“The weeks before lockdown introduced an uncertainty to life like we’d never known before. We knew there was a devastating virus spreading through our country and the world as we knew it was changing on a daily basis.
“We had been in Nashville with teachers and partners from our Excelerate network in early March. As the week wore on, we were becoming increasingly nervous about the unfolding situation. While immersing ourselves in the learning on offer from incredible international educational models, I remember feeling real concern about the world closing down and our delegation being unable to get home.
“I think we all have our own memories and reflections from that period that we can now properly give air. Moreover, as we move beyond the immediacy of the crisis, we can begin to spotlight the opportunities and advantages gained as, without this comfort, it has simply been a year of loss and of human tragedy.
“A year on, we have adapted and adopted new ways of living and working which may have seemed unfeasible previously. We have shown strength and conviction. We have navigated uncharted challenges with resilience and resolve. We have recognised the value of community and better understood challenges which are not new to many.
“When our office shut its doors and students were sent home from schools, we knew that how we worked would have to change dramatically to ensure our ambition for our young people was not diluted, rather it was delivered in a way that best supported our practitioners facing immense challenge.
“At this anniversary, which none of us imagined could ever come to pass, I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved and how our investments are playing a vital role in home learning, the recovery curriculum, and addressing the mandate for change and to build forward better.
“These are some of my key highlights from across our organisation and programmes which have been achieved against the most challenging of backdrops:
- We introduced weekly team meetings which have been a vital source of support, as well as a tool for collaboration, inspiration, and effective working. I have reflected that I have spent more time with my colleagues, and shared more of my life with them, than I have some of my family and friends. There is a collegiate empathy and understanding that has enabled open and frank dialogues, with a focus upon continued personal and professional learning.
- We now have a wellbeing charter for all staff detailing explicit permission for our team to prioritise their personal health and wellbeing.
- Walk & talks were in place, when restrictions would allow, to continue in-person collaboration and connection. Screens have allowed business continuity this year but creating space and time for a colleague, when safe to do so, is critically important.
- Flexible working was instituted from the outset as our norm. This was vital to ensure continued job satisfaction while managing home lives.