Ruth McKay is Headteacher at Portobello High School, a large comprehensive in the east of Edinburgh.
Ruth began her career as an English teacher and quickly moved into Guidance and Pastoral Care. Following a national secondment looking at new ways to measure progress and improvement in education, she spent time working in a local authority as a Quality Improvement Officer before returning to school as a Depute Head Teacher. This is her second headship.
With a particular interest in responses to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs), Ruth co-organised the highly successful Portobello Learning Festival on this theme in June 2018. A second Portobello Learning Festival will take place in June 2019 on the theme of ‘Changing Relationships, Changing Lives’.
Victoria Tait is Education for Sustainability Coordinator at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
As EfS coordinator, Victoria’s role is to ensure that sustainability is an integral part of both staff and students’ experiences and learning whilst at our University. Victoria works with staff to explore how sustainability links to the curriculum, and supports individual staff members to carry out a funded learning project on a sustainability themed topic of their choice.
Before joining Anglia Ruskin, Victoria spent two and a half years as a Project Manager at SEEd – a Sustainability and Environmental Education charity which helps educators to embed sustainability into young people’s learning.
Now Victoria works with our students to ensure that they feel prepared for the future and are equipped with the relevant sustainability skills. Our aim is for all students at Anglia Ruskin to be offered the opportunity to experience learning based on and around real-world issues, especially those related to environmental sustainability and social responsibility (ethics, well-being, social justice, global citizenship, moral responsibility).
Mike is joined by a former Assistant Chief Constable and a former Chief Constable this week for an extremely helpful update on what schools should be doing around Safeguarding, following some recent changes.
Mike Glanville and Martin Baker founded ‘One Team Logic‘ to provide high quality safeguarding software as a service across a wide range of organisations responsible for protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults. You may have heard or already be using their ‘My Concern’ software.
Throughout his career, Mike led on a number of critical incidents and major crime investigations involving vulnerable children and adults. He was chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board in Dorset and represented the police at the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board. Mike is also an experienced school governor and is currently Chair of Governors at a small primary school in West Dorset.
Martin’s final policing role was as the Chief Constable of Dorset Police. He was awarded HM The Queen’s Medal for Distinguished Police Service (QPM). He is also an experience school governor and a Director of a Multi-Academy Trust.
When Mike and Martin came to the end of their police careers, they wanted to continue to help everyone involved in safeguarding in schools.
“It takes a heavy toll on those people who are responsible for safeguarding if they haven’t got support to do their job and can’t support the young people that they are responsible for because they haven’t got the tools and support to be able to provide the same level of service they feel they really ought to be giving.”
Often, it can feel very lonely in a school safeguarding role because it’s not clear what information you should be sharing and with whom.
In serious case reviews over the past several years, similar themes emerge such as communication – how agencies are sharing or not sharing information with each other. This is one of the areas Mike and Martin are trying to help schools with.
September 2018 Safeguarding updates to be aware of
Ollie Frith is back this week and shares a great conversation with Chris Kilkenny.
Chris’ Twitter bio is: ‘care leaver – speaker/campaigner – passionate about equality – ACES – I am a black box for the failed system’.
Chris came himself from adverse childhood experiences and now uses his experiences to spread the word about ACES and how to take positive steps to alleviate its effects.
Chris is involved in giving keynote speeches and training around ACES. He received no qualifications and as an adult started to question why this happened. He knew he was capable of achieving qualifications so why did it happen and how could he now help other young people in the same position as him? He tries to look into his own ‘black box’ of education to find out what happened.
He attributes his ability to speak about his situation for the benefit of others partly to his character growing up in care homes. He was always loud but he was also always a good listener. He picked up words easily and was able to use them to express himself. So when his own case was being discussed at panel meetings, he was able to pick up the terminology and use it himself.
Chris says that when young people appear to be more capable or questioning adults intelligently, it can be very threatening for the adults.
When Chris turned up at the Job Centre with nothing on his CV, he pointed out to the staff that they should treat him as a blank canvas – they said that wasn’t how it worked. He had talents and skills but didn’t have them on paper.
“He believed in me even though I didn’t believe in myself”
What can schools do to support more children like David Cameron supported Chris?
Chris believes that if more teachers took just 5 minutes a day to ask a young person how they are feeling, to have a normal conversation on a human level, unconnected with school work, their lives could be transformed. This is what happened to Chris’s brother as you will hear in the episode.
“He used to talk to me like I was a human being…he remembered that I was a person.”
The power of love
Chris is open about how he feels those in education should lovetheir students. Love, care and support is what we should be offering to all young people, alongside exam results. Chris asks how we can expect young people who have never experienced a hug to be able to make meaningful human connections when they are adults. When everyone in their lives have given up on them, schools can still give them love, care and support, if they turn up.
Practical steps for schools:
Establish breakfast clubs to tackle inequality
Avoid any payments for activities – it excludes the most vulnerable – instead, get the students to fund raise in the community
Make links with local businesses – one Scottish school has teamed up with local hairdressers, bakers and butchers to support those in greatest need
Listen to Chris’ explanation in the episode for more details on how these schemes make such a difference to young people’s lives – and revolutionise relationships between schools, local communities, young people and their families.
Tara Elie is back on the podcast this week after about a year away! She speaks to Emma Brown, a Practice Development Coach working in Social Care with clients who have learning disabilities and/or Autism. She shares a great deal of her knowledge which is equally applicable to those in mainstream settings who come into contact with children with learning disabilities and/or Autism.
Emma works with the teams who support people with learning disabilities in their homes, to help them to live as independently as possible. She provides training and coaching for the teams.
Positive Behaviour Support Teams
Positive behaviour support works by measuring the function of someone’s behaviour. The data generated helps to identify the reasons for that behaviour and its patterns so we can help clients better. Often the problems Emma sees are linked to the type of support the person is receiving. It’s easy to implement interventions or support which actually exacerbate the behaviour and the Positive Behaviour Support Teams can help with identifying some of these problems.
What Positive Behaviour Support Teams look for
Emma says there are many things the teams look for:
Whether guidelines are being followed
Quality of team management
A good support worker would be somebody who perceives that the person they are supporting is equal to them and as valuable as anybody else.
Person-centred Active Support
This idea developed out of previous culture of support workers doing far too much for the clients and therefore being left with nothing to do for large amounts of the day. They became disengaged and bored.
Person-centred Active Support is about engaging people to be involved in their own lives – in meaningful activities. This could be as simple but important as taking the bins out.
Often the communication styles we favour are not the ones which work best for people with learning disabilities and/or Autism.
Speech is the most complicated way of communicating and once the sentence has come out of your mouth it no longer exists. People with Autism thrive when they have visual types of communication as well as verbal communication. We should back verbal communication up with other kinds of communication such as:
Objects of reference which are particularly good for people with severe learning dificulties
The client’s preferred method of communication can be more effectively delivered as a sequence. Emma describes a physical timetable which uses symbols which can be removed and placed in an attached container as each part of the day passes. This kind of approach improves Independence as it removes the need to ask continuously, “What’s happening next?”
How can we get children with learning disabilities and/or Autism to stop being ‘naughty’
When someone is being ‘naughty’ they are trying to communicate something.
If we can realise the behaviour is not happening for no reason, we can look at behaviour from a different standpoint. People with Autism might be struggling in a classroom situation for a wide variety of different reasons – and they may not be consistent day-to-day. Emma recommends these resources from the National Autistic Society website.
Andy Oliver was appointed as an NQT at Holte School, Lozells, Birmingham in 1998. Holte was graded ‘Outstanding’ in 2009 and 2012, is an Inclusion Quality Mark Flagship School and also recently achieved the Equalities Award.
Andy undertook a variety of pastoral posts at the school including Head of Year, Assistant Headteacher and now Deputy Headteacher. He has also been the the school’s DSL for the last 10 years.
Andy spent a year as an Acting Headteacher for a Primary School in Walsall in 2012 that had gone into Special Measures which then became ‘Good’ within 7 months. He was also part of the ‘Senior Leadership Team of the year’ in the TES Awards in 2012-2013 and recently won a Midlands Education Award for ‘Transforming Lives through Partnerships’.
In this episode we meet Andy and some of the NQTs at his school.
Holte School has just been made a Pivotal Regional Hub School. Andy tells us that when he went on his Pivotal training it wasn’t to revolutionise the behaviour management in the school because they already had an Ofsted outstanding rating. Rather, it was to help the school improve further and to change the school’s approach. Now, all senior staff have been through Pivotal training, Andy runs whole school sessions and all NQTs are inducted into the Pivotal approaches.
The school is now very positive about behaviour management and this is borne out by the comparisons in data between now and before the adoption of the Pivotal ways of working. For example, there have been 10 permanent exclusions in the past 7 years in a school which has a significant amount of behaviour challenges with gang issues in the local community and high levels of mental health problems and crime.
Andy agrees that this success is based on a whole school emphasis on warmth and kindness, right from the initial meet and greet to every lesson.
What has the school been doing with the community?
The BBC and ITV have recently been in Holte to cover the launch of a Police anti knife crime initiative. The school uses metal detecting wands a random sessions every week to ensure the school is a safe environment and this has been championed by the Police across Birmingham. The school has arranged for many outside speakers to come in and talk to the pupils about knife crime including mothers who have lost their children to knife crime and ex-gang members. University criminologists have run staff training sessions on how to divert children from the path to knife culture and the school has an excellent relationship with the Police leading to cross promotion of work. There is a confidential online reporting system for pupils and the combination of their approaches has helped them to tackle the issues.
The school has managed to create a robust, safe environment combined with their caring, kind, warm approach.
“I think that the pupils will work harder and respect people more if they see that we care about them – that we’ve got their interests at heart and that we want the best for them.”
On the basis of this work and other initiatives, Hoilte school have recently won the Midlands Education Award in the category of Transforming Lives Through Partnerships.
Holte’s NQTs: Sameya Bi, Jennifer Campbell and Christina Sutcliffe
Sameya, Jennifer and Christina all agree about the importance of setting high expectations and clear boundaries right from the start – ‘right from the door’. Once these are established, you can start to build relationships with the pupils.
What processes do you go through to keep yourselves grounded and preserve your enthusiasm?
Positive people around you are essential and at Holte there is a great support system – other NQTs, your department. Weekly NQT Programme meetings help where problems can be shared and the realisation that everyone else has similar ones, even with the same pupils is very helpful! This is particularly important because the pupils soon learn that the staff communicate and share which builds consistency.
What advice would you give to new teachers or those starting something new in September?
The NQTs have used resources which are freely available such as:
Facebook, blogs and other social media groups
Twitter – especially for sharing work and getting ideas from others
Conferences where you can meet up with those you have met on social media and concentrate on research-based practice
More tips from the NQTs:
Stay consistent – this will help you and your students who will thrive on knowing exactly what to expect
Treat each lesson as a brand new event, letting go of any baggage from the previous lesson and meeting and greeting all students with a positive tone
Always remember to follow up with pupils- have restorative conversations – approach them and talk about what went wrong
Let things go – reflect on what went wrong but then move on
a.oliver [at] holte.bham.sch.uk (formatted to avoid spam)
For Mike’s last episode of the academic year, he speaks to the remarkable Clare Erasmus who shares her insights around wellbeing – what a great end to a great year!
Clare is Head of Faculty for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Brighton Hill Community School and describes herself as very fortunate to have experienced unconditional love in her upbringing in South Africa. When she arrived in the UK, she didn’t have the urge or the desire to teach until she had her own children and she realised that it was such a privilege to teacher other people’s children.
Having seen discrimination in South Africa, Clare became a champion for equality and leading anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-xenophobia and aniti-homophobia campaigns. Her passion was for finding ways in which young people could speak about and lead work in these areas. This lead her to the world of mental health.
She found a lack of resources in the UK for mental health in the 1990s and 2000s and she found herself championing mental health and wellbeing in schools.
When you are teaching do you adopt different personas?
“When I first started teaching I was trying too hard to be someone else.”
Quite quickly, Clare realised the only way which would work was for her to be herself and the students be themselves. The only differences between her and the learners were:
she had experience
she had insights into the institution they were in
she had good communication skills
Authenticity is vital, for Clare and since she realised this people have gravitated towards her. She also thinks it’s important to share a little bit of vulnerability with students – for example she let them know how nervous she was about doing a recent TED talk.
Why is wellbeing so important to you?
Despite having a wonderful childhood, Clare realised that wasn’t a ticket to having a wonderful life. Everyone has challenges and sometimes everyone can be hit quite hard – which can be a huge shock and you can find yourself crumbling. She discovered resilience which for her means the ability to recognise when things aren’t working and you aren’t feeling great. Even if you look like you should be able to cope, you can’t but you can – and do – ask for help.
Jon is Director of the Acklam Grange Teaching School in Middlesbrough and joined Paul to talk about ‘flipping’ CPD and how it can be done better.
As a teacher, how do I know what I need to know next?
Jon believes that it’s important to build up a toolbox of strategies and skills for teachers – teachers have to be masters of the content but also be able to access the ‘craft of the classroom’ – different techniques, strategies and skills for different lessons, different students and times of the day.
What should the mix be between CPD for a subject and for techniques and strategies?
Jon says there has been a focus on content CPD over recent years due to changes in the curriculum but the techniques and strategy side is equally important.
“We need more reachers than teachers.”
We need to engage with students, to get them on-board and that doesn’t always come from getting the most highly-qualified people into the profession – they also need to be able to reach the students in an effective way.
How do you organise CPD for staff to meet their personal learning objectives?
Jon banned the term ‘CPD’ when he took arrive at Acklam Grange. For him, it has too many negative connotations. He is concerned that a lot of CPD practice would not be tolerated in a classroom with students. He has worked to change the culture around professional development and has developed a brand called ‘AGS Inspire’. All the sessions are delivered in ‘flipped learning’ style. This essentially means that the order of how we teach is reversed and in this context, staff are given content to watch or listen to or read before the training session. This means that, in the session itself, they can spend more time discussing and doing group work on material which has already been learned.
Typically, Jon will send out a shorter than 10 minute video for staff to watch usually of himself speaking to camera explaining a concept or approach. In the face-to-face sessions, the discussion can them be around reactions to the videos, how to apply the technique in the classroom, other points of view etc.
“People learn best when it’s on their own terms, in their own time, when they are ready to learn, not when they are forced to learn.”
What’s the balance between individually-directed CPD and whole-staff?
Acklam Grange still has whole-school professional development – including with outside trainers – when it’s necessary – based on the senior leadership team’s in-depth knowledge of the needs of the staff.
Does technology excite you about the next steps for CPD?
Jon believes it’s most important to have a range of options for staff so everyone has wheat they need. Some teachers would rather read, others would rather watch a video. Technology has opened the door to 24 hour access so teachers who want to access materials in their free periods or at home can do so. If a worker in a manufacturing role had a training need to improve their performance, they wouldn’t be expected to wait for 6 months, so why should a teacher?
What’s the best professional development for a senior leadership team?
Jon says that when you reach senior leadership, it’s very unlikely you will have had any significant leadership development. Leadership is the key to school improvement so it’s very important that leadership development is considered early.
“The better we get in our jobs, the further we move away from what we are good at.”
This is something else which needs to be flipped so emerging leaders get the development they need.
Is social media useful in professional development?
The fact that social media is unfiltered is both the beauty and the danger of it. Jon has found it really positive over the years but he knows it’s possible to get caught in a bubble of like-minded people. You need people who will challenge your own thinking.
Paul met Tony for the first time as part of the TBAP Multi-Academy Trust. He is a headteacher, a consultant, Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching and an expert in working with some of the most vulnerable “and damaged young people.
What do teachers most often get wrong when dealing with the most challenging behaviour?
Tony believes that bad practice in behaviour management is typified by people who feel they need to fix things then and there, before things escalate without really taking on board what’s really going on. Staff who harangue individuals and are ‘loose with language’.
“If they just tell them several times in different tones, louder and louder, it’ll fix it up – and it doesn’t.”
Being loose with language is dangerous because it risks sending a child into a spiral where behaviour gets worse.
What’s the best practice you have ever witnessed?
Tony tells the story of seeing a brilliant practitioner in a PRU reacting to a learner who stated that he was going to ‘trash the place.’ The teacher said, “OK, hun, but just don’t hurt yourself while you’;re doing it.” She then carried on as if nothing else was happening. This is, Tony tells us, incredibly powerful use of language and shows the demeanour of the teacher and the strength of her relationships.
“When a member of staff is at ease with themselves, secure in their own skin, pupils sense that.”
Make pupils feel they are important
“You have to love the job and your pupils in order to do the job we do because it’s incredibly intense.”
Another example of this is the girl from an incredibly difficult home situation who was often absent form the PRU for extended periods. When she re-appeared after being missing for a week, the staff all reacted in the same way. No-one asked where she had been – they all exclaimed her name, welcomed her back and gave her hugs. The result of this is when at leavers’ day, the pupil is sitting in the event, having done all her GCSEs – and her mum is sitting next to her, as Tony puts it ‘in utter pride’. This, for Tony, is what the job is all about.
How can a leader in Alternative Provision help staff to soak up the level of trauma they experience day after day?
Tony believes you have to share the load. Any support staff need, they should receive. He spent a lot of time walking he floor, testing the temperature in classroom and provide opportunities for staff to offload and talk things through when they need to.
“[In a PRU], no matter how prepared you are – you aren’t prepared.”
Why are young people carrying knives and what can we do about it?
Tony thinks we don’t fully understand why young people carry knives.
“A lot of young people live in micro-societies on the estates almost parallel to the world we live in.”
Even a short trip to the shops carries a perceived risk to young people. They feel they need to carry a weapon to protect themselves. They don’t feel they have any future in main society. It’s not necessary to be a member of a gang to be affected by gangs.
We need to be able, on a national level, to provide hope to these young people – we need to keep talking to them. This is particularly true for those who are excluded from school. Once they have been rejected from school, they become prey to the forces which exist in gang culture.
A lot of the time, young people are trying, for example, to help their mothers or families – they need to get money quickly which forces them into illegal activities. There is a feeling that they have been abandoned – theirs are ‘disposable communities’ – there is no hope or chance to change things.
Pivotal Education trainers visit the office to update colleagues on their experiences and areas of work. This week, Ollie has selected some fascinating clips of Senior Trainers Hannah Hall and Alastair Burnett which cover some diverse topics such as gang culture and the new territories Pivotal is working in!