation of subjects and to talk through those issues. It does remove significant amount of football around the school as well. That's been really well received and we are doing an awful lot of evaluative work around that as well, which will make available to the sector in terms of the lessons learned as to how that's gone through. So Steve, I'm just conscious of time, but I was very quick run through the practicalities of how schools have reopened this week.
Yeah, thank you, Stephen. Really, really useful we've got we've just got shy of 10 minutes and I believe the organisers are happy for us to run over slightly to make sure that we we give space for Q&A. I've kind of grouped some of the questions have come through into into some themes and if we're not responding to everybody's requests, we'll do our very best to try and pick those up at the end. So I'm just in no particular order. There's been quite a lot of questions on the chat about the pros and cons of face masks, and also, the debacle over face masks, as opposed to face shields and just wondering if the panel have a particular view on on that issue. Today live in the UK, it may be something that is less of an issue internationally. I know Siobhán, you mentioned that in the US. face masks have become a political hot potato, as it were. Any of the panellists want to take that one? Aubrey
Yeah, so we're issuing face masks, sorry, face shields, and I was surprised by that that came in about three or four weeks ago. So we've ordered them in there. They're coming in for every staff member, but what the recommendation is from public health is that the face shield protects you. But you still need to wear community mask when you're dealing with children that you can't physically distance from. So it's a face shield plus a mask. So the facial protects you the face mask protects others. And that's what we're going with. For for this September.
Yeah, very, very helpful, very helpful. We'll move on to the next theme. There is a conversation around, catch up versus business as usual. So, you know, should the focus be on recovering the lost ground, or should be returning in September, and just trying to get back to normal as possible, with the same kind of approach to teaching and learning as we, as we were accustomed to before the pandemic? And I guess that leads to a second and related theme, and that's one of recovery versus transformation. So we could look at, we could look at the the next phase in terms of how do we get back to where we were, and try to replicate the old world. Or we could see this as an opportunity to do something slightly different. So changes to the curriculum, more virtual learning more more home working, and so forth. So on both of those if the panel have got anything they'd like to, to offer in terms of catch up versus business as usual and recovery versus transformation.
Dame Alison Peacock
So we in the UK are well in England, and across the UK as well. We had a bit of a debacle related to exam results. And this is because we had a situation where teachers produced assessed grades that were then became central assessed grades for young people. And then over the top of that there was an algorithm that was applied that was meant to make sure that there wasn't any great inflation this led to huge issues for you young people, because the way that the algorithm worked meant that actually some people were given grades that implied that they hadn't even turned up when nobody had turned up for the exam. So clearly there was an issue around that and this is all related to the whole catch-up agenda, I think. So there's something really quite urgent about the conversation that we need to have and we're talking with a school, the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, NAHT and others about making sure that we have a conversation that looks at the whole notion of the examination system. Currently, we have a situation where a third of young people every year are told they have failed regardless. So this all relates to this notion of catch up and the idea of catching up from where going to where, so not everybody was at the same point before the pandemic started. So what do you do about that? So I think there's something really fundamental here, about our purposes of education and how we make sure that we're doing the right things for all our young people that needs a lot more examination over the next number of months.
Really, really helpful Alison. Stephen?
Yeah, I'll just comment on that. I think what I've just said in terms of moving to the one subject day epitomises that approach of we shouldn't necessarily try to put schools back exactly as they work, we should be looking to say, can we do things differently? Can we do things better? And I think it's it's incumbent upon every school leader to question that, and there won't be a one size fits all answer for every single school. We can't sit here and say, this is the new, magical way that's going to solve all of the challenges that we have. But it is worth taking that time to say, as a senior leadership team, what can we do that's different? How can we try it? How can we learn? And how can we evaluate it? And I think one of the crucial things we need to do from that is to make sure that we're not doing it blindly, that we are walking in having looked at the issues that we might face, but then evaluating it as well. Then sharing that knowledge because we are we are a peer to peer network. We should be sharing our information and our findings with others. Nobody else is connected, and we can make step by step improvements.
Thank you, Stephen and, Paul.
Dr Paul Armstrong
Yeah, just to briefly answer what Stephen said and I've noticed a couple of points. That's just on the chat as well about issues related to sort of this notion of catching up and changing the way we've been doing things. And I think all of those things are absolutely appropriate what Alison said what Stephen said, I think that there's a bigger issue here, though, which we haven't mentioned. That's that as long as we have these really kind of strict and influential accountability structures, such as the inspection framework and Ofsted and the exam, examination structure that all schools are operating within, unless those things change, schools will continue to be slaves to those, you know, those sort of masters if you like. So I think there's a there's a much bigger fundamental question around how our school system should operate, how we're holding schools to account and how we're assessing our students that needs to take place in addition to what's out actually happening in the classroom on a to day basis from from September onwards. And that's gonna that's going to take coordination from governments from unions, from practitioners from communities, and it's a big, it's a big undertaking. So yeah, that's just my two points.
I think that's a really good point, Paul. So, you know, we've got this conundrum, if you like in terms of where we where we put the the emphasis, but with a backdrop of a very, very rigorous, very onerous accountability framework as things stand at the moment. I guess we need to, we need to work through that. I mean, there was a question that's come up in the in the chat, will Ofsted be suspended for a prolonged period? And I don't think we have the answer to that to that question. But it's a it's a very legitimate question. So very interesting perspectives there. We've got a few minutes. I don't want to leave this next question out. So let's explore that. The next question and then see if there's time for anything else. But in the chat, there's been some concerns about those individuals who are potentially vulnerable to the more vulnerable to disease that's been and critically vulnerable members of staff and indeed children. And, and again, the question is, what, if any additional measures should we be thinking about to protect those members of staff? And clearly, there's going to be significant anxiety as we try to introduce all of our children back and all members of staff, where possible, and from my, from my interpretation, from my understanding of the guidance that there remains still some ambiguity over this this area. Again, I'm, I'm interested to hear what the panel have to say.
Professor Karen Starr
My understanding there, Steven, I think that's an area where education departments just haven't thought that one through well enough. I think we're just going to have to wait and see, our schools aren't open here. And our school year goes for the calendar year. So we're virtually writing 2020 off, I think. But in terms of the safety, it's a real concern for for teachers, we do not we do know now that children are carriers of this virus. At first there was this myth that they weren't but we know that adults are catching their COVID from their children that are through childcare centres. So I think it's a real issue. And I think it's something that people have every right to be very concerned about. As I mentioned, industrial manslaughter laws are coming in, I think the year to be tested as far as COVID is concerned.
Yeah. Thank you, Karen. And and yeah, I think I think it does remain a, you know, a real concern and one that that really politicians have to get a firmer, firmer grip on was actually one. You just raised your hand...
The US perspective is a little bit different. One of the concerns that the school business official is dealing with right now is we're starting to see legal cases being made against the school district. So we're covering liability right now. But as we look, as our School Business Officials are looking to implement the hybrid model, what they're attempting to do in that model is focus initially on prioritising in person education for this, our special education groups, our young learners, and our English language learners, and or homeless our homeless students, and then trying to also look on out from the employment side have been able to look at what teachers would be required to be in the classroom versus teaching virtually.
Yeah, yeah, thank you, Siobhán. We've got a couple of minutes. There's just something that's that's most interesting in the chat, and something that we've been talking about, as a group over the last few weeks, and that's the issue of mental health, the ripple effects as we emerge from the pandemic, you know, we can't sugarcoat it. This is a trauma, you know, some of us will have suffered more directly than others. We may have contracted the virus ourselves, family members, members of the community, their children have been witnessed all of this. So we know we're going to have to be prepared for the anxieties, the uncertainties, the after effects of such a such a massive change to people's way of life. To the panel have any any comments in regard to the response to that, to that challenge?
There's a there's a huge push over here that we need to invest more into the mental health of our children and of our students. Starting with children, our students and our teachers and our administrators, staff, across the whole gamut of education, we need to be able to we looking now we don't have the number of resources in the schools to be able to address the recovery of a pandemic, or the continuation of a pandemic. So that's something that we're now lobbying for and trying to get. We need to have more financial resources, because there is a clear gap in what we can provide over here, along the lines of our education system than the requirements, what will be needed to get as healthy as possible through these next steps, anywhere from three months to four years.
Yeah, thanks Siobhán . And Alison...
Dame Alison Peacock
You know, just to say that we've, I think we need a real focus on recovery. And that sense of a Stephen said earlier on though, that we can't just carry on as, as young people come back into schools next week and assume that nothing's happened, but the resources that are available are quite scarce in UK, we do, I'm on the Chartered College website, I have lots of links to resources, but in terms of specialist help, you know, we don't have the wonderful option of counsellors as we've heard on this call as some areas of the of the world do. This is very much going to be sitting with teachers who perhaps feel under competent in the space and who themselves may well be experienced, experiencing huge amounts of stress. So again, it's another real priority for our teachers and our teaching community to try to do the best they can. And to assume that there hasn't been any mental trauma is a false assumption. We need to we need to work with our young people and give them space to be able to express express their feelings and their ideas.
Thank you, Alison. So we we're out of time and at that moment, been a fascinating, fascinating conversation. I hope you've enjoyed listening to the accounts of each of the panellists. Thank you panellists for, for making time today to talk to us all. Have a good day, whether it's a start the day, the end of the day or the middle of the day in the various jurisdictions. Thank you delegates. For the questions you've posed. Apologies if we weren't able to answer every single question, but hopefully you got a flavour of the perspectives and in some small way, hopefully, we were able to group things together so that you did get a response of some kind. And finally, I just like to say again, thank you to the panellists. Thank you to delegates for attending. And thank you to GovNet for organising this, this event. Thank you. Have a good day.
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