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 email@example.com
Our experience of supporting families of children with learning difficulties who choose to home educate
Update/Authors’ note: When we wrote this blog we made one reference to ‘home schooling’ in quotation marks to reflect the language that many parents have used in their conversations with us. Unfortunately, in the editing process before publication the quotes were lost and this gave the appearance that we favoured that term over ‘home education.’ Further editing and comment occurred on social media without reference to us. We have agreed to remove use of the term ‘home schooling’ from this article so as to avoid further discussion of the language detracting from the content of the blog.
Salvesen Mindroom Centre is dedicated to supporting, informing and empowering all those living with learning difficulties. When we began our charitable work in 2000, we identified that there are at least five children with some form of learning difficulty in every school class in Scotland.
Salvesen Mindroom Centre has many years of experience supporting the parents and carers of children with learning difficulties. More recently, we have also been working directly with children and young people themselves. From that extensive experience we can identify lots of challenges for families living with learning difficulties. Something that we have noticed occurring more and more often is families opting for home-educating as an alternative to an unsatisfactory provision in the formal Scottish school system.
The law does allow for education at home – education ‘by other means’ according to the legislation – and some families make a positive choice to home educate their children. The Scottish Government acknowledges that we don’t have the statistics to know how many children are being educated at home (1), far less the reasons behind the decision. A survey undertaken by a private Facebook Forum in 2018 received 329 responses, finding that positive choice was an important factor but that ‘disability, chronic illness, unmet support needs- especially severe school anxiety and ASD’ were ‘key drivers’(2)
In our experience, unmet support needs are indeed a frequent catalyst for families removing their child from school. We have observed this in situations where, for example:
There are frequent suspensions or exclusions – linked to regular calls to parents throughout the school day regarding “challenging behaviour”.
There’s a lack of understanding and/or implementation of strategies to support a pupil – this may be due to lack of staffing or resources within the individual school.
Reasonable adjustments not being consistently implemented.
Bullying has not been effectively addressed.
Parents feel the school is not challenging their child enough academically or academic progress is too slow.
We would usually hope that children who come out of school education for negative rather than positive reasons can return in due course, but the lack of data means that we cannot be sure of the outcomes. It is also a massive commitment for a family to home educate, impacting on jobs, siblings and the whole of family life. When taken for the best of reasons, this can be a great decision for families, but when taken in desperation it risks benefitting no-one and reflects really badly on our education system.
Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.
As schools start to wind up for the Christmas holidays, Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.
Education is relational in nature; it is a caring profession and all professionals who work in schools want to do what’s best for pupils.
The idea that all behaviour is communication has permeated widely across the Education profession in Scotland and this is something to be welcomed. An increased understanding of the impact of childhood adversity and the need for a trauma-informed and responsive workforce are all welcome developments. Education staff are now more aware than ever of the crucial importance of relationships in helping children learn and thrive in school.
However, here at Barnardo’s Scotland we know from our work with children, young people and families that investing fully in children’s lives can be emotionally and psychologically draining, as well as uplifting and fulfilling when things are going well. Working in a relational way has a significant impact on staff.
We are currently working in partnership with over 400 schools in Scotland, across 13 Local Authority areas, and where we have Family Support Workers attached to schools they are noticing that Education staff are lacking in the kind of structured supports available to our workers. Reflective or Professional Supervision is a requirement in other health and social care settings and we believe teachers should have access to this too.
However, Supervision is not currently a requirement in Education and many staff will not receive any form of structured support for their own health and wellbeing to enable them to continue to support their pupils, “to fill up their own cup”. That’s why we want to see Supervision in Education considered seriously in Scotland. We recently ran a survey which received over 400 responses from those working in Education – overwhelmingly respondents supported the principle of Supervision in Education as a way to support their own mental health and wellbeing, and to reflect on the impact the work has on them.
We were also delighted to co-host a roundtable on this issue in November with our colleagues at Place2Be and other key stakeholders which was chaired by Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney MSP. We are very hopeful that progress can be made in ensuring that Education staff are getting the appropriate support for their own mental health and wellbeing – and we believe Supervision is an essential part of this.
When Nikki and Maureen joined in the discussions at our recent PINS: Health and Wellbeing at the heart of the educational experience event in November, a sketch artist captured their input. You can download their images by clicking on the below: