Practical actions to help schools to respond to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic

Going forward, leaders may wish to work with their team to plan how they will support their students’ wellbeing and learning in a Covid-19 world. These plans will need to be flexible enough to accommodate a range of schooling scenarios and conditions.

Possible scenarios to consider include:

  • some staff working from home because of concerns about their health or because they are waiting for Covid-19 test results
  • students who are unable to participate onsite regularly because of concerns about exposure to Covid-19
  • temporary closure due to exposure to Covid-19
  • lockdown – all staff and children working and learning at home.

Five practical actions leaders may wish to consider are set out below.

1. Learn from the first phase

  • Take time to reflect on what worked well and identify any challenges that emerged through the first phase of this pandemic. As a leadership team, consider how improvements should be made and commit to making the necessary changes.
  • Clearly identify priority areas of learning based on identified learning gaps as a result of the disruption from Covid-19 this year. The coming year’s programme should maximise opportunities to learn as a priority.

2. Promote student wellbeing

  • Ensure an effective pastoral system where at least one teacher knows every student and where students have the confidence to raise concerns directly with adults in the school.
  • Establish a wellbeing team within the school to maintain oversight of the school’s systems, professional training and development, and the specific needs of students of concern. Ensure a focused and coordinated response across all teachers, counsellors, SWIS workers, Learning Support Coordinators, SENCOs, school nurses, RTLBs and teacher aides.
  • Establish and maintain data which records the details of and actively monitors changes in students who may be particularly anxious, have behavioural, social or emotional issues or challenging family contexts. Ensure appropriate strategies are in place for these learners and intervene early in response to identified problems.
  • Establish in-school “friendship groups” or tuakana-teina arrangements for students of concern.

3. Support student engagement through relationships with whānau

  • Build on the stronger connections established with parents and whānau to reassure them about school being a safe place for their child. This includes sharing of protocols and procedures that schools have in place.
  • Actively engage parents and whānau in the life of the school and as partners in their children’s development. This can include supporting parents with information and support about strategies to promote the wellbeing of their children.
  • Be aware that transitions can be times of vulnerability for students and ensure that appropriate supports are in place.
  • Include strategies to ensure that individual students who may, for some reason, not be able to attend school stay connected and engaged in their learning while at home.

4. Use differentiated teaching strategies

  • Be very explicit in respect of the focus of teaching - ensuring learning intentions are relevant, clear and well understood by learner.
  • Ensure that learning is scaffolded from where the student is at and what they know, and that they have adequate time to apply and embed new learning.
  • Ensure that learning remains a collaborative process where students can work together to solve problems, and apply and develop their knowledge and insights.
  • After school programmes are another option which can support groups of learners who are at risk of being left behind.

5. Monitor your own wellbeing as a leader and that of staff

  • Looking after your own wellbeing is essential. As a leader, draw on your support networks and take the time to connect with them. Balancing your work and personal life is important.
  • Leaders have a direct impact on their staff and therefore student wellbeing. Regularly reviewing how effectively wellbeing is supported through schools’ systems and processes is a first step. Leaders should work collaboratively with students, parents and whānau to make actionable plans for ongoing improvement.

Where can schools and parents go to for help?

Ministry of Education COVID-19 Information and Advice

New Zealand Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy

Healthy Active Learning

Wellbeing@School

Wellbeing for Success

SPARKLERS resource hub