Why good communication in school communities matters more than ever before

The start to this school year has been like no other. Nurseries, schools and colleges rapidly adapting their day-to-day practices in response to sudden changes to government guidance. For school leaders it has been near impossible to keep up with the influx of guidance and the risk assessments needed for every possible scenario. The truth is, no one can have the perfect plans for every possible event during this pandemic. We are in uncharted waters.

School leaders have had to up their game in how they communicate with parents, carers and students – sharing key information to keep them safe while being careful to acknowledge and respond to fears and uncertainty that many families now face. Alongside this, school leaders have also had to support their teaching and support staff on the rollercoaster journey to re-opening this autumn. Each member of staff has their own story to tell, their own circumstances, their own health needs and their own worries which need to be recognised and heard.

The dull staff handbook, often ignored in previous years, has become an essential guide to working practices and risk management in schools this year. We have worked with schools to make sure their 2020/2021 handbooks acknowledge the extra support all staff need this year – anticipating how and when practices may need to change again (e.g. should local restrictions be introduced). The sharing of clear information reassures staff and shows the level of thought and planning that has gone into supporting them. Working through the details of these handbooks has also helped school and school trust leaders focus their planning and develop targeted strategies for coping with the year ahead. Handbooks provide an effective way of including all the vital information in one place – including a staff declaration which must be signed to show that every member of staff has read and understood what they need to know.

Too often governors and trustees can be forgotten in this process. They too need to be kept regularly informed, and given the information to help them understand how and why certain policies and working practices need to be adapted in response to the pandemic and government guidance. A trustee or governor handbook is a crucial tool to help school leaders keep those involved in their school or trust’s governance well informed and on message – which in turn, allows them to offer the best support possible to school leaders and staff over what will be a tough year.

Please do get in touch with us if you like to see a sample of the governance or staff handbooks we produce for schools and trusts e: jenny.wingate@numberfivepartnership.co.uk or flora.jenkins@numberfivepartnership.co.uk

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