Beyond "recovery": 5 key messages

In the opening weeks of this term, we held two online meetups for NACE members – focused on exploring challenges and opportunities in the current context, sharing ideas and experiences with peers, and identifying priorities and core principles for the coming weeks and months.

While acknowledging the significant differences in the experiences of both students and staff members over the past six months, the two sessions also highlighted some strong common themes and key messages:

1. Humanity first AND teaching first

While wellbeing is and should remain a priority, NACE Associate Neil Jones makes the case that for more able learners, study is in fact an intrinsic part of their humanity. The meetups highlighted the need to focus on restoring learners’ confidence and self-belief; reinstating healthy and effective learning routines; showing care, calm and confidence in learners’ abilities and futures; continuing to consider the needs of the more able in planning and practice (and supporting colleagues to do so); maintaining high expectations and ambitions; and being aware of the risk of learning becoming “endless” for the more able (particularly in remote/independent learning).

2. Assess, but don’t add stress

While meetup attendees agreed on the importance of understanding where students are and identifying gaps in learning, they also emphasised the importance of achieving this without creating additional pressure, either for staff or learners. Take time over this, building in low-/no-stakes assessment, regular verbal feedback, and involving students in the process of identifying where they feel more/less confident and what they need to do next.

3. Stay ambitious in teaching and learning

A recurrent message from the meetups was the importance of remaining ambitious in teaching and learning – balancing the need to pare back/streamline without narrowing the curriculum or lowering expectations, and auditing deficits without leaping to remedial/deficit thinking. Key ideas shared included a focus on meaningful tasks; teaching to where learners could be now; choosing language carefully to inspire, excite and set high expectations; finding ways to incorporate hands-on as well as theoretical learning; finding opportunities for collaboration; and prioritising dialogic teaching and learning – recognising the loss of rich language exchange during school closures.

4. Continue to build on “lessons from lockdown”

Both sessions also highlighted the many innovative practices developed during school closures, many of which will be retained and further developed. Examples included the use of technology and/or project-based learning to support learners in working both independently and in collaboration with one another.

For more “lessons from lockdown”, take a look back at our summer term meetups and special edition of Insight.

5. Keep listening to students

Finally, the meetups reinforced the importance of engaging and listening to students – involving them in conversations about their experience, interests and passions, and making them part of the creative, innovative thinking and discussion that will help schools and individuals continue to move forward positively. Or as NACE Associate Dr Keith Watson has written, “Not merely recovering, but rebounding and reigniting with energy, vigour and a celebration of talents.”

For more on these key messages and other ideas explored during the meetups, watch the recordings:

Read more:

NACE member meetups are free to attend for all NACE members, offering opportunities to connect and share ideas with peers across the UK and beyond, as well as hearing from NACE Associates and leading schools.

Not yet a NACE member? Starting at just £95 +VAT per year, NACE membership is available for schools (covering all staff), SCITT providers, TSAs, trusts and clusters.Members have access to advice, practical resources and CPD to support the review and improvement of provision for more able learners within a context of challenge and high standards for all. Find out more.

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