by Melissa Hall, Curriculum Leader of English at a secondary school and Specialist Leader in Education
As we lie in the midst of a third lockdown, to say there is tension in the air in the world of education would be a vast understatement. It sits like a heavy fog, seeping into every crevice of policy and procedure. There has never been a more crucial time for middle leaders to support their teams through one of the most difficult times in education.
Here are five things middle leaders can do right now for their teams:
Consider the whole school calendar
Consider the calendar carefully at the start of the year with workload in mind, with departmental deadlines and assessment timelines scheduled appropriately. Additionally, if middle leaders can adapt the placement of departmental meetings and CPD with consideration for part time teachers within their department, this will allow for inclusion of these teachers who deserve as much of a say as everyone else and who can often feel overlooked and undervalued.
Know your staff
What are they facing? We know that isolation, illness, redundancies and reduced income are an unfortunate side effect of life in 2020-2021, so it is ever more important to be aware of the atmosphere within the school environment and in your department. Who are the parents in your department? Who may have additional responsibilities at the end of the school day? Who is struggling? If you don’t know the answer, find out. Moreover, knowing your staff helps you support your team better as not everyone responds to the same method of management so the need to adapt is essential in this case.
Make wellbeing a priority
Education staff report the highest rates of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in Britain. This cannot be ignored. Open dialogue is essential more than ever before. If you make it a priority to really invest in those you line manage, you are more likely to offer timely support and your staff may need that support more than ever. Maintain a culture that doesn’t value clock watching and emphasises explicitly that work ethic matters more than visible on site hours.
Have compassion and empathy
These two words have an inconceivable amount of importance. Life happens: both positively and negatively often without our control but knowing your manager ‘has your back’ is one weight that can be lifted that can make a world of difference to a member of staff. While there is a place for logic and policy in middle leadership, in a very human role such as teaching, the human element is crucial.
Flexibility in the face of constant change:
Things are changing rapidly. Be the measured sense of calm, even if you are struggling under the surface. “Be like a Swan. Stay calm on the surface but paddle hard underneath.”