CEO's blog: Looking ahead with optimism borne of experience

8 January 2021

Kate Chhatwal looks at what we have coming up, to help schools emerge better and stronger

Welcome back. It hasn’t been quite the start to 2021 we were hoping for, has it? I say that partly as a Liverpool fan after a rather lacklustre run of performances, and it seemed particularly appropriate that we went 1-0 down to Southampton at just the moment on Monday night when the Prime Minister was announcing that primary and secondary schools would once again be open only to keyworker and vulnerable children and exams couldn’t go ahead as planned.

However, we have been here before and this time we are much better prepared. Together we WILL come through this. More than that, we will continue to seize every opportunity to emerge better and stronger.

Those of you who joined our National Network Meeting in October may remember Jay Altman - who helped rebuild education in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina - asking if our aim as leaders was simply to survive, or something more profound. In his talk, which you can watch again here, he argued that we could lead transformation through crisis by paying deep attention to equity, given the differing impacts on young people; using the pandemic to promote or facilitate organisational change; and leveraging the insights and pressures from this time for long-term systemic change. You were buoyed by that prospect then, and I hope you continue to feel energised and optimistic about it now. I know I do.

Optimistic ‘Better Futures’ is the theme of this year’s annual conference, taking place virtually on 22 April, and we have lots to look forward to before that. Once schools have settled into their new rhythm, we look forward to virtual Leadership Quality Assurance Reviews (vLQARs) getting underway - hopefully in February. The vLQAR was specifically designed to enable reviews to go ahead through periods of closure and disruption, and offer a great way for schools to progress the important tasks of evaluation and sustainable improvement. As Jason Tudor, Principal of Kingsbury Green Academy says in this film reflecting on our pilot vLQARs “there is still a need and desire to move your school forward on a strategic basis… and to be working with other colleagues - even though it was remote - with such positivity, who brought ideas and solutions, that’s what made it special”.

Across our suite of networks and programmes we are equally well-placed to continue to provide support and stimulus to the leaders, schools and trusts we work with - and you will find more information about what is going on across our diverse and vibrant collective below.

I look forward to working with you in the year ahead to realise the possibility of better. In the meantime, my sincere thanks for all you are doing to continue educating and inspiring the young people who will solve tomorrow’s problems, as you deal with today’s. As ever, if there is anything more we can do to support you or your endeavours, please let us know.

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