Lessons on Managing Remote Teams in Education - Hays Education Training

How agile skills learned in lockdown will help your school in the future

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Headteachers managing remote teams gained a valuable new set of skills in the lockdown which, if developed, will continue benefit them long into the future.

Challenges of leading school staff remotely

Before the coronavirus outbreak, leadership in a remote setting was a major concern for most companies, but likely not on many schools’ radars. However, as closures impacted up to 63 million primary and secondary school teachers around the world, education leaders had to react quickly.

In the UK, as staff grappled with a sudden switch to remote work and virtual classrooms, headteachers faced the challenge of learning how to manage change, safeguard students and support wellbeing – all from a distance.

Some of the biggest challenges included:

  • Maintaining communication: communication is key to leading teams virtually, and with many schools unprepared for the sudden move to home working, the transition period created a temporary gap in communication between headteachers, staff and pupils. These types of challenges disrupted many industries, but educators faced some of the biggest hurdles, with just having extensive work-from-home experience.
  • Managing teacher workloads: when teachers are at school, it’s much easier to monitor workloads. This is harder to do when managing your entire staff virtually. At 54%, the majority of teachers in primary and secondary schools worked reduced hours during lockdown, at around 27 hours a week, but 6.7% of teachers worked up to 60 hours a week or more.
  • Monitoring staff wellbeing: according to YouGov, 34% of teachers experienced stress and anxiety, working from home. Along with running schools and supporting pupils and parents, an important priority for headteachers during lockdown was to monitor staff wellbeing and happiness from afar.

     

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  • Tech challenges: the switch to remote teaching and learning was a new experience for many teachers, and not all knew about alternative tools for video classrooms, lesson planning and virtual whiteboards. This challenge is easily combated by the provision of adequate tools and training, but relies on a teacher’s home infrastructure being up to the task.

How to continue to use remote learning strategies in the future

  1. Use tools to encourage communication and learning

Working with others face-to-face has many benefits. However, thanks to the skills learned during lockdown, more teachers can offer virtual tutoring for children, set up small online study groups and even provide faster feedback on pupils’ work. In the future, providing remote work training around apps and tools will have the benefit of encouraging your staff to keep innovating and sharing knowledge.

  1. Maintain regular catch-ups with the whole team

Many leaders put regular morning or end of week catch-ups in place during peak lockdown, via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and it’s a good idea to stick with them going forward. With some staff transitioning back to the classroom, and others still working from home, it’s more crucial than ever to connect with the whole team regularly.

  1. Build on your culture of trust

Working remotely has built more trust between teams, and teachers are likely to say that they would welcome more home-based learning in the future. You can continue to build on this culture of trust at every level by giving your staff more responsibility to drive ideas and productivity.

  1. Encourage more autonomy

A culture of trust and autonomy go hand-in-hand. If teaching staff have taken the initiative to keep you informed during lockdown, build on this approach even further once back at school. Encouraging more autonomy in the classroom not only gives teachers more confidence to lead their pupils and manage their time, but also puts them in the right headspace to drive innovation at your school.

  1. Keep asking your staff for feedback

Working from home requires a lot of communication and feedback to ensure staff are happy, managing their workload and feeling connected to their peers. Leaders are relying on staff opinions now more than ever before, to make decisions and plan successful back-to-school strategies. It’s important to continue this cycle of feedback, remotely, particularly in the short term, as many teachers are anxious about returning to school with social distancing in place.

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