On 31st December 2019, as we welcomed in the new decade, whoever thought 2020 would turn out the way that it has?
Just a few days into January and news stories of a flu-like illness spreading across the globe were starting to pick up speed until finally, Coronavirus (or COVID19 as it has become known) arrived on the UK shores.
I have never in my life, known a year of so many lows, but also so many highs, so as we head into the first week of 2021, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what we have learned from a very challenging year in 2020 and what we can take forward into this new year as we approach it with cautious optimism.
COVID19 almost brought the country to a standstill. Shops closed, bars and restaurants shut up, education establishments closed to all but the vulnerable or children of essential workers and my home city of London became eerily quiet. Businesses, including my own, moved online where possible, and we all got used to holding virtual meetings.
While we stood on our doorsteps and clapped for the NHS and key workers, including teachers who continued in the face of the pandemic, remote working became, and continues to be, the “new normal” for many of us.
Schools had to adapt incredibly quickly to the pandemic. Measures were quickly put in place to enable some children to remain at school, and for every other child and teacher, classwork took the form of remote learning, sometimes group Zoom or Microsoft teams classes, other times – emailed learning to be completed and loaded into a portal.
Parents across the country stood in for teachers, and homeschooling became the norm for many months.
There were no exams in 2020; instead, teachers and algorithms determined whether a pupil had passed GCSEs and A-Levels – an incredibly emotive topic and one that has taught us many lessons about how not to always trust artificial intelligence to make decisions.
The stress has taken its toll
We recognise that teaching staff are already in an incredibly stressful role, and 2020 has tested even the most resilient of teacher.
Whilst there were many discussions about the stress placed on pupils, there was less said about the additional burdens placed on teaching staff – not just from a teaching point of view, but also safeguarding children and themselves from COVID.
We applaud each and every one of you, and whilst we know that 2021 will be equally as difficult, we want you to know that we value your work and are always here to talk to you and support your wellbeing.
Finding Teaching Staff
For us, and the schools that we work with, we adapted well to the pandemic and lockdown. We moved our on-boarding and interview processes online in March 2020 and found it to be a hugely successful format. We have continued like that throughout 2020 and with the fresh challenges of the COVID tiers in 2021 are continuing with this becoming our “business as usual”.
Whilst prospective staff may not be able to undertake work placement programmes within schools, we do ensure that we touch base as often as possible with both the schools that we work with and our candidates, to secure the right matches for the roles that we have – whether this be teaching or school support staff.
As specialists in SEN recruitment, we have continued to work closely with these teaching establishments as they have remained open to ensure that the most vulnerable of children are supported. It is our role, in turn, to support them with the best possible staff that we can find.
What about 2021?
We are not out of the woods yet, even as I write this, there is a more virulent strain of COVID19 spreading, and there are still talks about more lockdowns, but what we have done in 2020 is we have come together, albeit virtually, and learned how to live with COVID, how to help prevent the spread and keep working, driving our businesses and schools for results and innovating in a new normal business world.
Yes, it has been hard at times, but we are collectively moving forwards into a brave new 2021.