CEO's update: a week of challenges, collaboration and change

20 March 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I write at the end of what many I have spoken to have described as the most challenging week of their careers. I am writing to thank you and your teams for the incredible national service you are providing for our children, young people, staff, parents and communities, and to stand with you on what in many schools will be a difficult and emotional day.

As is often the case in times of challenge and change, I have found myself returning this week to the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross five stages of grief/change curve.

It seems particularly apt today. On the one hand we are responding rapidly to a seismic change in our context and what is being asked of us as a sector. The shock and denial of Wednesday night have already been transformed through your hard work and ingenuity into plans and resolve for the weeks ahead, which will protect society's most vulnerable.

At the same time, we find ourselves grieving for our learners in Years 6, 11 and 13, as well as any staff due to leave at Easter or in the summer, who won't now experience the rites of passage usually associated with these milestones - not just the chance to demonstrate all they have learned, but the proms, leavers assemblies, hugging, crying, commiserating and celebrating with peers. There is a profound grief in the memories lost because there will be no opportunity to create them.

It's not all doom and gloom though. Many school and trust leaders I have spoken to have talked about the amazing coming together of their teams and the generous collaboration happening across the sector, as people freely share their planning, resources and communications for others to use. This is something we are used to in Challenge Partners, but it has been fantastic to see it intensify across the sector, so all can benefit.

In a trying week this generosity of spirit and collectivism has been uplifting and exhilarating, and makes me excited for a future where there will be a new and better "normal" than we have known, in education and the world at large. Over the coming months we will want to work with you to seize that opportunity for enduring change, but recognise that few will have the headspace or capacity to do this now.

In the meantime, please find below some important information about our work at Challenge Partners and plans to support you.

Dr Kate Chhatwal, OBE 

Face-to-face activities suspended

It will come as no surprise that all of our face-to-face activities planned for the summer term are suspended. This includes Quality Assurance Reviews, Trust Peer Reviews and April’s Senior Partner and Hub Manager meeting. We will look to provide virtual alternatives where we can and will be in touch with more details for each of our programmes soon.

Network of Excellence - start of new partnership year delayed to September

The start of our new Network of Excellence partnership year has been postponed until September and will run for the length of the academic year. Again more details will follow.

Share your plans and resources - and see what others are doing around remote learning and the coronavirus challenge

As Kate mentions in her intro, we have been overwhelmed by the generous sharing of schools and trusts, and have collated some resources and suggestions from schools in the network and other useful links for information on remote learning and coronavirus here. Please email if you have resources to share or tag us on Twitter @ChallengePartnr.

Let us know what else we can do to support you

Please email with any suggestions.