Emma Hollis 2019 1 (003)

Last week we hosted a webinar on ‘ITT September 2020 and beyond’. I would like to thank all panellists who took part: Dame Alison Peacock (Chair), Ruth Talbot, Helen Matthews, Lord Jim Knight, Professor Sam Twiselton, James Noble-Rogers, John Howson and Sinead McBrearty, as well nearly 350 delegates.

From my perspective, and I spoke about this during the webinar, looking at September onwards there is no doubt we have a huge amount of uncertainty in front of us. In my mind, it is like we have long path ahead which is completely in darkness – and a tiny flashlight on the back our phones meaning we can only see a couple of metres in front of us but no further. We can only see, and plan for, the next few steps.

However, we have already shown as a sector how unbelievably agile and innovative we can be in a short space of time. We reinvented ITT on a weekend’s notice, have moved all our offer online and suddenly found ways to engage trainees in discussions in different ways. There is going to have to be some acceptance, which is incredibly difficult for a sector that is known to be forward-thinking and planning all the time, that there will be lots of unknowns.

We therefore have to be open about that with our trainees. Trainees are entering training knowing full well what the world looks like. We might not have all the answers, but what we can offer is high-quality, excellent teacher training.

Trainees are putting so much trust in us by applying to us now, in such an uncertain world. They are placing faith in us to get them through, when they do not know whether they are going to be in school in September, or even October or November. They do not know which children they are going to be teaching, and whether they are going to be teaching online or in person, yet they are still trusting us. I think that speaks volumes for the sector in terms of how people view us, and they are still making those decisions to apply and to enter the profession.

As a guiding principle, compassion is something that we need to show. This is something we all have, that we all demonstrate, but needs to be at the forefront of our minds now more than ever as we move into September and beyond.

For children

We need to show compassion for the children coming back into our schools, who collectively are experiencing something that none of us are able to fully appreciate in terms of the impact that might have on them, and in terms of if, when and how they actually return to school.

The impact on their relationships, both with the adults who are teaching them and other children in their school, and the collective trauma they have experienced and the likelihood of bereavements in their families and extended communities. This is something that trainee teachers and very experienced teachers will have to work together to manage with sympathy – and people will be feeling very nervous about that.

For trainees

Because of this we also need to show compassion for our trainees who are going to be entering an unknown world. Trainees going into schools for the first time have all these feelings of nervousness anyway, they are entering a new profession that they are genuinely very excited about, but now there is a deeper sense of the unknown. Will they get it right? What are they going to be facing? And suddenly they are doing that in a period when the unknown is even greater than we have ever seen before.

It is not just the unknown in terms of their experience in school, but everybody’s experience of school. So the mentors they are working with, and looking to, will not have the answers in the same way as they did before. That is not to say we need to have all the answers, but we do need to be entering into discourse with our trainees and understand there is a nervousness, an uncertainty, as they go forward into their new careers.

For schools

Our schools are having to work in unprecedented and extremely challenging circumstances. They are being asked to make impossible decisions with a lack of understanding of what may be the impact of their actions. They are fearful for their staff, they are fearful for their children.

And we know from our recent survey that as a result of that many of them are nervous about introducing trainee teachers into their schools. We are aware that placements in schools are limited and that this is going to be an issue into early next year. We are going to have to work with our schools compassionately – what they can and cannot manage, what they can and cannot support – and be flexible about when we put our trainees in schools, how we do that, and how we work with our partners to do that.

We also need to have compassion for our vulnerable communities. We are aware that ethnic minorities groups are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and we are going to need to think about that when we are making plans to put our trainees and staff back into school.

For each other

We must have compassion for each other: working collaboratively and collegiately. That involves being aware that nobody has all the answers. We are all making decisions that we are not entirely sure are the right decisions.

I have seen so much on social media recently that makes me extremely sad. Even when people are trying to reach the same goal, they are bringing each other down and telling each other that they are wrong or being unkind to one another. It strikes me that six months ago the trending hashtag was #bekind. We need to bring that back, because we have lost that a little bit in the discourse of some of what we are doing.

Let us be compassionate with one another and think about the fact that we are all trying to get to the same shared goal.

For ourselves

Finally, have some compassion for yourselves. This is a tough time – and we are all doing our very best. We can all feel we like we are making the wrong choices or doing the wrong thing, but we are all working on this together and are here for one another. Take care of yourself and remember yourself in all of this: self-care, as well as care for the others I have mentioned.

Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)

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