The problem

The pandemic has dramatically changed the landscape of school education and the nature of the relationships that underpin it.

Under significant stress, parents, teachers and school leaders have had to renegotiate their terms of engagement; parents have had to step into roles previously ‘outsourced’ to professionals, and teachers have had to find new ways of working.

At the same time, young people have become less directly engaged – and more dependent – than ever, their experience varying dramatically according to factors completely out of their control.

Given how dynamic the situation has been and how difficult it has been to address some people’s experiences, we don’t yet fully understand just how things have changed, nor what might need to be done to rebuild.

There is now an opportunity to rethink how schooling is done, who delivers it, and what it seeks to achieve.

The solution

A qualitative research model to explore the hidden dynamics of the school system.

The Relationships Foundation is listening to the authentic voices of young people, parents, teachers and leaders and their experiences of lockdown.

Their discussions are framed to explore key parts of the current education and learning system; for example, what parents found when they tried to engage with their child’s curriculum more closely, how the cancellation of exams has changed the way people perceive of assessment, and how the nature of lockdown has changed people’s view on what children need to thrive.

The team will ensure that it is the community’s voice itself that is heard, rather than those who all too often speak on their behalf. This will provide a snapshot of how participants feel at this particular moment in time.

Work in action

The Relationships Foundation is building a picture of how young people, parents and teachers relate to the education system in which they each play a key role.

Through a series of carefully facilitated (online) discussion groups and a thematic analysis of the outcomes, they hope to identify how some of the needs that have emerged out of the lockdown might be addressed.

By doing so, they aim to provide key data to inform system transformation, to enable all young people to thrive in life, not just exams.

“This shutdown experience has marked a shift in parents both appreciating what schools do, and also understanding what they need to be doing better – namely engaging us as parents and treating us like adults rather than ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. I want to be seen as a partner by the school rather than an annoying parent who needs to relax and trust the teachers.”

Parent of a primary school-aged child.

“The thing is that the technology was fun for two weeks, but now they’ve come back they’ve made it abundantly clear to me that the whole thing sucked. They know that being together is what matters at school. I would just take all the technology out.”


The Big Changers

Ben Gibbs, Head of Programmes

As Head of Programmes, Ben Gibbs ensures the Foundation’s projects run smoothly and deliver against expectations. He has taught and worked in educational policy and assessment, and consulted on curriculum, leadership and organisational strategy. He holds postgraduate qualifications in teaching, educational leadership and organisational consultancy.