Diary of a headteacher: Remote working is making us more effective and efficient

Written by: Diary of a Headteacher | Published:
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As the coronavirus lockdown continues, SecEd’s headteacher diarist is seeing a number of benefits from remote working and virtual senior leadership team communication

This should really be titled “Diary of a Virtual Headteacher”, as this is a more accurate description of what I have been doing for the past month.

I am sure I speak for many people when I say this has been the most unusual and unsettling period of my teaching career so far and it has taken some time to adapt to a new way of living and working.

I write this diary entry following another online meeting with my senior leadership team and I have been reflecting on how communication and collaboration have been so critical during this time when we have all been working from home.

My team and I are a reasonably “tech-savvy” bunch; we have been collaborating online for a number of years now, utilising the capabilities of Microsoft 365 to work on shared documents and communicate efficiently and effectively.

However, even for us, these past few weeks have been an upward learning curve in terms of getting to grips with working remotely. We had never properly used Microsoft Teams before, having previously held our meetings with us all in the same room around a table.

Our initial remote meetings were a little awkward but this was probably more to do with the issue of not being able to read colleagues’ body language to give us those vital physical cues on whose turn it is to speak.

We spent the first couple of minutes making sure we could all hear and see each other. However, once we became more comfortable with how the system worked it has become easier and we seem to have adapted seamlessly now. We rarely talk over each other, which did initially happen, and I have become better at chairing the meetings, inviting colleagues to speak at certain points and asking people individually for their thoughts on a topic before moving on.

This has actually made all of the group contribute more to our topics of conversation, whereas previously some people who were less confident or less experienced may have opted to stay quiet.

These meetings have become the crucial platform for us retaining a strong team dynamic and collaborative working culture. While I have always thought a face-to-face meeting is the most effective way of communicating with someone, I feel that we have benefited in a number of ways through being forced into this virtual way of working.

From a head’s perspective, I have also conducted a number of meetings with governors using Microsoft Teams and following this both my chair of governors and I feel that we may conduct all governor meetings in this way from now on.

We believe it will improve attendance from governors and allow them to contribute to the meeting from the comfort of their own home, without having to travel into school. I also feel that this will have a positive impact on the workload of staff governors (not to mention my own), as we can complete our governance responsibilities without having to be in the school building.

I think it is really important for us to learn lessons from the strange experiences that social distancing and remote working are providing us with.

Unquestionably the situation with young people’s education is far from ideal and we will have to work very hard to support our students when we return to school, but I want to be able to draw as many positives as possible from this experience.

The benefits of remote meetings are just one small aspect of this but I know it is something that will help us become a more effective and efficient leadership team in years to come.

  • The author is a headteacher in his sixth year of headship at a secondary school in the Midlands.


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