COVID-19 Cheatsheet for School Leaders
A one page website to help school leaders while schools are closed.

Hello

Since schools closed on March 12th, I’ve been creating content to help teachers and school leaders in terms of distance learning. There seems to be a huge amount of information out there so I thought I’d just pop up a one-page website divided into my 6 Rules for Distance Learning to let people know what I’m doing in my school and any tips that might be of use. I’ll also happily answer any questions.

Table of Contents

1. Take a Breath

And here we are again! With almost no notice and almost no additional supports, here you are as the school leader expected to lead your school in providing a continuation of the curriculum. This time the education companies aren’t being as generous with their free resources and this time the expectations from parents and the education partners are higher. However, like last time, we did it. We provided the children with as best an education as we could. 

Yes, you might have people snapping at your inbox wanting for you to be on Zoom to mind their children. You might have people asking you to upload your lessons at a time that suits their family. You might have families who go online and tell the world you and your school have been doing nothing. And do you know what? Let them. As long as you are doing your best, that’s all you can do. Take a breath.

2. Reassure Your School Community

  • Let staff members know how they can contact you and when you’re available to talk. 
  • Set up 2 WhatsApp Groups for your staff. One as a social/support group for everyone to post to and one as a Broadcast Only group so important messages can be related to staff without them being lost in the chatter.
  • Let staff know that the most important thing to know is that the biggest priority is health and well-being. Staff need to know this above anything else. A distant second priority is learning but, as teachers, it is what we do, so we need to do it. With that in mind, there needs to be a plan. This is our school’s plan. Feel free to copy whatever works for your school.
  • Have a couple of Virtual Staff meetings on Zoom or another video conferencing software to ensure that everyone is ok and everyone can input into the plan. (Schools can remove the 40 minute limit during the pandemic – click here to see how
  • What if there are staff not engaging with the school?
  • Email to every family through our School Administration System: Aladdin. (If you don’t have Aladdin, you could text or email)
  • We hosted a Virtual “Assembly” on Facebook Live initially and then we moved to Zoom as it was more private and we could interact better. The purpose of the assembly is to reassure families that we are thinking of them. We now host them every week as well as other online “connection” events such as:

3. Do NOTHING new. (Almost!)

What do you have?

You’ve picked up new tools since the last time. Now is a good time to see what you already have available to you.

Communication

Teach

Plan from what you have

Don’t be tempted to dive into using another new platform if it isn’t something you’re already using. Remember everyone is overwhelmed. We don’t want to make things even more overwhelming.

Ensure that there is agreement from staff that this is all that is expected from them and they shouldn’t be panicking if they hear of other teachers doing all sorts of magical stuff online. Everyone’s main job is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Let’s make sure that’s the number one priority and, if this goes on for longer, we can always learn new skills together over time.

4. Embrace Video

I know I said do nothing new but using video was a game changer for me in school. It’s the only new thing I’d recommend for schools to embrace. While it doesn’t replace a face-to-face scenario, it is the next best thing. While there are a number of platforms available, we’re mostly using Zoom because we find it easy, stable, and once you change a few settings, so far, we’ve found it secure. Here are some tips I’ve been sent by different school leaders and teachers.

This was created by @mullallyteach

Security concerns

Back in March, there were a number of security concerns about Zoom. Zoom is now the most secure platform for video conferencing out there and the one most people are familiar with. I’d recommend it over any other. Of course Teams and Google Meet are good alternatives too.

Teaching and Zoom

5. Tell people what's happening - 5 Qs

Once you have all the plans in place, it’s time to let the community know what’s happening. In our school, these are the 5 questions we answered.

When

When

will you be uploading the lessons? The evening before? Weekly on a Sunday?

What

What

platform are you using? Is it Google Classroom or is it email, etc.

Who

Who

are the staff that parents will be communicating with? It won't just be the class teacher. Include SNAs, SETs, etc.

How

How

will families contact you? Do you have a special email address set up? Make sure to tell them when you check it.

Why

Why

Because we're teachers. It's what we do.

6. All of this is Out of our Control

None of us have been trained in remote learning. Teaching primary school children from afar is completely different and can’t be replicated on Zoom. All we can do is our best to deliver the curriculum with the knowledge that many of our pupils will not be able to access it. This is not our fault. We kept our side of the deal. We kept our schools as safe as possible while we waited for the Department of Education to provide plans for when it was no longer safe to send all of the children into school, and they didn’t.

Nobody wants to do remote learning – it doesn’t work for anyone. The children who often need education most are the ones that don’t have the ability to access it. Many parents now need childcare more than education. We can’t provide both. That’s not on us. 

We could have opened schools for vulnerable pupils, for frontline workers, and so on. It would have taken investment in staffing, PPE, vaccines, and so on but none of this happened. And could teachers have provided any of these extra resources? Of course not.

I have been broadcasting my thoughts on what should have happened since June, along with many others. If you feel like listening to a Blended Learning plan that could still very easily happen, feel free to listen to my podcast: If I were the Minister for Education.

So, remember, this is, at the end of the day, completely out of our control. All we can do is our best. I hope this helps.

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