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Last updated on 22 April 2020
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Find out how to keep your staff connected and supported while working remotely.

Keep to your usual meetings to provide routine

Isolation is a big challenge during lockdown.

Have regular meetings to provide structure and to help your staff feel connected. All of the schools we spoke to agreed about this. 

Collaborate with your staff on setting this structure - find out what works for them. 

You may need to repurpose meetings or introduce new ones to account for the circumstances

For example, the wellbeing team at North Liverpool Academy continues to meet weekly, but at the moment the team is focused on providing tips to support mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. 

Rosendale Primary School in London has introduced a daily meeting for staff to discuss how they're interacting with their classes and what they're setting. Staff use this to:

  • Collaborate and learn from each other's approach
  • Make sure the school provides a consistent experience for different year groups

Make a plan and communicate it widely

Get feedback from your staff and revisit your meeting plan regularly to make sure it's still fit for purpose.

Check in regularly with your direct reports 

In these challenging circumstances, start your conversations by checking in on their wellbeing and finding out how they're managing at home (or in school if they're skeleton staff). 

Encourage all of your staff to show this pastoral support to their direct reports. 

Ask

  • How are you feeling?
  • How's your family?
  • Are you managing to get all the supplies you need?  
  • How are you finding remote teaching/working? 
  • What barriers do you have? What can I do to help you remove these?
  • How are your pupils/parents adapting to your approach? 
  • How are you finding the remote teaching/skeleton staff rota? 
  • How often would it be helpful for us to speak? 

Create a structure to keep an eye on all staff

North Liverpool Academy is using a 2-pronged approach to make sure it keeps everyone's wellbeing on the radar:

  • Pyramid calls: the executive principal calls his direct reports at the beginning of the week to find out how they're doing. They then call their own direct reports, and so on down the management chain. Every member of staff has had a call from their manager by the end of the week
  • Horizontal calls: the executive principal personally calls every member of staff in the school over the course of 2 weeks

By using both approaches, executive principal Patrick Ottley-O’Conner says no one slips through the net. If anyone shows signs of anxiety or stress he checks in on them more frequently.

Tailor your support to staff circumstances 

Be sensitive to the different needs of your staff community and flexible about the support you can give:

  • Acknowledge that this is a challenging time and encourage an open dialogue about what individual support they need
  • Review responsibilities among your staff and think about shifting these from those who have less time (e.g. parents) to those who might want more involvement
  • Think about class work that you can set centrally to ease the workload pressure on your staff

Make the SLT more ‘present’

Block out time in your calendars for staff to get in touch

Get everyone on the senior leadership team (SLT) to keep specific slots free in their calendars. Let all staff know that they can book these slots.

Send a weekly briefing to all staff

Use this to communicate upcoming priorities. You could also use the same channel to share other important messages as and when you need to.

There are various ways you could do this. Rosendale Primary School set up a WhatsApp group, and headteacher Kate Atkins told us that her staff now get in touch with her directly thanks to connecting with her on the platform.

Use video/voice recording or a call - don't rely too much on email

Everyone is used to face-to-face contact, and there's an information overload at the moment. So only send emails that you would normally send to staff.

For all other messages, advise that your SLT gets in touch with staff directly by voice recording, video or a quick phone call. 

Proactively communicate with middle leaders 

Find out how they're getting on and whether there are any issues you can help them to address. 

Create informal spaces for your staff to meet - a virtual staff room

Keep those informal conversations going that you'd normally have in the corridor, over lunch or in the staff room:

  • North Liverpool Academy has a daily slot called 'Brenda's Tea Room' at 11am which is just for staff
  • Encourage your staff to connect on informal messaging apps like WhatsApp
  • Organise quizzes and use video-conferencing software - like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom or Skype. Delegate the 'quiz-master' role to different members of staff or teams

Sources

Many thanks to the following for their advice on this piece:

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