IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


VIRTUAL EVENT: School leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic

23 November 2020, 2:30 pm–3:10 pm

School leaders talking. Photo by Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

What has the experience of the past few months taught us about leading schools through a crisis – about the skills required and the impact on individual leaders?

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Kate Thomas

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Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, schools already had a much broader role than is often recognised, but the pandemic has thrown the breadth of that work into sharp relief. The task of educating and assessing pupils faced immediate and major disruption, while many schools found themselves responding to family hardship, including by co-ordinating the delivery of food to those in need.

Throughout the lockdown, school leaders were on the frontline: suddenly interpreting large volumes of evolving national guidance, supporting staff in adapting to new ways of working, reassuring pupils and families through uncharted, stressful and sometimes distressing times. As schools re-open, those same leaders have been helping their school communities to adapt once again.

What has the experience of the past few months taught us about leading through a crisis – about the skills required and the impact on individual leaders? And how can the research literature help us navigate this difficult terrain? 

We’ve brought together experts on school leadership to share their knowledge and take your questions.


Image: Photo by Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

About the Speakers

Dr Sandra Leaton Gray (Chair)

Associate Professor of Education at UCL Institute of Education (IOE)

Sandra is an applied sociology of education specialist and has published extensively on issues of education professionalism, professional training, education policy, the knowledge economy, curriculum, biometrics and children, artificial intelligence in education and conceptions of time in education.

She has served as an education consultant and advisor to national and international organisations including the UK Government, the European Commission, the International Baccalaureate Organisation and the UK's Royal Colleges of Medicine. Sandy is currently directing the My Life Online research project, investigating young people and their social media algorithms.

Prior to joining the IOE, she held posts at the Universities of East Anglia and Cambridge. Her recent publications include Invisibly blighted: the digital erosion of childhood (2017, with Andy Phippen) and Curriculum Reform in the European Schools: Towards a 21st Century Vision (2018, with David Scott and Peeter Mehisto).

More about Dr Sandra Leaton Gray (Chair)

Roger Pope

Chief Executive Officer at Education South West

Roger is the Chief Executive Officer of Education South West, an academy trust of ten Primary and Secondary schools, and previously Principal of Kingsbridge Community College which he led to an outstanding Ofsted judgement, and to designation in the first cohorts of Teaching School, Research School and NPQ licensee.

He was a founding member of the South West Headteacher Board. He was seconded on a half-time basis as the Chair of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL),  providing strategic advice to senior officials and ministers on all aspects of policy within NCTL’s remit, and acting as an advocate for the further development of the school-led system. He chaired groups to reform NPQs and develop the early Career Framework.

Roger chairs Leading Schools South West, one of the first groups to gain a licence to run NPQs, is a National Leader of Education, and a Visiting Professor at the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership. He is currently working for the British Council on school leadership projects in Algeria and Lithuania. In 2016 he was awarded a CBE for services to education.

Professor Qing Gu

Professor of Leadership in Education at UCL Institute of Education (IOE)

Qing joined the IOE as Director of the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership and Professor of Leadership in Education in October 2018. She is the Past Chair of the British Association of Comparative and International Education (BAICE) (2016-8), Associate Editor of the International Journal of Educational Development (IJED), and Co-Editor of Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice. Qing is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change (APCLC) and Honorary Professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the Education University of Hong Kong, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Before Qing joined UCL, she was Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham where she started her academic career as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2004 upon completion of her PhD at the University of Birmingham.

More about Professor Qing Gu