There is evidence of a rising number of exclusions from mainstream schools, allocation of more places in alternative provision and a growth in home schooling and more parents of children with special needs and disabilities are fighting for provision. It is important that we discuss and question the direction of travel. Relationships between schools and parents matter if every child and young person is to be supported well through the challenges that growing up and schooling create. We talk more often about vulnerable children, but have we also seen a growth in teacher vulnerability?
As we look beyond the current Covid-19 pandemic we hope to host a CollectivED / GCI Knowledge Exchange Conference ‘Better Conversations, enhancing education one discussion at a time’ in the next academic year. This blogpost was originally written based on a theme for the conference planned for June. In addition to our main stage speakers we have a number of subthemes which will be explored through roundtable discussions. Prior to our rescheduled conference we anticipate hosting ‘Let’s talk about…’ webinars. Please follow @CollectivED1 on twitter for more information.
Unless those in the education workforce finds ways to have better conversations around difficult issues it is unlikely that education can improve. Our first roundtable host in this theme is Phil Mellen who tweets at @PhilMellenLeeds and is Leeds City Council’s Deputy Director of Children’s Services, with responsibility for Learning in Leeds, and is also a member of the CollectivED Advisory Board. There have been a number of high-profile cases of schools in Leeds (as elsewhere) who have excluded what some people consider a disproportionate number of children and young people and there are also schools whose settings are praised for their inclusion practices. It is therefore not surprising that Phil has taken this issue to members of council and has specifically asked the question about whether the most vulnerable members of the school communities are being further disadvantaged by exclusions. With this in mind, Phil’s roundtable discussion will ask the question ‘Can we ever have zero exclusions in schools?’ Phil will start the discussion by sharing national and local data on exclusions, and also draw on the views of Edward Timpson, Anne Longfield and Ofsted to stimulate discussion. As the discussion continues participants will consider when permanent exclusion is acceptable, what school culture leads to least exclusions, whether we can you have great outcomes and low exclusions and whether inclusion is unfair on well-behaved students.
Unofficial exclusion, also known as ‘Off-Rolling’ has featured in numerous media reports and also been the focus of a House of Commons Select Committee working group. In addition to its significant impact on pupil access to education and their life trajectories, Jo McShane’s research indicates the risk of isolation for staff working with challenging pupils. When faced with the pressure of accountability measures, many schools are making choices about pupil exclusion which conflict with the personal and professional values of their staff. Jo, who tweets at @JoMcShaneEdu, will lead a roundtable discussion which will explore the impact of such pressures on teachers and suggest bespoke mentoring and coaching opportunities geared at pastoral supervision. Jo McShane is a Senior lecturer in Education at the University of Sunderland and has been undertaking research in this area. Her question is ‘Vulnerable pupils, vulnerable teachers; how should we support colleagues who are compromised by unethical school exclusion practices?’.
Another contributor in this theme is Jess Mahdavi-Gladwell who is the Assessment Centre Manager and SENCO at Newhaven School (an Alternative Provision school) and who works as a coach on the Accelerate Teaching programme run by Chartered College and the Education Development Trust. Jess tweets at @drjessm. For her roundtable discussion Jess will pose the question ‘How are professional mentoring/coaching relationships valuable to staff dealing with challenging situations involving distressed children?’ Participants will explore the role of better conversations, especially when developing practice when dealing with tricky situations or when dealing with safeguarding. Her experience demonstrates that as well as learning to ‘do better’ mentoring and supervisory relationships can support staff in the aftermath of challenging situations.
Family engagement in learning is known to be a significant factor in improving outcomes for children and young people, and therefore, developing positive home/school relationships is a priority for many schools. In some areas where parent’s experiences of education are negative engaging parents in their children’s schooling and their own learning and development can present a challenge. Jasmine Miller who tweets at @CoachJasmine is a former teacher and headteacher in schools for children with autism and complex learning needs. She is now Senior Consultant with Growth Coaching International (our conference partners, a freelance coach and researcher in the field of learning differences. She will pay attention to the role of better conversations with parents in her roundtable discussions. Participants to discuss ‘How coaching skills for parents can develop positive relationships and enhance outcomes for children and young people.’
There are lots of reasons to talk to colleagues and amongst them are the opportunities to develop practices and better thinking.
By Rachel Lofthouse, Phil Mellen, Jo McShane, Jess Mahdavi-Gladwell and Jasmine Miller
You can also read about the roundtable discussions around the themes:
- ‘Let’s talk about … developmental conversations’.
- Let’s talk about … starting out as a teacher.
- Let’s talk about … enabling inclusive education.
- Let’s talk about … challenges and opportunities in coaching.
- Let's talk about... better leadership culture.
- Let's talk about... the profession and professionalism