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Christine Chesworth

We can rise to the Covid-19 challenge if we focus on wellbeing and innovation, says Christine Chesworth, Head of HR Advisory at Capita.

Covid-19 has transformed the education landscape in just a matter of months. Across the UK, schools have been closed for months at a time, taking learning out of the classroom and onto a screen for a whole generation of students.

The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging all of us in education, but the issues are particularly acute in human resources. How can we keep our community safe? What happens to employees who work from home, or who are absent? Do our policies support employee wellbeing and engagement even in periods of rapid, ongoing change?

At Capita, we’ve identified three key challenges that education leaders must be ready to face in the months ahead:

We need to do more with less

Covid-19 has hit school budgets hard. One of the key challenges that schools are facing is how to do more with less. According to one survey, English secondary schools have spent an average of £720,000 on Covid-19-related costs, including extra teachers, cleaning and support staff, safety equipment and technology.

Schools are implementing huge numbers of employee changes due to furlough schemes, redundancies, absences and remote working. Outsourcing can help HR teams by:

  • Managing bigger workloads more efficiently 
  • Offering employees access to enhanced services such as helpdesks 
  • Providing access to industry expertise amid changing guidance from the Government on education policy
  • Implementing new ways of working and flexible, cost-effective pricing models. 

Industry analyst Nelson Hall predicts an increase in HR outsourcing in response to pressure on HR budgets and the need for greater agility to adapt to business changes. Within education, GlobalData found that educational organisations are increasingly turning to cloud providers, service providers and specialist consultancies to deliver digital projects.

We must prioritise wellbeing

Education is on the front line of the current pandemic, with staff facing huge uncertainty and ongoing changes. It’s no wonder, then, that 52% of teachers and 60% of senior school leaders say their mental health has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Leaders must prioritise employee wellbeing and engagement, or risk lower performance and higher turnover. It’s crucial to provide staff who are working remotely or shielding at home with the right technology, including secure network connections, applications that allow them to collaborate with colleagues and students, and access to virtual learning platforms, and the training to use it effectively. It’s also important to encourage people to check in regularly with their managers and each other, so that they stay connected and have the chance to talk if they want to.

It’s also essential that all staff receive clear, regular communication about ongoing changes. Rapidly changing guidance from the Department for Education and local authority can make this difficult, so don’t be afraid to seek expert advice. A specialist HR consultant such as Capita can provide invaluable, up-to-date advice on supporting staff members who are shielding or pregnant, for example.

Don’t stop moving

Schools and colleges have done an amazing job of quickly adapting to huge operational changes. While the pandemic will eventually end, the education sector may never return to the old ‘normal’.

It’s critical that they harness the IT solutions that they’ve embraced during 2020 to manage their people effectively and adapt their working practices and teaching delivery to meet staff and students’ needs.

These technologies, such as secure remote access, mobile devices, cloud-based applications and automation, offer opportunities to increase engagement among staff and pupils. They also open up new opportunities for flexible working to be an effective option. They’re here to stay and they need to be harnessed and developed.

As the number one technology provider to schools, Capita is uniquely placed to advise education providers on how technology can help them to meet the pandemic’s challenges. To learn more about how we can help you to deliver effective HR & Payroll services during Covid-19, get in touch.

Written by


Christine Chesworth

Head of HR Advisory, Capita

Chris Chesworth is the Head of HR Advisory Services at Capita HR Solutions. With expertise in change management, employee relations and employee engagement. Chris takes a pragmatic approach to people management, leading on change management programmes to improve the effectiveness of HR services, and bringing the spotlight onto the relationship between HR strategy and the achievement of business objectives. Chris has worked in HR within the private and public sectors and leads Capita’s UK-wide HR delivery service, working for Capita since 2001.

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