Digital strategy in secondary education: going forward or moving backwards ?

Following lockdowns in 2020 due to Covid-19, schools needed to find a way to ensure the education of their pupils. In order to do this, they engaged in digital learning, to varying extents. Innovations emanated from all school staff including for example: teachers, leaders,  and teaching assistants. Some were already innovating in this area and brought forward and implemented, digital strategies, whilst others engaged with digital learning for the first time. While research is emerging about the effects of the pandemic restrictions on pupils and staff in relation to key issues such as mental health and educational attainment, very little is known about the impact on school leaders’ strategic planning processes. To address this gap, we launched a UKRI funded study adopting a strategy as learning approach to report on 50 qualitative interviews with school leaders to examine digital strategy in English secondary schools, before, during. and after July 2021, when restrictions were lifted in England. The project draws on  strategy as learning literature to evaluate if schools have changed their strategic planning for digital learning, as a direct response to having learned and innovated during the pandemic. The study concludes that there is evidence that digital innovations during the pandemic have changed the ways in which leaders think about their digital strategy, thus supporting a strategy as learning approach. However it also concludes that although there is ample evidence that the pandemic has changed the way many schools view digital learning, that, for some schools, there remain persistent barriers to digital integration and planning. These emanate both from material and cultural considerations, as well as leader vision and belief in digital learning.

You can find out more on the project website at: https://www.open.ac.uk/projects/leading-online-learning/

Author: Professor Dr Jacqueline Baxter

I am Professor of Public Policy and Management at The Open University Business School - Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise and Chair on the MBA programme. My interests lie in the areas of education leadership, management and accountablity and the digital teaching of business and law.

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