Who wants to #MakeaDifference?

How can we support children to embrace diversity and to understand that their words and actions have impact? The I Am Me Team blogs for PINS on an exciting new resource, the I Am Me Scotland Education Platform

I Am Me Scotland is an award winning charity that aims to ensure everyone can feel safe within their communities. We are a tiny team of 4 with huge ambitions and achievements and these can be evidenced through some of our recent awards including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which recognises the unique and refreshing community involvement that drives the strategic and operational aims for the charity. We were gifted a bus from Stagecoach which we had converted into a mobile Cinema and Education Unit – The Cinebus!  The Cinebus was used to deliver the #MakeaDifference programme to over 10,000 children a year for the past four years.

And then COVID-19 struck……
Ever heard the phrase each challenge brings new opportunity? Well we needed to look for new opportunities to survive as a charity.  After the initial panic we turned our attentions on how best we can ensure that all the progress we had made over the past few years could continue.  We also understood the challenges that teachers were facing with the uncertainty around school learning, home learning, blended learning and the reality of no learning.

The #MakeaDifference programme was developed with children, young people and people who have disabilities. The lessons were already a success, the feedback over the years had proven that.  So the challenge was how do we harness what works with the realisation that face to face interaction and the excitement of the Cinebus (not to mention our wonderful, engaging personalities) contributed to that success? 

We decided to make something new, something interactive, exciting, engaging but also educational.  Something that children could use at home or teachers could deliver from the classroom.  An easy task?

Actually, not so easy, but a learning curve and an exciting journey for the team.  After many a late evening and many months of learning, building, designing, learning and re-building, we have finally launched a whole new learning platform that is fully flexible, accessible and interactive too. Welcome to the I Am Me Scotland Education Platform

Resource lessons are designed to support Curriculum for Excellence Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes.  Each lesson includes animations and films and is accompanied by a suite of resources and activities designed for each year. Each lesson has audio and closed captions available to ensure inclusion for children.

So what are the aims of the lessons?
The lessons have been designed to be progressive.  Primary 1 begins as an introduction to disability/difference through to Primary 7 which focuses on a range of physical and hidden disabilities, the impact of bullying and the consequences of hate crime.  The lessons aim to encourage children to embrace diversity and to understand that their words and actions have impact.

So how do you access these amazing resources?
The platform is available at – https://iammescotlandeducation.org.uk The #MakeaDifference option is for primary schools. The I Am Me option is currently being developed for secondary schools and will be available early next year. By taking a subscription the school has unlimited use for a full year. The enhanced option gives you the opportunity to get your very own bespoke and branded lesson unique to your school.  All you need to do is let us know the age range and what the lesson aims are and we will design something for you to use.

I am me Scotland
We are Kieran, Molly, Carol and Mhairi – The I Am Me Team. Please get in touch for more information – iamme@renfrewshire.gov.uk

Art and Activism with children and young people

Rumpus Room is a notforprofit artist-led initiative dedicated to collaborative art practice which is rooted in mutual exchange with children and young people in order to challenge how we play, learn and make art.

We are continuously in awe of the children and young people we work with and for; the care they have for their planet and their desire and drive for climate action. Together (pre-covid, during lockdown and into our recovery) we have collectively explored how we can act and adapt through making art and being creative together.

In 2019, we set up our Rumpus Room open studio in Govanhill Glasgow. The studio is run by artists and hosts a programme of youth-led creative activity. The studio is a shared experimental creative space where children, young people and families can work independently and in collaboration with experienced artists, musicians and performers.

Quite early on in the studio set up, children and young people approached us to help them make banners and posters for the international Youth Climate Strikes in September 2019. They shared their wants to involve themselves in climate action, making sure we nurture our land and the nature that lives and grows here. From this session, the self-initiated Young Activist Group was formed, with the children and young people running it with Rumpus Room as hosts.

“Don’t treat earth like Uranus”

– Young Activist Group protest poster slogan

Climate change is a children’s human rights crisis because it will affect children now and in the long term. Climate change puts children and young people’s basic rights at risk and it gets in the way of our air being clean; of our communities being filled with flowers, bees and butterflies; of our rivers and seas being cool enough to encourage marine life. Climate change prevents children around the world from accessing their right to clean water and food, education, a home and protection.

During lockdown we continued to meet online with the Young Activist Group and explore issues that were important to them during this uncertain time through making art, creating actions and sharing ideas together.

“We talked about positive changes that might come out of lockdown – cycling, ideas of the word wild/wilderness, waste, community and how we’ve had to adapt.”

– Young Activist Group member.  

We asked the children and young people of Govanhill ‘when the world reopens post-COVID… what do you want to be in it?

“Continue a world of care, looking out for neighbours, helping others, enjoy a slow-paced life, having the time for others.”
“I want to start thinking about my future, I want to leave a lot of stuff behind.”
“A better community.”

The children and young people’s responses were overwhelmingly positive with care at the core of their vision of a post-COVID world. They wanted to care for their communities and for the planet along with the continuation of mutual-aid and the forming of stronger support bonds within and between families.  

From this, the Young Activist group co-produced a digital magazine with artist Lucy Grainge and writer/activist Rosemarie Geary with a series of creative tasks to do with children and young people and help them consider climate activists, the environment, and art. Here are a few:

• Write a news headline for the future about the climate: one positive and one negative – you could chop up all newspaper headlines also then add in your own word. Choose a year: 2050, 2100, 3000.

• Make a protest poster: posters are a very powerful tool for communicating a message quickly. We want you to make your own. Think about what words you would like on it? And will there be an image? How will it grab attention?

• Find a plant or tree you can look at each day. Redraw it for 5 mins each day for a week. Notice how things change. Do the leaves bend or change colours? Do they have any visits? Does it change depending on what time of the day you observe it?

“Fight climate change or die frying”

– Young Activist Group protest poster slogan

It is really important to the Young Activist Group that climate change does not get forgotten about during the Covid-19 crisis and instead we consider how to be green. It is our role at Rumpus Room to listen and take children and young people seriously; be creative together, and support them to feel empowered and to act.

You can view the magazine made by the group below.

Scan the QR code for instant access to the Adapt + Act worksheets online. Intended to be used as an open source resource by anyone, anywhere.

Rumpus Room
Catrin Jeans, Nadia Rossi and Rachel Walker

Primary teaching involves a lot of preparation and planning but even more so now. We need a contingency plan for the contingency plan, just in case!

Principal Teacher, Vicky Smith, blogs for the Pupil Inclusion Network on the first term back in these momentous times.

I am the Principal Teacher in a Primary School with a school roll of 500+ pupils.  Preparation for the return to school happened during the summer holidays.  The management team and business manager worked hard to prepare the areas with signage and social distancing measures.  We had about 3 different models of learning ready, based on 50%, 30% or 100% blended learning etc.  Communication with parents is important to us, we kept abreast of all developments, so we could tweet or post information via email or on the school website as new guidance was released.

August 2020; risk assessments written, we are ready to go…

The children started on their designated day, full of life.  We had children with surnames A-L on the first day, then the others the following day, on the third day all pupils attended. They had experiences to share and were keen to get to know their new teacher. I was nervous before I saw them. The children in my class were delighted to see friends again, they were smiley and confident all day! My nerves left after the first few minutes talking to the eager to impress pupils. On reflection, my nerves were about the unknown. I didn’t know how they were going to react to a full day of school. I was worried I would have lots of anxious children and not know how to reassure them but fortunately, it was much the same as the start of any new term for the children in my class. The first couple of weeks were about getting to know the children and building positive relationships before starting to get to know what their literacy and numeracy skills were. I taught the children about Zones of Regulation and Building Resilience. These programmes are to teach the children about their emotional wellbeing and how to self-regulate. Health and Wellbeing remains our focus in school. We work hard on literacy and numeracy skills, teachers strive to raise attainment.

There are lots of new routines in place for the children (and me) to remember. They have a pack of resources each, they are not to share resources, gone are the days where I could say ‘just borrow his/her rubber’ every time a child loses a rubber or pair of scissors. I have given out about 10 new sharpeners this week alone! The children are not to move around the classroom like they used to, cooperative learning looks different now. I can no longer send a child to the office with a message or to go to the art cupboard to pick up the art resources I accidentally forgot in my rush at lunchtime. Hand washing takes up almost an hour of my day and I clean the tables before the children eat their lunch in the classroom. PE is all outdoors, with limited equipment. We are all very skilled in running and athletics now.

I have been teaching for 10 years and this is the most uncertain time in education I have experienced. I believe that schools will not look the same again, we will adapt to our ‘new normal’ and the way we used to work will become a distant memory that only the more experienced teacher will be able to reflect on. We are more aware now of cross-contamination, the classes don’t mix to ensure we know who has been in contact with who, this is a change I think we might continue. Hand washing will not just be the responsibility of the child to remember but part of the timetable. I look forward to and I am hopeful that school trips and school camp will return to normal; these are all experiences we remember from school days. Community events are important to schools, parental engagement has been challenging during these times. We are not allowed parent volunteers in the building so that has a direct effect on how parents feel about the school. We will need to be creative with ways of getting parents involved and feeling supported. If we continue to support staff, parents and pupils, we can continue to create a learning environment where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.

If you have an experience that you would like to share with the Pupil Inclusion Network, we’d love to hear from you and you can contact us at info@pupilinclusion.scot

Responding to COVID with a dive into the world of webinars

Cat Kozlowski, Learning and Events officer with Children in Scotland, reflects on the agency’s creative response to meeting the sectors training and learning needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes, for us at Children in Scotland it has meant that we’ve adapted our training programme to webinars that deliver CPD where it’s most needed.

Before the pandemic, delivering webinars was something that we had tried out and although we thought it had a lot of potential, development of that potential had been tucked to the side for a ‘moment when we had more time’.

At the start of March, we were feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves as we had just finalised our learning and events schedule for the next 12 months.

We would normally only plan six months ahead but 2020 was a big year for us as we had included an extra international trauma conference with Dr Bruce Perry in September and we thought it would be smart to plan ahead as much as possible.

Within days of confirming our learning programme for the next twelve months, featuring conferences, training, residentials and study trips abroad, it became apparent that COVID-19 was going to have a massive impact on life as we knew it.

We recognised that we needed to make a rapid response and it was time to dive into the world of webinars.

At times it was challenging to focus on our learning programme as our thoughts drifted to this strange new virus and the threat it posed to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. But it was also this line of thinking that gave us strength and motivated us as we thought about our role in supporting the children’s sector.

We understood that the issues children and young people face weren’t going to disappear due to COVID-19. In fact, the need for us to offer support was going to be greater than ever.

With this in mind we trialled different online presentation platforms and reached out to our trainers to see if they were open to the idea of webinars. Our trainers are experts in their fields with many, many years of experience but for nearly all of them delivering training online would be a new experience.

After a lot of trial and error we selected an IT platform, then within a week we had our trainers up to speed on how to use the software and we had delivered our first webinar. This call to action could not have happened without the dedication of our trainers and the support of our delegates.

It also meant that we were delivering webinars before lockdown came into place in Scotland.

We’d love to say that it was all smooth sailing but as we had jumped in at the deep end, we were learning something new with each webinar we delivered. This sense of learning together helped us build a feeling of community between us, our trainers and attendees – we will forever be grateful to the patience they showed us.

We have now delivered tens of webinars to over 4000 attendees and if we summed up this experience with one word it would be ‘connect’.

These webinars have helped people from Scotland and around the world to connect to ideas, experiences, knowledge and hope.

No one knows what the next stages of the pandemic will bring but we do know that we are stronger in this experience when we come together to support each other.

Details about Children in Scotland’s webinar programme can be found on the Eventbrite page and details of the More Than My Trauma webinar conference (17-18 September 2020) with Dr Bruce Perry can be found here at morethanmytrauma.com.

Twitter: @cisweb

The role of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education in the recovery curriculum

As we work to reconnect children and young people with learning and the experience of being back in school, our RSHP curriculum and the national RSHP resource (rshp.scot) offer support.

Mental health and peer relationships will be at the front of every educator’s practice in the coming weeks. Children and young people have had very different experiences of lockdown. We know that many have struggled with feelings of isolation and a disconnect from the supports that were available to them from school-based professionals. There are also concerns about children and young people who might have previously managed well or thrived at school; we do not yet know what level of anxiety many children and young people will bring with them on their return. It is time then to pause what might be ‘normal’ when we think about our curriculum and to provide opportunities for learners in our care to reflect, to think and talk about their feelings, to refresh and re-connect with friendships. In the first of our RSHP resource e-news updates (read it here) this term, we will be pointing to content on the RSHP resource that can support educators in this regard.

A second key concern is that during lockdown, and with school closures, children and young people have missed key parts of the RSHP curriculum. In the course of the development of the RSHP resource, we heard many educators say that it is in the final term of the year that some aspects of the RSHP curriculum are delivered. This usually meant elements of the curriculum with an interest in supporting learners to gain knowledge about their bodies, sexuality, sexual intercourse, and sexual health including reproduction. The problem is that, with school closures, these opportunities were lost, leaving learners with important gaps in knowledge. In a previous PINS blog Dr Kirsty Abu-Rajab identified significant knowledge gaps amongst young people who are sexually active, we must be very aware that these gaps will only increase where learning and support have not been available. In the second RSHP e-news update this term, we will be signposting to resources that will help make sure we address potential gaps

The lockdown has also seen an increase in children and young people spending time online. This has been encouraged in support of learning at home or keeping in touch with friends. But an unintended outcome and concern for us all, for society, should be the increased risks to children and young people from predatory adults or peers. Then there is also their access to pornography. Talking and learning about such things is not easy, educators, parents, and carers often need a kind of scaffold to help them approach such topics. In these first weeks and months back at school and with the help of the content on the RSHP resource (the focus of RSHP’s third e-news update later this month) it will be helpful to check-in with how children and young people are doing when it comes to their recent online experiences, and also to make sure we support them to build pro-social and self-protective behaviours essential to manage information and online relationships.

With all the reasons outlined here, there is a real need for a call to action when it comes to supporting our children and young people to learn about their bodies, peer and romantic or intimate relationships, sexual and reproductive health, and how to manage and keep themselves safe online. The national RSHP resource is the go-to place where educators and allied professionals can find everything they need to make sure we create a recovery curriculum that meets some very fundamental educational needs, particularly for the most vulnerable children and young people in our schools. 

Elaine McCormack is Health Improvement Lead with Sandyford (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde) www.sandyford.org and is part of the National Steering Group for the RSHP education resource https://rshp.scot/

To sign up to receive the RSHP resource network updates, visit: rshp.scot/about-the-resource/#getinvolved

Twitter: @RSHPscot