Schools' Top 9 Priorities for the Remainder of 2021

Schools' Top 9 Priorities for the Remainder of 2021

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Matthew Ward
Published: 26th February 2021

Blink

And just like that, 2021 will have been and gone. Time is slipping away, so it’s high time we discussed schools’ priorities for the rest of the year.

The State of Selling to Schools 2021

We recently conducted some in-depth research at the juncture of schools and school providers.

With responses from over 2,600 educators, the State of Selling to Schools report is a window to educators’ goals.

What could be more important, or provide more clarity, to businesses in the education sector than school staff’s input?

By gathering educators’ opinions, we’ve uncovered what schools will be focusing on, their most important influences, and who is leading the strategic decisions.

For education suppliers, this means seeing precisely where your products and services fall on the ladder, who you need to be speaking with, and how much influence your target audience has over school strategy.

School’s Top 9 Priorities for 2021 Ranked

  1. Supporting Emotional and Mental Wellbeing
  2. Reducing Learning Loss and the Attainment Gap
  3. Improving Attainment and Results
  4. Teacher Training and CPD
  5. Improving Attendance
  6. Improving SEN Support
  7. Updating Technology
  8. Improving Behaviour
  9. Improving School Facilities

School Strategies

If most schools didn’t have a strategy in 2019/2020, they certainly have one now.

95% of educators that responded to our survey stated their school has a strategy, and 88% believe their school has a clear vision for the year ahead.

No one liked being caught out by the pandemic last March and, to the extent to which they can prepare, teachers don’t intend on being blind-sided by any more unforeseen circumstances in 2021.

Educators were no strangers to hard graft pre-pandemic, and it’s taken an enormous amount of work to get schools to a place where they can continue to deliver classes, let alone plan for the future.

After the turmoil of 2020, you better believe schools and teachers don’t intend on coasting through 2021 on autopilot. There’s a plan, and they’re going to stick to it.

Sprint recommends:

Getting on board!

Schools likely have a firm plan for their budgets in 2021, and it isn’t likely to be reallocated no matter how persuasive your pitch or demo.

The best thing you can do this year is to link your products and services to schools strategic objectives.

Read on to figure out what key objectives are going to tick the boxes for this year.

The Top 3 Priorities for Schools in 2021/22

First and foremost, the schools’ strategies will focus on caring for pupils’ needs.

Just under 80% (79.8%) of respondents cited this as the most significant influence on their school’s strategy.

For 2021/22, that means supporting emotional and mental wellbeing and tackling learning loss.

Teachers have done a phenomenal job at delivering lessons online, and online education resource providers stepped up their game to help ensure there was plenty of content for teachers and pupils to digest during remote learning.

Still, the interruption to classroom learning, access to school meals, limited social interaction, and the in-person support of school staff and teachers will have taken its toll on every student, impacting disadvantaged students most severely. It may be months or years before we fully understand the implications of the disruption on students, schools, mental health, the economy and beyond.

That said, a majority, 67.9% or nearly 1,800 of the educators we surveyed, cited supporting emotional and mental wellbeing as one of their school’s top priorities, closely followed by reducing learning loss (62.1%) and improving attainment (61.7%).

Sprint Recommends:

2021/22 is about acknowledging the hard work to be done tackling learning loss and mental health for both pupils and teachers.

Aim to link your services to these objectives and back up your claims with tangible results.

If your services can genuinely lighten workloads, help pupils catch up, or enable crucial conversations surrounding pupils’ and teachers’ emotional wellbeing – shout about it!

Beware of exploiting the dire needs of educators and children on this front as a marketing ploy. That is asking for trouble.

Bonus points go to businesses that can connect all three.

Children who are nourished and supported mentally, emotionally, and physically will generally achieve higher attainment levels and have greater success at overcoming learning loss.

Schools’ Second Tier Priorities for 2021/22

The top three priorities cited by educators were determined to be a priority by more than 60% of respondents. This we’ll consider the top tier.

Schools second-tier priorities all garnered support from at least 20% of educators.

In order these are:

  • Teacher training and CPD (27%)
  • Improving attendance (22.3%)
  • Improving SEN support (21.3%)

Teacher Training and CPD

Every year training and CPD are much needed, and every year the same obstacles stand in the way.

Budgets are tight, teachers have limited time, and arranging cover presents an additional cost and consideration.

2020 would have been no exception to the rule with budgets redirected to cover expenses brought on by COVID, teachers working harder than usual to adapt to remote learning, and cover being even more scarce as groups of educators self-isolate for weeks at a time.

However, the need for training has never been greater, especially regarding technology and supporting SEN pupils. Coupled with increased screen time due to subsequent lockdowns, 2020 was a bumper year for online CPD and webinars.

Improving Attendance and SEN Support

Of course, improving attendance for this year is a likely candidate for schools’ top priorities.

After a year of disruption, extended absences, difficulty setting up remote learning for disadvantaged students, and the distractions that come with remote learning – it’s easy to understand why teachers are eager to see their students present in the classroom.

At the very least, teachers are looking for ways to keep students engaged.

While schools have remained open to vulnerable students, and special schools are open where possible, there is a severe need for improved SEN pupils’ support.

When teachers cannot deliver the planned lessons and support required by SEN pupils, support staff or staff with inadequate training are substituted in their place out of ease and cost-efficiency. Still, these individuals are ill-equipped to deliver the same level of instruction.

So, despite potentially being able to attend classes, SEN pupils may still be left feeling undervalued.

Sprint Recommends:

Schools’ second tier of priorities all meet at a crossroads when it comes to training.

Training and CPD in behaviour management and SEN pupils’ support can maximise schools’ resources by supporting multiple strategic priorities through an individual course.

CPD providers and school management solutions should aim to make training available online. While also demonstrating how well-trained teachers equipped with the right tools will cultivate engaged, well-behaved students who feel valued, thus delivering on attainment and results-oriented goals.

Schools’ Third Tier Priorities for 2021/22

Bringing up the rear, schools’ third-tier priorities are:

  • Updating technology (19.1%)
  • Improving behaviour (16.7%)
  • Improving school facilities (16.4%)

Improving School Facilities

While these may be the bottom three in our rankings, nearly 20% of all of our respondents had them as a top priority somewhere on their list. That’s not an insignificant figure.

At the very least, 435 respondents are making improving their school facilities a top concern this year.

It’s not difficult to see why facilities might not make the grade for some schools; they’ve been underutilised over the previous year. But with a light on the horizon, plenty of schools will be looking to welcome students and staff back with a revitalised campus.

Updating Technology

At the top of tier three stands ‘Updating technology’.

Undoubtedly, remote learning has brought many schools’ attention to how inadequate their technological solutions were to deal with the sudden demand for internet connectivity and remote education on a large scale.

School network and IT managers may well be the unsung heroes of 2020.

All schools needed to deploy remote teaching rapidly to maintain the pace of learning. With a fresh perspective on technology, schools will be a lot less fearful of adopting new software and hardware in the future.

Teachers now have the savvy to determine which solutions will make a real impact on results and which won’t.

They will need this new understanding to scrutinise the vast number of new entrants into the education software and technology space.

Improving Behaviour

Teachers might be taking the ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ stance with this topic.

Students’ behaviour will have taken a nosedive over the last year in and potentially out of school.
The lack of structure, plentiful distractions, and teachers’ inability to adequately police behaviour during remote learning will have created bad habits. There are limits to what teachers will be able to do about student behaviour while at the end of a webcam.

But you can bet behaviour is on educators’ radar. It’s certainly important enough to warrant a place in teachers top concerns for 2021.

While remote learning continues, they’ll be looking for ways to manage behaviour remotely. However, with a return to school on the horizon, solutions for reforming behaviour in the classroom will soon take priority.

Sprint recommends:

Laying the foundations for a strong return!

If you’re in the business of providing tech, behaviour management solutions, or facilities/premises services and products, consider firing up the marketing machine.

There’s plenty of work to be done regarding getting students reintegrated, which means teachers have a lot on their plates, but now is the time to reintroduce your business to educators.

Begin building relationships, and start having conversations sooner rather than later. As we’ve discussed on the blog before; if you sit on the sidelines too long, you risk losing ground to competitors, or worse, falling into obscurity.

But beware, especially if you’re a tech or software provider, they’re coming back from this last year smarter and more tenacious.

If you’re not providing real value, they’ll know – and so will you.

Talk to us:

If you’re ready to get off the bench and back into the game for 2021 and beyond, why not shoot us a message so we can chat strategy, and share with you what we’ve learned in the past year?

Get in touch.

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Education Marketing

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