VULNERABLE LEADERS AND TEACHERS IN ENGLISH SCHOOLS IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: IMPLICATIONS FOR LEADERSHIP OF WELLBEING, RETENTION AND EQUITY
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This paper explores the wellbeing of school leaders and teachers in England who assessed a specific health risk during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. It explores how this cohort, guided to physically shield, was affected in attitudes towards work and the extent to which leadership behaviours supported a positive and perhaps ‘thriving’ physical return in a post-Covid-19 environment for effective schools and staff retention.Educational systems worldwide have become a high-stakes accountability landscape, with leaders questioning how they can lead with integrity. Staff wellbeing has moved up the agenda in England, forming part of England’s inspection framework, with one criterion being that staff consistently report high levels of support for wellbeing issues (Ofsted, 2019).Insufficient numbers of teachers, with an early exit of novices, is a particularly negative structural feature of the English school system (OECD 2017). A large scale quantitative study indicates that teacher retention is crucial to meet rising pupil numbers (Worth and van den Brande 2020). In the same study, unmanageable workloads and low job satisfaction are cited as significant factors determining teachers’ retention decisions and where teacher autonomy is strongly related to the extent to which teachers regard their workload as manageable (ibid).The study is as concerned with leadership capability as the wellbeing and retention of staff and decision-making driving processes. It is in the development of leaders faced with extraordinary stresses that researchers can understand where gaps lie in leadership development and organisational structure and culture and how these gaps might be strategically addressed. The empirical research on which the paper is based explores some facets for leading effectively in extraordinary circumstances. The paper presents findings on how external structural government directives have challenged schools in carrying out their instructions, amplifying inequality.
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