Extraordinary resilience and service

Moments of incredible teamwork and exceptional service

Executive Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the entire public sector. During this time, many leadership teams have done new, bold things to provide critical services to the public. Below, we learn lessons from the remarkable work done to create new capacity in courts and set up food banks across the country – and what has changed as a result.


Nightingale Courts

Since July 2020, the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has been working rapidly to set up courts and tribunals outside its current estate. Known as ‘Nightingale Courts’, these temporary courts have been set up in venues such as universities, theatres, football stadiums, and hotels to increase capacity during the pandemic. Some of the venues are shown in the pictures above.

Building system resilience

Kevin Sadler, CEO of HMCTS, shares his lessons of leading a team through a dramatic change and building resilience within a system.


A range of changes

“Our response to the pandemic has been to adapt, respond quickly and to learn – we rapidly adopted a combination of measures such as Nightingale Courts, remote working, and carrying out modifications to our estate to maintain justice.”


Personal context comes first

“Keep personal context front of mind. In the past year I’ve witnessed tremendous fortitude and kindness, not least from HMCTS staff and contractors, who have worked tirelessly to keep court and tribunal services running, at times in the face of personal tragedy.”


Consult, listen, and learn

“Communication is key – our response to the pandemic has relied on the support of our partners in the justice system, legal professionals, and the judiciary. Through consulting, listening and learning from our stakeholders, we were able to adapt and respond so quickly to a set of rapidly changing circumstances.”

For more information you can read:

Kevin’s blog post about COVID: one year on.


A national food bank campaign

A map of the country showing the 37 colleges who have been part of the campaign

Further education colleges can be a force of good in their communities. During the pandemic the London South East Colleges (LSEC) started a virtual giving programme to raise money for local food banks. Over 37 colleges nationwide signed up, working with local authorities to have the best impact.

Lessons for non-crisis times

Dr Sam Parrett OBE, Group Principal and CEO of LSEC, led the national initiative. In this article for the National Leadership Centre, Sam describes the leadership challenges during the effort and the legacy it is having as we look ahead and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.


Rivalries put aside

“The campaign was truly representative of the FE sector and the intrinsic role that colleges play within their communities. Any institutional ‘rivalries’ were put aside and the focus was entirely on making the joint campaign as successful as possible.”


“The legacy of #FEFoodbankFriday is therefore far greater than the money raised and the food items collected. We are working hard to be more than just a college that delivers qualifications – and it helped us to demonstrate the potential of this approach to other colleges.”


Connecting locally and nationally

“The campaign provided the opportunity to connect locally and indeed nationally with the wider public sector – including local authorities and the voluntary sector – who are all working to improve lives and deliver social capital.”

Dr Sam Parrett OBE

Dr. Sam Parrett, OBE

Search #FEFoodBankFriday on Twitter to see more examples of the FE community coming together.


Policing during the pandemic

A picture of Martin Hewitt sitting at a desk, smiling.

Martin Hewitt was appointed Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in April 2019, one year before the COVID-19 pandemic. He spoke to NLC’s network of Chief Executives in May 2021 about his key lessons from the crisis.

All about communication

“It’s all about having effective and timely communication; if you can get that bit right, it buys you credit in relation to those things you can’t easily control.”


Understand your critical success factors

“We knew personal protective equipment (PPE) was becoming a major critical issue and we identified this rapidly as a key success criteria for our staff. As a colleague said, “you can’t police at two metres distance.””


Partnership working

“There are some stakeholders that I have needed to build much closer relationships with due to the frequent communication and collaboration that was essential at the time. We now need to reconsider these routines and rhythms, and agree what the right balance is in a post-pandemic world.”


Personal resilience

“I had to be strongly encouraged to take time off myself and really think about how I look after myself. I had a ‘lightbulb moment’ when I realised that you are no use to anybody if you are not making good decisions. A lesson for me is to learn what you can do to relieve the pressure on yourself.”


Read more of the Public Leaders Report 2021