Future terms: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the whole school community

Watch our September 2020 Future Terms online panels, exploring the impact of school closures and lockdown.

These panel sessions aired on 26 September 2020. Watch the full recordings below.


Senior leaders and headteachers

  • Bridget Clay - Director of School Leadership, Teach First
  • Cassie Buchanan - Executive Headteacher, Charles Dickens Primary and CEO, Charter Schools Educational Trust
  • Vicky Counsell - Principal, Evergreen Primary Academy
  • Dennis Simms - Co-Chair, Heads Forward and Education Consultant, Simms Coaching

Middle leaders

  • Bridget Clay - Director of School Leadership, Teach First
  • Nathan D'Laryea - Assistant Headteacher, Loreto High School
  • Marie Gentles - Founder, Magic Behaviour Management
  • Lynn Nicholls - Education Consultant, Bright Futures Educational Trust


Words from the moderator

This has to be the most challenging September schools and school leaders have faced. Never have there been so many unknowns, so many moving parts, all with every individual dealing with the personal anxiety of living through a pandemic.

We at Teach First know that you - teachers and leaders - are the ones on the frontline. We are here support and help you as much as possible. That’s how these two panels came about. Both are focussed on listening to and learning from school leaders: how they have found the first few weeks back, what they did, what they’ve since changed and learned and, critically, what they are now focusing on moving forward.

This is particularly important for the schools serving disadvantaged communities that we work with. A survey by the Child Poverty Action Group has highlighted how the costs of school closure fall heaviest on low-income families. 40% of low-income families reported that they were missing at least one essential resource to support their children’s learning (CPAG, 2020). Schools have always been at the heart of communities, and this has been particularly demonstrated over the spring and summer, when many teachers and leaders were providing food and support, finding creative ways to be visible and support their communities.

Wellbeing is a critical priority for schools – for both their staff and their pupils. We discussed some of the ways that leaders have tried to help children and families feel secure as children transition back to school, but also how they are building new habits and approaches to wellbeing for the long-term.

Moving forward, as schools manage the variety in how pupils have been able to access learning in the summer term, it can’t just be about doing more and trying to cram catch up learning into a short period of time – it is more important than ever that learning is tightly focussed and driven by building on students’ prior knowledge and gaps. "It is not the time in class, but what we do in the time we have, that matters." (Hattie, 2020)

The panel for senior leaders reflected the diversity of senior leadership in school. We discussed big questions around wellbeing, behaviour systems, curriculum and delivering blended learning. We also discussed the practicalities of open days and building relationships with parents. All panellists were extremely generous in sharing what has and what hasn’t gone right, and how they’re building on that moving forward.

The panel for middle leaders was similarly broad but included a particular discussion about how aspiring leaders can influence leaders and colleagues around them. There is a lot of optimism for using this time as an opportunity to establish some good principles and habits around behaviour and wellbeing.

Finally, both panels finished with a discussion around how leaders can preserve their own wellbeing. We know that great leaders are what enable great teaching and great outcomes for pupils. We are so grateful to the leaders who collaborated and shared their insights. 

- Bridget Clay, Director of School Leadership, Teach First.


More online panels are scheduled monthly. Register here to watch them live.

Find out more about our leadership opportunities, including NPQs designed to turn teachers into inspiring leaders (including Middle Leader, Senior Leader and Headship), and our Leading Together programme, designed to bring stronger school leadership across your senior team.

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