Category Archives: Podcast

Is your child different? Sam’s Story with Elaine Halligan – 209

Elaine Halligan
Elaine Halligan

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 had problems. 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:

  • Autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Sensory Integration Dysfunction
  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder
  • Pathological Demand Avoidance
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • 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.

Elaine’s book – My Child’s Different

@ParentPractice on Twitter

Ruth McKay – Grass roots to open sky – 208

Ruth McKay
Ruth McKay

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’.

Making Sustainability Sustainable in Schools with Victoria Tait – 207

Victoria Tait
Victoria Tait

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).

The SEEd campaigned to change the education act to realign to purpose of education around the ethos of ‘care’. Althpough initially unsucessful, the campaign has now been taken up by environmental campaigner, Chris Packham in his manefesto.

Care for one’s self

Care for others

  • Think about people on the other side of the world and how what we do affects them
  • Think about the impact of the products you choose to buy – have they been produced sustainably?
  • Link up with others via The World’s Largest Lesson and learn about the Sustainable Development Goals

Care for the environment

  • Recycling is important but there’s so much more
  • Reduce the energy we use and consider how we are getting the energy we use – is it a sustainable source and if not can we change to a more sustainable source?
  • Investigate Ashton’s Less CO2 schools energy reduction programme
  • Make sure everyone in the school is involved

Safeguarding in Education – Lessons will be learnt – 206

Mike Glanville
Mike Glanville
Martin Baker
Martin Baker

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

Mike and Martin go through the changes we all need to be aware of in the episode.

“If you Google ‘Lessons will be learnt, you’ll probably get about 4 million hits.”

Top tips for Designated Safeguarding Leads

Always begin with the end in mind – have you got a plan and does it reflect beginning with the end in mind?

“Every school has a school improvement plan – have they also got a safeguarding improvement plan?”

Where to start for DSLs:

  1. Government leadership and management – are you clear that safeguarding is a priority and what is your plan for turning this into something tangible?
  2. Prevention – what do I need to know to prevent things happening?
  3. Recording concerns – how and who by?
  4. Case management – end-to-end processes.
  5. Information management – security and sharing and retention.
  6. People and teams – are you clear about the support you offer to everybody?
  7. The Big Picture – how can you see trends?
  8. Lessons learnt – how do you embed lessons from your own professional practice and recent research?

How helpful are technological systems for managing safeguarding in a school?

Mike and Martin believe that technology is useful because:

  • It is a very secure way of storing data – arson and burglaries in the UK at schools is a significant risk to paper records
  • It enables a reliable and robust record of what’s happened – particularly around chronology
  • It can help you identify trends more easily

“No technology  is a substitute for good safeguarding practice but it can help you massively.”

KCSIE free resources


The Power of Loving Young People And Haircuts With Chris Kilkenny – 205

Chris Kilkenny
Chris Kilkenny and David Cameron

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.

Fortunately, Chris came across someone who spotted his skills and his potential – David Cameron who has appeared on the Pivotal Podcast himself.

“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 love their 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.

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Do we know enough about Inclusion? Tara Elie speaks to Emma Brown – PP204

Emma Brown
Emma Brown

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:

  • The culture
  • Values
  • Behaviours
  • Whether guidelines are being followed
  • Team coherence
  • Communication methods
  • Consistency
  • 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:

  • Sign language such as Makaton
  • Symbols such as line drawings of objects
  • Photographs of objects
  • 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.

Holte School – Transforming Lives through Partnerships – PP203

Holte School
Holte School

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:

  • TES programmes
  • 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] (formatted to avoid spam)

Holte School tel. 0121 566 4370

Clare Erasmus – Wellbeing Warriors! PP202

Clare Erasmus giving her TED talk!
Clare Erasmus giving her TED talk!

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 Tait – Professional development and the C bomb – PP201

Jon Tait
Jon Tait

As we start a ‘new era’ for the Pivotal Podcast (actually it’s just that we have gone past episode 200…), Jon Tait makes a very welcome return.

You can listen to his first interview on the podcast here.

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.

Jon’s books:
100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers – Engaging Learners
Senior Leadership

Tony Meehan – Working in the shadow of Grenfell – PP200

Tony Meehan
Tony Meehan

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.”

  • Use language
  • Use humour
  • 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.


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