What a year 2020 was!  It is still strange to think that, at this time last year, we sat at our desks planning for a year that would most definitely not unfold as foreseen.  We worked together as a team to set goals and make plans that would be thrown into complete disarray by a global pandemic, school closures and national lockdowns.  Unknown to us, 2020 was to become a year consumed by masks, zoom calls, handwashing and sadly, fear, chaos and often injustice.  However, I am super proud and privileged to share that it was also a year of innovation, of flexibility, of growing, learning, sharing and solidifying our vision that intends to support all children to thrive and succeed.

Disruption is rarely comfortable.  In 2020, disruption pushed our team to the edges of what we thought we knew, and raised deep probing questions around how we understand learning, teaching, quality and leadership.  As a team we realized that, if we used the disruption wisely, it would help us rediscover a deep understanding of our vision and purpose, and refocus on what is most critical.
I believe that is what we’ve seen unfold in the education sector this year, and below are four key lessons emerging that we will carry forward into our programming for 2021.
1. Parents at the center.
Parents are key partners in children’s learning and thriving – we need to understand how we can better empower and equip parents to support their children’s learning and well-being, even in the most adverse circumstances.  With support from our School Leaders, 97% of parents of Dignitas learners were able to utilize important resources and routines to support their child’s learning at home during school closures.  We must consider how we maintain this engagement, even as schools reopen.
2. Well-being is a foundation for learning.
Learning is only meaningful if a child’s most basic needs are taken care of, including their socio-emotional needs.  Socio-emotional learning must take center stage in the recovery period.  As we tackle school reopening, anxiety levels are high, and many learners (and teachers) have faced trauma during school closures –  trauma as a result from hunger, increased exposure to domestic violence, or even to illness and death.  To ignore this, is to neglect learning and to ensure that trauma becomes a roadblock to children’s ability to thrive.
3.  Leaders matter.
We can no longer fail to invest in leadership.  Crisis, disruption and recovery call for a strength of leadership to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive.  Organisations that have thrived during the 2020 series of crises have done so due to a strength of leadership.  You can read more of our thoughts on how school leadership has shifted and developed here.  Leadership is not just a smart investment but also a cost-efficient investment – make sure you check out Global School Leader’s Evidence Review.  We had the privilege to contribute to the Education Commission’s Education Workforce Report on Leadership in 
COVID-19 – read to find out more about school leadership experiences around the world during crisis.
4. We cannot ignore injustice and inequity
Finally, there is a rising call for equity, and therein lies our rallying call for 2021 and beyond.  We must continue to recognize and address the inequity that 2020 brought to the surface.  We must apply the lens of social justice to our work, especially for children typically left behind, who deserve every chance to thrive and succeed.  Education is both in need of justice, and a means to justice.
As Dignitas, we are inspired and motivated to take these four lessons learned and equip our school leaders for the year ahead.  Our school leaders need competencies to help them address each of these, and our intention is to support them to do this, and to do it well, so that all schools can become viibrant places for children to thrive and succeed in 2021.