Ollie Frith gives an exclusive insiders’ viewpoint on Pivotal’s Recent Instructors’ Conference this week. There are clips from some of the sessions and lots of inspiration from delegates and organisers.
Ollie encourages us all to Stop, Collaborate and Listen, rather than blindly following ‘what we have always done’.
Siobhan has been headteacher of a Primary school in Morecambe, Lancashire for 14 years. Morecambe is a coastal town with pockets of extreme deprivation from which the school’s intake is drawn. The school has established outstanding Pastoral Support systems and makes excellent use of links with other agencies and sectors. Siobhan works as a member of the County LSCB on projects to improve multi-agency practice, and on her local mental health transformation plan steering group. She contributes articles for TES on mental health and educational issues and gave written and verbal evidence to the recent joint Education and Health Parliamentary Inquiry into the role of schools in promoting positive mental health for children and young people.
This week, Mike talks to Siobhan about her experiences of working in this environment and how the school she leads seeks to ‘close more than one gap’.
How does poverty affect your children and families?
Siobhan points out that you can’t get away from poverty – it pervades everything. She believes that the concept of ‘closing the gap’ is unhelpful because it appears to be suggesting that there’s only one gap. It’s as if the right intervention or support will suddenly ‘magic away’ all of the issues. There is a constant pressure from poverty and the gap widens all the time.
Siobhan mentions the children who have access to a cultural experience bank and social capital that others simply don’t access at all.
“…just going on walks with their parents and talking about the Autumn leaves – these are daily experiences our children don’t get…”
Their vocabulary is severely limited, their life experiences are limited, their ability to take turns and socialise with people is limited but on top of all this, they are hungry and tired, they may have lived with several adverse childhood experiences – all of these things add up to an absolute chasm for these children.
There is a growing group of in-work parents who are struggling financially, particularly because of the complex way benefits are worked out.
What can educational provisions do to help families who are living in poverty?
Siobhan believes we first and foremost have to have hope and optimism.
“The way out of poverty is through a high quality education.”
Siobhan’s school has a set of 5 values which she uses to help all the children. This means that when you visit her school, you will see happy children who are engaged by their teachers and their lessons.
Ashley Mclaren is a criminologist who has recently completed her Master’s thesis. Tara spoke to her about unconscious bias but Ashley has also been influenced by Dr. Karen Graham who has worked on the ‘School to Prison Pipeline’.
Ashley’s thesis is entitled, ‘Black and Blue – an exploration of the work and identity as a civic shield. ‘ She concentrates on the issues of black men versus the police, particularly the use of stop and search from black men’s perspective. Ashley felt there was a lot of research on the numbers of stop and search but not really any on how the black men felt about how they were being treated. There is also some very interesting work around how ethnic minorities are likely to behave when stopped by the police. However, this was US research and all hypothetical – Ashley wanted to see if it applied to the UK and also if it was borne out in reality. So she interviewed 8 black men from 18 – 40 years old. Ashley describes what she found out.
How schools prepare kids for prison
Ashley heard Dr. Karen Graham speak as a guest lecturer on her course. She spoke about how schools are inadvertently preparing ethnic minority and other marginalised kids for prison life.
“It was interesting to see the correlation between schools and what was happening in prison life.”
In the US, 50% of men in prison are black compared with 20% in the population while in the UK, the situation is actually worse – 1 in 10 prisoners are black compared with 2.8% of the population. This is alongside the fact that the highest rates of exclusion in the UK are amongst Gypsy, Romany, Traveller or Irish heritage and Black Caribbean students are more than three times more likely to be permanently excluded.
Some of the themes which emerged in Ashley’s research included:
Family environment – if all you see is crime there is an increased chance you will go into that world (although some react against it of course)
Arbitrary school practices – e.g. having to do PE in silence
Experience of violence – from parents or teachers
Segregation – educational exclusions, school exclusion and physical isolation
Tara Elie welcomes Emma Brown back shortly after her previous visit to answer some questions about autism from podcast listeners.
Emma is a Practice Development Coach working in Social Care with clients who have learning disabilities and/or Autism. The answers to the questions posed are 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.
The Classroom Environment Emma begins with practical tips about the use of classroom space for teachers who work with autistic children. These include the fact that adults are part of the classroom environment themselves and aspects of our classrooms such as lighting are not usually considered – but they can have a dramatic influence on the learning experience for children on the Autism Spectrum.
Listener Questions Glenn Martin from Manor School asks: As a classroom teacher how can we support students on the Autism spectrum to be in mainstream education?
Jonathon Piltcher from Brompton Academy asks: How can we encourage creativity and unlock it when some autistic children don’t think they can be or have been told they can’t?
Restorative Practice for those with Autism
Emma shares some remarkable insights in this area including the concept that the best restorative conversations are often with the staff, rather than with the students.
Finally, Tara explains the idea of Social Stories which can help those with ASD enormously.
This week, Paul speaks to Elaine Halligan. The London director of The Parent Practice, Elaine has been a parenting facilitator since 2006, teaching parents in the Wimbledon and Clapham centres.
She works in schools and nurseries, coordinates our corporate and business seminar programme and works with special educational needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.
Elaine came into parenting thinking she should instinctively know how to parent. She sought parenting advice when she felt guilty when she thought she had done a ‘bad job’ and ashamed when she saw someone else parenting the way she wished she could. Being a parent is the most demanding job she has ever done but equally it is a role filled with joy.
Elaine has helped hundreds of families to understand their child’s unique temperament and motivates parents to bring out the best in children and teenagers to ensure they have the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and be able to cope with life’s knocks.
One of the most powerful aspects of the interview with Elaine is when she tells the remarkable and shocking story of her own son’s experience in education. From the moment he entered nursery school, he had difficulties. Elaine had to move him between private and state schools as well as special school settings until finally finding a school which could give him what he needed. He was initially labelled as ‘the naughty one’ and it was a long time before Elaine realised that her son was not the problem – he hadproblems. He was ‘hard wired’ to get attention from people, which led to some very difficult situation. It was these experiences which led Elaine to leave her job and devote her time and talents to helping her son and his teachers – and then to helping other parents.
“If you have a child who is different, you are judged.”
Elaine also had to cope with a plethora of bewildering diagnoses. She was told her son had all kinds of different conditions:
Attention Deficit Disorder
Sensory Integration Dysfunction
Oppositional Defiance Disorder
Pathological Demand Avoidance
Pragmatic Semantic Language Disorder
What can teachers do to help?
Eliane explains one of the concepts she thinks is useful in helping children to raise their self esteem – which is based on an understanding of a function of the brain referred to as the Reticular Activating System.
“Once you start looking for the positives, you’ll find them.”
The RAS searches for what you are focussing on. So, when you buy a new car, you see lots of the same model each time you go out. Similarly, if you start actively looking for the positive in learners, you suddenly find you see it all the time. The brain filters out what it sees as unimportant to you. Humans are hard-wired to look for mistakes and point them out but we can subvert this by training yourself to look for positive things.
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.