Trust Spotlight - Pete Bevington, Curriculum Director at Shine Multi Academy Trust
We’ve been working with SHINE Multi Academy Trust for three years and we recently interviewed their Curriculum Director Pete Bevington about the impact of Covid-19 on his role, and the five Schools that form the SHINE Trust.
What does your role as Curriculum Director involve and how has it changed since the start of the pandemic?
We’re a small team and so I get involved in a huge variety of activities but my core role at SHINE is curriculum development and professional learning, with a focus on ensuring staff are equipped to deliver high-quality teaching and learning in their Schools.
Prior to COVID, I would normally be out and about regularly, visiting Schools, observing best-practice, attending conferences and reviewing learning materials. A lot of my time would also be spent planning enrichment events, but these have obviously not been going ahead.
Whilst COVID has presented many logistical challenges leaving me unable to do these ‘normal’ tasks, it has also opened up other avenues which I would not have had the time to do previously, such as daily CPD. If I think about the extra training I have been able to complete over the last 3 months - it equates to nearly 10 days of courses, which is really quite amazing.
Regional and national conferences which would have been expensive and require lots of travel have been made accessible online; and so whilst our Schools and I are keen to a more normal routine, we are also very grateful for the opportunity to further our knowledge and expertise during this difficult time.
What are the key challenges Schools within SHINE have faced, both during lockdown and recently as many students and teachers return to School?
The common issues across the Schools in SHINE are: supporting pupils who have limited or no access to basic technology, and ensuring that those who live in households where parenting skills are low still receive a quality remote learning experience.
We are also concerned about how the availability of resources prevents learning in some areas, e.g. art poverty is a common issue, with many children not owning paper or pencils or crayons. What's more, there is a worry around diminishing levels of physical activity during the lockdown.”
“Potentially 1 in 10 children would have done no physical activity during the whole of lockdown”
Research has been carried out around how much physical activity children have been doing during lockdown and it’s thought that the national average for those meeting the CMO guidelines could be as low as 19%. We work with a lot of deprived areas in the East Midlands and so we know that these stats are likely to be even starker. We’re therefore focussing a lot on how physical activity can be used to improve general well-being.
Many of our teachers are already using innovative ways to combat the drop in physical activity through national schemes such as the ‘Sheriff Challenge’, to setting weekly PE tasks including shuttle runs and throwing socks in a box. School websites have been great for setting challenges and recording and rewarding pupils for their involvement.”
What technology have you been using to help communicate with staff, parents and pupils over the last 3 months?
Like many, we’ve been utilising Teams and Zoom to ensure staff training and meetings have still taken place and Schools have been using their own websites even more as a means of communicating with parents and pupils. The best examples, however, are Schools that are also using their messaging services and ClassDojo to publicise new home-learning tasks and recognise the efforts of pupils (and their parents) in completing tasks promptly.
How have the Trust and School websites aided home learning and communication during lockdown and what opportunities have they provided?
To ensure ease of use, the Trust website has been used to store risk assessments and School re-opening documents on the whole.
All Schools have uploaded weekly home learning tasks on their websites, broken down into a weekly timetable and daily tasks. This has included links to commercially produced videos e.g. from Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize, as well as School, produced PowerPoint lessons and video messages from staff.
Although research shows us that face to face, quality-first teaching is the most important thing we can deliver - COVID-19 has highlighted how our ‘homework offer’ could be a lot more structured and should continue in a similar vein in 2020-21.”
What opportunities has Covid-19 provided to you in terms of how you operate as a Trust or would like to operate going forward?
The impact it has had in terms of how the Trust will operate in future has been marked. As our Schools are spread far and wide across the East Midlands, using online technology (such as Teams) to host meetings has many, many benefits. It will ensure (travel) costs are brought right down and productivity increases significantly.
Staff training is likely to look very different when social distancing restrictions are eased.
What's more, video CPD, such as the ResearchEd daily input, has meant we have a bank of free resources to call on when it comes to staff development. It may well mean staff training looks very different even when social distancing restrictions are eased.
In what ways has communication changed/improved between Schools and Trusts?
Our headteachers have drawn on support and guidance from the Trust central team more regularly than before and have been very grateful for all we have done. They have also started to pick up the phone and talk to each other more regularly. Going forward, we are hoping to regularly share best practice around remote learning.
Looking ahead, how would you like Schools to embrace innovation and technology?
I think home learning needs to be even more forward-facing so that parents have the tools they need to get more involved and pupils receive regular feedback and reinforcement to motivate and inspire their learning. ‘Freedom within a framework’ is our mantra, and our teachers should feel empowered to facilitate and grow home learning approaches through better use of technology. That includes utilising all the tools and features on our School websites, sending electronic newsletters and using a mix of communication methods to keep everyone involved and engaged.
How are staff coping with the new normal?
It’s been a challenge for all, but for many staff, returning to School has been a real benefit in terms of providing structure and focus. Not surprisingly many are still very nervous and are having to adapt to a faster pace and additional challenges. We’re hoping the extra time they’ve had to do curriculum plans and prep work etc. may put them in a good position when they return full time.
In addition to his role as Curriculum Director at SHINE, Pete is a trained Arts Award Advisor, Vice-Chair of Nottingham Schools’ Football Association and co-ordinates a PE Network of over 40 Schools.