White Water Ride: Covid-19 And School Leadership In Disruptive Times

I invite you to take stock and listen to each other as we prepare to take on the next section of the Covid
white-water ride.

Fast flowing river:

I seem to have spent my professional life talking and thinking about change in international education. How can change be tracked? How can it be predicted? How can schools plan the changes they want and manage other forces of change to which they are subjected?

We have all been living through a period of significant change in the first 20 years of the 21st Century. Just look at any episode of Friends which aired 1994 – 2004 to see how far we have come so quickly. It’s a different world. They still used landlines. No smartphones at all.

By any standard, change in the last 20 years has been a fast-flowing river that has needed effective navigation, but with thought, guidance and good back-up, this was more than possible. There was a degree of comfort.


And now the pandemic has hit. The banks of the river have narrowed and we have all hit serious white water. As we adapted, there has been a growing feeling that we are all on a massive learning curve, not only glimpsing, but experiencing the future, without, quite, being able to make sense of it all. We left any comfort zones we had a year ago.

There is doubtless more of the white stuff to come, but there is also a sense that after the first set of rapids it is time to take our bearings and find out where we seem to find ourselves as we catch our breath. Mapping long term trends is hardly possible just yet. We are still in the canyon, but perhaps in a quieter stretch.

This might, therefore, be a time to compare notes, talk and listen to each other as we gear up for the next part of the adventure. For school leaders, what are the business and educational models that are most likely to get us through the next stretch of churning waters? What are the pundits and commentators saying? What are teachers experiencing? What is the feeling among parents? What have we learned from the great online learning experiment? Most important, how are the students doing? What good Professional Learning is our there now?

Three themes

Structuring the conversation will be important, and I think that there are three important themes to be considered:

1. Adaptability

Here the conversation will revolve around the ideas of agility, responsiveness and consistency in times of uncertainty.

2. Connection

This theme might cover the engagement of parents, students and staff as everyone reconnects and begins to settle.

3. Individualisation

We think individualised experiences in schools are going to grow in importance in all parts of the community, and a discussion on the topic is therefore more than timely. Covid and online learning have acted as a catalyst, and brought the Holy Grail of effective personalised learning much closer.

IES, Eventful Learning Co. and Schoolbox have teamed up to deliver a 3-Part series for educational leaders on these topics, inviting people to hit the ‘pause and reflect’ button, listen to some great panelists and to learn from each other.

These will be interactive sessions as well as an opportunity to hear from leading voices, (including yours truly) in education and business who will share strategies for moving schools forward in a positive way.

The 3-Part Series comprises the following sessions:

  • Adaptability (March 2nd)
  • Connection (March 9th)
  • Individualisation (March 16th )

REGISTER HERE for the Virtual Forum

(This White Water Ride piece first appeared in International Teacher Magazine on 27th February 2021)