Ollie welcomes Pivotal Principal Trainer, Paul Woodward onto the show this week. Paul Dix interviewed Paul shortly after he joined Pivotal Education and we have included some of that conversation this week.
More recently, Ollie had the pleasure of interviewing Paul again to find out a lot more about his educational beliefs and approaches.
Paul has been an international education specialist for over 25 years and has worked in primary, secondary, tertiary and university contexts in the UK, Australia and Africa. He is a published scholar in the field of education and performance, a professional theatre practitioner, and a coach and mentor to various inspirational charity projects around the world. His work with Pivotal supplements his ongoing doctoral research into the uses of storytelling, performance, and disclosure in educational contexts.
Dignity as a male teacher in Africa
Paul has worked extensively with teachers in Africa and one of the most interesting ideas he came across was when male teachers were concerned about losing their dignity as teachers – as as men – if they physically got down to the level of their students to talk to them. He tried to get across to the teachers that being physically low is actually showing your dignity:
“My entire focus is not on my ego at the moment – my entire focus is on what I’m trying to do…to reach a learner…to help them step over that threshold into making better choices for themselves.”
The Power of storytelling for teaching and learning
“Human beings are hardwired for connection.”
Paul believes the quickest way to that connectivity is through stories – it’s how we make sense of the world around us – how we make organise information.
“Why would we not use something within the classroom that involves us, connects us and helps us make sense of the immediate experience of being there in that environment?”
The power of this approach was brought home to Paul when he worked with children who had survived the trauma of war. When he encouraged the children to tell the story of their lives, they became the heroes of their own narratives. This is an extreme example from Africa but Paul believes the same approach can be used with any student who is struggling with their identity, their position in life.
Paul also tells a remarkable story of his time teaching sex education in a school in a tough neighbourhood in Australia. He made himself vulnerable by telling his own story – and the results were amazing.
Paul’s Top Tips for developing rapport
Do listen to Paul explaining each of these:
Smile – if you don’t find smiling natural but you do enjoy being there with the kids – so show them!
Show your humanity – don’t be afraid of being vulnerable – be present – there is power in that
Use of music to influence energy
When we think about our most important moments in life there’s usually a soundtrack of some kind. Paul talks about ‘Relaxing into learning’ which is a phrase he heard a Primary teacher using. This can be helped by using music.
“Music can help us to bypass some of those fears, those anxieties.”
Paul also encourages us to be playful with music to enhance learning experiences, for example ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ in a science lesson on magnesium.
There are so many other stories and great pieces of advice in this interview so do listen carefully!
Many thanks to our ‘180’ guests this week!
Bell Farm School
Ben Povey – Harris Fold School
The Varndean Goats
What an amazing time Nina had in the Time Out Room this week!
Paul really enjoyed talking to her about Sherbet Lemons and what she means by describing herself as a Ninja!
Nina is She is a former teacher and an International Education Consultant. She has a breath-taking grasp of what makes classrooms, children and their teachers tick. She’s a leading practitioner in all areas of Teaching & Learning with particular expertise in Special Educational Needs, Digital Technology and Mental and Emotional Health. Nina has transformed learning and teaching in some of the most challenging schools in the UK as well as working extensively with schools on the international circuit. Winner of the IPDA International Prize for Education and described by the TES as an ‘inspirational, evangelical preacher of education’, Nina is a tour-de-force when it comes to enlivening teaching and learning for all. Nina is one of the happiest, most effervescent personalities in education today and puts her own learning, and the learning of others at the heart of everything she believes in.
It convinced her to proceed to the Pivotal Behaviour Management Instructor Course:
“[The course] gave me the vision I needed to go away and make changes that were needed in my school.”
Jodie isn’t keen on silence in the Time Out Room or in her classroom. She believes that quiet classrooms can create very passive learners and allow those who don’t want to engage to hide very easily.
“I want to see teachers trusting their learners to take a risk and taking a risk themselves.”
However, Jodie recommends a flexibility in the teacher approach and balance because learners need to know how to work in different modes – 1-to-1, in groups and in silence, particularly as students need to be able to take silent assessments.
The punishments Jodie remembers from her own school days were the ‘blanket’ ones – the unfair and actually the least effective ones. She points out that often the right thing to do as a teacher managing behaviour is not the intuitive thing to do.
Jodie was pleased that she experienced very little resistance in changing approaches to behaviour management in her school – she feels that everyone was ready for the changes, which means they were necessary.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we are having conversations now about behaviour not about sanctions.”
Jodie also points out that we have been differentiating learning for a long time but have relied on blanket behaviour management – she believes it’s time to differentiate behaviour management as well.
In behaviour management what skills are we using apart from our voices?
where you stand
the expression on your face
the tone of your voice
when to make eye contact and when not to
Jodie and Ollie talk about taking lessons in silence and seeing if you can just use body language and other cues – and Jody points out she had to do this recently when she contracted laryngitis – and she was observed!
There’s a lot more from Jodie in the episode as well as some Education News and Pivotal News – so do listen right to the end!
We speak to Ceri Stokes about her role as a Assistant Head and Designated Safeguarding Lead at a residential school to find out about how she found herself looking after this crucial area of school life.
Ceri works at Kimbolton School, which is a co-educational day and boarding school of 950 pupils aged 4 to 18. In common with a lot of DSLs, Ceri found herself in the role after the post-holder in her school went on maternity leave. She points out that most DSLs take on the role in order to help children but few realise just how much admin there is to do as well.
“A lot of the role is making phone calls, chasing people and being a nag.”
“It’s really difficult when you have to point out that others are not dong their jobs.”
Ceri makes sure she plans her lessons over the Summer so she can be on the phone sorting out safeguarding issues and then run to her classroom to start a lesson without appearing to prepare for it.
Often, as a DSL, you can be sorting out a huge issue one day and then there’s nothing on you plate the next day – so you can be pro-active – but there’s never really enough time to be pro-active which is what you know you should be doing.
How you do ensure you remain balanced despite the physical and emotional demands of being a DSL?
Ceri runs a girls’ boarding house as well as being DSL so it’s certainly a packed schedule and she admits she doesn’t feel like she manages the balance well but the boarding house is actually what she refers to as ‘her sanity’ because the students share their important life events with her. It’s all ‘normal’ which is a direct contrast to the DSL work where everything always seems to be challenging news.
Ceri also tries to empower her staff to make decisions and tries not to be a control freak with them. So when she’s off-duty she makes sure she really is completely off-duty and the rest of the staff can take decisions without her. She also goes running quite a lot.
“No-one can ring me no-on can email me while I’m running so I quite like that.”
Ceri sees a problem with DSLs not having worked out how they can offload some of the very difficult experiences to others. There is a serious need for supervision for DSLs to ensure their professional and emotional well-being.
How does the Safeguarding Culture work in your setting?
Overt the past 5 years, Ceri thinks the culture around Safeguarding has changed significantly in her school and become much more of a whole-school focus. One of the best things she did was to get her school Bursar (School Business Manager) trained in Safeguarding. This meant that he could take on responsibility for training others like the ground staff and maintenance staff to take the load off Ceri. Also, id Ceri asks for money, her bursar understands what she’s going through and can make decisions based on real knowledge of the needs of the school in this area.
The school also now have a good, secure computer system to share safeguarding information.
“Every Monday morning we have an email coming out from a different member of staff and it can be anything related to keeping children safe.”
So the responsibility is shared – everyone knows that at some point they will have to write the Monday morning email so it keep safeguarding at the front of their minds.
What tips do you have for DSLs working with multi-agencies?
The first thing Ceri did was to phone up the local MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) and arrange for herself to visit them. 6 months later she emailed again and eventually she was able to sit for a morning in the local office and listen to the team answering phone calls and having conversations and meetings. She learned a huge amount.
Ceri didn’t have time to get to know everyone in the Safeguarding system so she organised her own conference and invited everyone she could think of who might have a role in Safeguarding. It was hard work but it meant that she met face-to-face with a lot of people she would work with later.
Listen to the whole episode to discover tips on how to keep up to date as a DSL and plenty more!
In a varied episode, Ollie Frith speaks to Primary Headteacher, Anne Cooper, from Bell Farm Primary.
She has taken her school from ‘Serious Weaknesses’ to a ‘Good’ rating and shares some of her successful approaches.
She felt that the decision on her school’s original rating was made very quickly at the start of the day and then the rest of the inspection was spent justifying that rating. It took Anne and her team only 15 months to reverse the rating and she is very proud of that.
“But really, I’m most proud of the children and staff who were so dedicated to putting things right.”
Anne talks about the importance of changing people’s opinions, perceptions and expectations for the children. There was a history of low aspiration and underachievement before Anne arrives at the school. She then went on to focus on the quality of teaching and learning.
The three people who Anne identifies are crucial to the success of Bell Farm are:
The Chair of Governors, who is a critical friend and is always there for her when times are difficult
The Deputy Headteacher, who Anne made sure was an equal partner in improving the school
Ane’s PA, who is a great support as are the whole admin team who are a very important link to the outside world
This week’s inhabitant of the Time Out Room with Mike Armiger is Daryn Simon. Daryn works in teacher training as well as working in schools. He tells us a little about his classroom philosophy as well as what he would change if he went back into the classroom.
Daryn had his own experience of being put in a special kind of Time Out Room when he was in Year 9 and he remained there for the whole day. It was something to do with wearing the wrong kind of shoes. So perhaps he is the ideal candidate to interview in the Pivotal Podcast Time Out Room.
Reflecting on what eventually persuaded him to leave the classroom – which he did love, Daryn said it was to do with the different priorities he sees in schools now.
“…I just felt as though all I was trying to do was get pupils to pass an exam…it felt as if that was where the pressure was coming from.”
Working with trainee teachers means that Daryn now has the opportunity to visit a lot of different schools which has given him a different perspective. Schools are under the same pressures everywhere and this can filter down to staff and then pupils as well. Some schools are better able to mange this than others, and that means some trainees get a better experience than others.
On behaviour advice for his trainee teachers, Daryn points out that it’s tricky because the trainee has to live and work within the culture of the school they are in. He believes a lot of it comes down to relationships – build positive relationships and you will be off to a great start in behaviour.
Daryn is also concerned by staff rooms and their sometimes negative effect on students. When staff are under stress, it is often vented in the staff room which can be very difficult for students.
If Daryn went back into the classroom, he dosesn’t think he would change his classroom practice a great deal but he would change aspects of his behaviour management and have more courage to challenge what he knows is wrong or not effective.
If he could leave any educational theory or practice in the Time Out Room for ever, Daryl would leave the search for magic bullets in education.
“…we are always trying to find the next ‘best thing’ the ‘what works’ in education whereas actually I see teaching as being far more complex than that.”
There’s a new flavour to this week’s episode as we join Hywel Roberts who finds himself in the Pivotal Podcast Time Out Room.
Hywel reveals more than ever before about himself and his educational thinking in this fascinating trip into the mind of a man who never ceases to educate and entertain.
Paul asks Hywel some very revealing questions and receives some remarkable responses including tales of appearing in front of a uniformed Chief of Police and how effective Hywel’s mother be in the classroom today.
We also have the first in another new series – Pivotal Trainer, James Clark, gives us a rundown of his initial experiences on a 5 day Pivotal Fastrack Instructors Training Programme.
Finally, Paul is back with some Education News which this week includes the content of Education Secretary, Justine Greening’s recent speech to the Conservative Party Conference.
In a very special episode, Chris Dyson returns to the Pivotal Podcast to tell us the full story of his recent Ofsted inspection.
Chris is headteacher of the larger than average size Parklands Primary School, on the Seacroft Estate in Leeds where up to a third of the children join or leave the school in Key Stage 1. 72% of the children are eligible for Pupil Premium support, which is about 3 times the national average and the proportion of children with Special Educational Needs is well above average. The school also has a 14-place facility for pupils with severe learning difficulties and their attainment and progress are included in the overall outcomes for the school.
Parklands was the very first school this academic year to have an Ofsted inspection and when the call came through, Chris was flying drones in year 2.
“I’ve been waiting 3 years for this phone call.”
Chris prefers to think of Ofsted inspections as great CPD and he feels that the school has been ready since last September. He was so excited to receive the phone call that he greeted Ofsted with, “Yabba Dabba Do!”
As the inspection was initially intended to be a one-day process, Chris reassured his teaching staff that there was nothing to worry about – it would all be about the senior leadership of the school.
“How long after the phone call did you get the lamb’s hearts out of the freezer?”
Chris assures Paul that nothing was put on specially for the Ofsted inspectors.
How did the school prepare for the inspectors?
Rather than ‘burning the midnight oil’, Chris and his staff only stayed at school the night before the inspection until 7.30pm. They were already ready. Chris contemplated a hug but stuck to a handshake in the end.
At the first meeting, Chris was pleased and surprised to see that all of the 6 or 7 points the inspectors wanted to discuss were already up on the wall in his office as part of the School Development Plan.
At the end of day 1 Chris knew they had done very well but wasn’t sure if they had done enough to be rated as outstanding. The lead inspector asked him if he wanted to convert to a 2-day inspection so that the school had a chance to go for outstanding. The Ofsted team were happy to do that if he wanted them to. Chris agreed even though it would mean lots of extra stress for the class teachers who would have their lessons observed on the next day.
“What’s the point in just settling for ‘good’ when you can go for something and stretch and challenge yourself? We challenge these children every day so let’s challenge ourselves, let’s really go for it.”
This week, Paul spoke to the headteacher of the school which is at the centre of the Channel 4 series, Educating Greater Manchester, Drew Povey. His school is Harrop Fold in Salford and he became head there at the age of 32.
Harrop Fold was infamous for being ‘the worst school in the country’ when Drew took it over but it is no longer in Special Measures and despite a huge deficit (the largest of any school in the UK) is now thriving. Drew says that the only way through that kind of situation is to focus on the values of the school.
“The culture always comes first before any strategy is put in place.”
How did you start to get the parents onboard?
Many of the current parents were at the school themselves and some didn’t have a very positive experience as students themselves. Drew says he learned quickly that he had to go out into the community – he couldn’t expect the people who lived close to the school to understand what was going on there ‘by osmosis’. So he attended lots of community meetings where he expected to receive negativity at first but over time was able to spread good news about the school. He also instituted open days and gradually managed to create a positive vibe around what the school was doing which encouraged parents to trust them and get involved.
Was it a tough decision to let cameras into the school?
Drew made sure it was everyone’s decision – staff, students and parents. Staff from previous series came into the school and everyone was consulted. This led to a vote and 90% of the school community voted to allow the cameras in.
In fact, a year 9 girl said to Drew that there were always businesses coming in to school to look at leadership and other topics and now they had the opportunity to do this on a national scale – so why not?
One of the biggest talking points of the programme has been the boy who wears make-up in school – why not make him conform?
Drew says that the guidelines are there for children but that we risk not encouraging young people to be individuals, to value and celebrate diversity if the rules are too restrictive.
“[Education] is all about preparing young people for life.”
What are the critical elements of managing behaviour in your school and what’s the impact of social media?
Despite what might appear like ‘soft edges’ on the TV programme, Drew is clear that the boundaries are very clear in reality at his school.
“What we expect of kids is probably what we’re going to get from them.”
Drew talks about a combination of barriers, chances and the belief you set for the students.
Mobile phones are part of school life at Harrop Fold. Drew points out that mobile phones are crucial to how he operates as an adult and he sees it as his responsibility to prepare students for adult life. He is aware of he risks but he believes it is essential to get young pe3ople to use mobile phones responsibly. The children use their phones as learning resources, including social media applications. Drew is aware of he difficulties of always being accessible on social media but he and his staff are proactive in teaching children about social media, how to keep themselves safe and how to get the best out of it.
What’s holding Drew at Harrop Fold after 13 years?
Drew talks about the ‘Salford Spirit’ and says it’s a brilliant place to work. The people there are straight-talking but also the most supportive people he has met.
How does a school get saddled with £3Million of debt?
In 2004-6 the school was spending money to get out of Special Measures. The debt was never meant to be managed by the school itself but a series of circumstances including the global financial crisis meant that it ended up having to pay the whole sum back. There was also an overspend situation and a falling school roll on top of he original debt. Everyone said it couldn’t be paid off. However, the staff came up with brilliant ideas and they started to make huge savings, despite not making redundancies. The school has paid a lot of money back now but it’s not in a sustainable position yet. It’s even impossible for the Harrop Fold to convert to an academy because of its financial position.
Drew has just launched a Just Giving page but is keen to point out that this isn’t connected with the TV programme – they did that because they are proud of their students and their school. However, he is hopeful that businesses who have contacted him as well as other organisations and sources of income may all come together to enable them to finally pay off the debt.
Drew is also about to publish a book and is developing leadership advice for companies which will help the funding effort.