Q&A with Jon Severs, Editor of Tes
1. Tes is undergoing some major changes, can you tell us a bit more about those?
Since 1910 we have been serving schools and teachers and as the profession has changed, so have we. Right now, we want to ensure we are as close to our vision of being a key information source for schools as possible. We have focused our content even more on the issues that impact schools so that we have the answers to any question a school might ask whether policy, pastoral, leadership, compliance or teaching and learning. Our move to being all-digital means we can meet our audience where they are and be available whenever they need us. It’s a refinement of what we do, rather than a major change.
2. How has the role of Tes had to change to support teachers and school leaders in modern times?
We have had to become more school-led. In the past, our content was very much about telling schools things we thought they should know. Under Gerard Kelly, Ann Mroz and now me, we have shifted our content to be dictated by the sector: What do they want to know? How can we make things easier for those in schools?
So, now we have a news team finely tuned to deliver the answers schools need, we have an analysis team that explains the news and contextualises it, and we have a teaching and learning team that finds and explains the latest thinking from research and practice from the classroom.
3. What do you see as the role of Tes in the Scottish education sector?
We want Tes to be an information service for everyone in schools in Scotland, we want to keep readers up to date, reflect their experiences and help them navigate the many challenges of the job. It covers all sorts of things including live coverage of big announcements, in-depth analysis of topical issues, interviews with influential and innovative figures in all corners of the sector, and summaries of lengthy reports broken down into the essentials school leaders need to know.
4. How much of an impact has social media had on the role Tes plays and the work you do?
Social media is a complex tool for a journalist. On the one hand, it can highlight real problems in the system that we need to address and be a fantastic route into the profession. On the other hand, it is not representative of the sector - far more people in schools don’t use Twitter than do. So, we need to be cautious about whether particular viewpoints and debates on Twitter reflect what is important to the profession as a whole. Of course, it can also be a fantastic way to build new relationships and share experiences and content - the World Cup of Scenic Scottish Schools which we ran on Twitter just before Christmas, for example, was great fun and schools threw themselves into it.
5. What’s the average week like being the editor of Tes – how do things all come together with the magazine?
Much like a headteacher, you can start your week thinking everything is in hand, then a few government announcements later you are running around trying to make sense of everything! But my main focus in the week is to ensure our team of fantastic journalists is able to get on with their job. That could mean helping out on individual stories, or it could mean keeping everything that may distract them off their agenda. I also spend a lot of time talking to the sector, getting feedback about what we do, ensuring we are producing work at the quality and frequency schools require. We are always improving and my week is mainly spent ensuring that the improvements we make are in the interests of schools.
6. How can Scotland’s school leaders feed into what is covered in Tess?
If you think other educators around the country would like to hear about something you want to share, then get in touch with our Scotland editor Henry Hepburn (email@example.com) or reporter Emma Seith (firstname.lastname@example.org). They cover the news daily and are very active, and reachable, on Twitter through their own accounts (@Henry_Hepburn @Emma_Seith) or through the @TesScotland account.
School leaders can also contact Helen Amass, Tes commissioning editor for teaching and learning (email@example.com or @Helen_Amass on Twitter).
We try to respond to all queries as soon as we can, although at busy times this might take a week or two, although we deal with urgent news much more quickly.
8. Are Tes reporters interested in visiting schools? How should a school get in touch if they’d like you to visit? What’s important on the visit?
Absolutely. This was a crucial part of the Scotland team’s remit pre-Covid and something we’d like to build up again. Also, they’re not limited to the Central Belt - Henry and Emma have always been determined to cover issues and stories throughout Scotland. When visiting a school, they’d typically need at least two to three hours to speak to a range of staff and students and get a feel for the topic they’re writing about. As a first step get in touch and provide a brief outline of what is happening at your school and why you’d like them to visit.
9. How do you see the future for Tes?
My aim is for this magazine to be the critical friend for the sector and I don’t think we will ever stop striving to achieve that. We will continue to evolve. The teaching profession never stands still and neither should we.