Dave Whitaker on how to create and use ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ in your School

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Ollie Frith
Ollie Frith

This week, Ollie Frith spoke to Dave Whitaker, Executive Head at Springwell Special Academy in Barnsley.

Unconditional positive regard for students

This is something which has been borrowed from the counselling and therapeutic areas. It’s a metaphor, an ethos or a set of values – it should be something you see and feel as you walk round the building. It’s all about being authentic, showing that you really do believe in the children.

Dave Whitaker
Dave Whitaker

Dave points out that people pay lip service to their value statements – it isn’t borne out every day in school.

Authentic care

This is a phrase coined by some visiting headteachers and Dave has now adopted it. It led him to understand some deep truths about his school and why it succeeds:

“The adults believe in the children and the children believe they believe in them.”


When the children you work with have already had every punishment imaginable and it’s not worked, why continue punishment? A lot of children just factor whatever punishment they are given into their lives and carry on in exactly the same way. Some children who are punished once will never repeat the misbehaviour – it’s to do with their upbringing and other factors but for the majority of repeat offenders it’s clear that punishment never works.

Do mainstream schools exclude too many children?

Dave believes they do but…

Read the full show notes on the Pivotal Education site

Dave on Twitter

Springfield Learning Community

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(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

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