Over the past few weeks, school leaders’ roles have been unexpectedly and dramatically changed by the COVID-19 crisis. The unprecedented nature of this situation means there is no set direction for them to follow.
School leaders are like actors in a play where the story, the script and costumes have all changed mid-performance, and they are on stage improvising to adjust to their new role.
Very few school leaders have thorough training and support for their role, and even fewer have been given clear guidelines on their expectations through disaster response and recovery.
Despite these daunting circumstances, we have seen incredibly inspiring school leaders acting to ensure the safety and wellbeing of families and minimizing the disruption faced by out-of-school children.
In order to understand how school leaders are facing this situation, Global School Leaders with our four partner organizations came together to implement a short survey from April 7 to 14 and received responses from over 1,800 school leaders across 12 countries.
“I personally started calling most of the parents and students and explained the current situation of a school and also will make sure that the management will take necessary steps to overcome the current situation. STAY HOME, STAY SAFE...” a school leader from India (7 April 2020)
“I have informed my teachers and our parents about available relief aids of the government and others. I've also given financial assistance too during this period.” a school leader from Nigeria (9 April 2020)
“I am giving support to teachers, students, and parents to be enthusiastic in implementing online learning. I am reminding them to take care of their health by washing their hands with soap, wearing masks if they leave the house, avoiding crowds during a pandemic.” a school leader in Indonesia (13 April 2020)
Having the respect and personal relationships with their students’ families, school leaders are uniquely positioned to guide them on how to support their children at home during this exceptional challenge.
We believe that education systems must define clear roles and supports for school leaders to respond to the impacts of school closures, and support them in advance through the steps to reopening schools whenever that occurs.
Recommendation 1: Clearly define the role of school leaders in crisis response
A key insight from our survey was that school leaders strongly feel responsible for ensuring the welfare of their students during this crisis. This sense of responsibility can be further utilized to support their communities. It is critical that governments set clear guidelines on what is expected of school leaders and well as providing support and resources required to perform their roles.