Crocs, Korma and Kefir. Are these the real secrets of Finland’s educational success?

I enjoyed a fantastic research trip to Lapland in 2013 in search of a treasure trove of goodies from the notably successful Finnish education system. Finland’s egalitarian, inclusive and nurturing approach to schooling became the focus of global attention in 2012, partly owning to a stellar set of PISA outcomes,  which lured educationalists to tap into the ingredients of this high-performing system.

crocs

When I went out there, I was searching for hard data during visits to early years, primary, secondary and further education provisions. Armed with a clip-board, I sought to quantify the nature of approaches to pedagogy, assessment, teacher accountability and curriculum structure as my key lines of interrogation. Surely I would nail it and bring back an illuminating, transferable study, ripe for dissemination to an eager cohort of trainee teachers?

Indeed, the data was exceptionally interesting and yielded tons of further research links for my own work, and that of trainees with an interest in global models of schooling. One particular trainee appeared to burn with a zeal for cross-cultural schooling, and I reckon has applied his understanding of wider contexts to support his fantastic career progression.

Anyway, I’ve been mulling the experience over from a different perspective of late. Somewhere between the reindeer sausages, the delightful cinnamon rolls and the chance to tug on Santa’s beard at the Arctic Circle, I found a different set of ‘truths’. Less prominent than the headlines, I am certain these softer foci explain,at least in part, why Finnish schools succeed in the creation of inclusive environments for learning.

  1. Crocs 

Admittedly, such overshoes aren’t my favourite choice of footwear. Don’t ask me why, but the neat lines of them stacked up on racks at the entrance to Early Years gave a real sense of warmth. The schools were consistently immaculate, warm and well-ordered, and the ‘croc-rows’ spoke of nurture, community and family. Finland provides heavily subsidised pre-school education, and there was something (I can’t quite define) about the quiet, non-enforced sense of order I observed that gave a non-quantifiable window into why this phase empowers and readies young learners.

2. Korma and Kefir

Free food for every child does appear to impact on standards, whilst providing valuable cultural benefits. In each of the six schools I visited, I was able to sample the cuisine on offer. The menu was simple in every case, offered little choice, and provided a sense of uniformity to each well-stocked lunch tray. Among the array of salads (which contained the biggest range of choice), the main hot offering appeared to be a sort of chicken korma. It may have been seasonal or mere co-incidence, but every school had this on offer. Was I imagining the subtle increase in the use of spices as the age range increased? Shamefully, I was disappointed in the limited variety, though always enjoyed a refreshing glass of ‘kefir’-like milk drink.

Upon my return, I stood at the school lunch counter and found myself staring at the plethora of choice and predominance of simple, cheese smothered carbohydrates. The wilting salad tray made me yearn for the delightful slavs and minty winter salads of the tundra.

In Finland, pupils generally appeared to enjoy their simple, nourishing food and there were no identifiable differences in their platters. I wonder if that goes some way to explaining why the education system succeeds in its universality? Drinking the plain yogurt every day felt like nurture,  and took me back to my own primary school days, when a slightly warm bottle of full-fat milk complete with straw was issued at around 10am. The cream at the top of the bottle, the happy queue of (otherwise deprived) pupils and the regularity of this event felt like being cared for. Until ‘Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’ robbed us of this joy, that is.

There was something distinctively caring about the Finnish schools I was lucky enough to spend time in, and although I can’t define this, I am certain the cumulative benefits of the crocs, korma and kefir I’ve clumsily referenced do contribute to the inclusive and nourishing ethos for learning. The lack of social demarcation in society at large must somehow find its roots in the provision of a balanced, stable and holistic beginnings given to children.

Can this be transplanted to our schools? I’ll leave that question with you.

 

Advertisements

Inside stories; unofficial exclusion and ‘off-rolling’ in Secondary Schools

The thorny subject of ‘off-rolling’ which has been labelled by commentators as the most frequently referenced ethical concern of 2017-18.  exclusion

Described by General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders(ASCL), Geoff Barton as ‘beyond repugnant’ (TES, 2017), off-rolling is the removal of pupils from the school roll via various, unofficial means.

Techniques such as putting parents and carers under extreme duress to home educate (also known as ‘B-coding’), to remove their child or face permanent exclusion, and the widespread use of temporary removal from school via managed moves are among the most common form of ‘ghosting’ a pupil so that they do not appear on-roll. Despite frequent reference to this practice in the media from 2016 onwards, facts and figures are, like the phenomenon itself hard to pin down. However, in her annual report launch speech of December 2017, Amanda Spielman referenced findings from education datalab as evidence that ‘a long overdue spotlight has been shed on the issue.’. Whilst acknowledging an explicit relationship between SEND pupils, unofficial exclusions and schools seeking to boost performance, Spielman branded the trend as ‘a more extreme and invidious example of where some schools have lost sight of the purpose of education, which should always be to give children the support that they deserve.’ (2017) and committed to ensuring inspectors interrogate and expose potential evidence of such gaming.

Though the frequency of this practice in Twitter feeds indicates its presence, one cannot help but wonder about the reality of patterns, direct links to pupil groups and other demographic indicators in the absence of explicit data. Is unofficial exclusion increasing with the expansion of Multi-Academy Trusts who can squirrel pupils away across their network of schools? Has the change in accountabilities, combined  with ‘ramped-up’ GCSE specifications triggered off-rolling as a ‘necessary evil’ for Schools, faced with the complexity of outcomes and an increase in pupil numbers with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs? Has this practice increased at all, or merely surfaced in our shared dialogue relating to social inclusion? Being the relentless, investigative sort, I sought to find out.

Practitioner narratives

I initially presented surveys on Twitter to gain a sense of national coverage. Though response rates were too low to establish valid claims, they represented a mixture of maintained secondary schools and academies. HLTAs, teachers and other inclusion workers returned data indicating that 90% had experienced off-rolling, that the predominant reasons were linked to SEND and the school’s inability to provide an appropriate curriculum to meet their needs. I was delighted when three practitioners agreed to give up an hour during their Easter holidays to provide me with completely anonymous information via telephone interview. I asked for no names, locations or otherwise potentially identifying information during these dialogues, each of which were underlined by a sense of fear and strong emotion.

Case Study 1: ‘They move them round the MAT’. Female, SLT member, South East England

‘Helen’ readily disclosed that she witnesses ‘unofficial exclusion’ on a weekly basis within her school and across the wider Trust. ‘We have quite a lot of schools and they move them as soon as they become too much of an irritation in the system.’. When asked what she meant by ‘moved’, she indicated that cross-school transfers took place regularly which usually resulted in the student ending up in the school where they will do the’ least damage’ to Progress and Attainment 8. ‘By moving pupils from the roll for a time, they aren’t registered anywhere which has the added benefit of improving data.’. We talked about reasons for ‘off-rolling for some time and she identified behaviour, attainment and poor attendance as the key triggers, adding that ‘I know it isn’t right, but we have a school to lead, other pupils to manage and the constant pressure to improve. These are kids who have failed to respond to numerous interventions and whose parents have chosen not to support the school in our efforts to resolve issues.’. During the conversation, Helen expressed mixed feelings about the issue, indicating that she sometimes felt the school were ‘failing the pupils’ but that ‘other agencies can’t come up with the answers.’. To conclude, she told me that the pressure on schools to retain their Ofsted Outstanding status is driving them to make decisions they would otherwise never consider.

Case Study 2: ‘They can’t deal with them, so they go.’, Female, HLTA (SEND), North West England

‘Michelle’ has been employed at her school for twelve years and specialises in SEND and inclusion. ‘Our kids are from very mixed backgrounds and you would never see this kind of thing happening to middle class families because they fight it. It’s the poorer children with needs who are affected time and time again.’. When asked about the regularity of ‘off-rolling’ she confirmed that around six children per year mysteriously vanish from the school roll in addition to those formally and permanently excluded. ‘When parents are faced with fines and constant fixed term exclusions they tend to cave in and home educate. I’ve been sent out with work and to provide tuition in the early stages, but this always fizzles out. No-one asks any questions, which just seems unfair.’. We talked about trends and patterns and she readily confirmed that ‘It’s always the same. Pupils on the SEND register, especially those with ADHD or mental health issues will go first. We can help with dyslexia and ASD, but repeated bad behaviour only leads one way. The school PEX’d (Permanently Excluded) six pupils last term, so we can’t have any more on the books.’. Michelle spoke in detail about individual cases and claimed senior members of staff use ‘police-like tactics to manage behaviour. If I was screamed at and given only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as answers to questions, I think I’d cave in and take the wrap too. It’s aggressive and borderline abusive……The worst thing I’ve seen was a child being seated in front of the local authority website and told to fill in their own transfer form. It’s unbearable.’ Michelle concluded her interview by expressing her disappointment in education, telling me ‘I did my Masters in Special Education and intended to train to be a teacher. It’s the same everywhere and I really do think I’d be better getting out of mainstream.’

Case Study 3: ‘Quite simply, such practices are abhorrent’, Female, Headteacher, Primary School, North-East England

‘Liz’ has been headteacher of a large urban primary school for more than a decade, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive her offer of an interview. She stressed the importance of maintaining inclusion throughout a child’s education and that she felt disappointed to hear that so many of her former pupils end up going through a series of failed ‘managed moves’ before ending their education in alternative provision. ‘The shame of it is that we have fantastic transition arrangements with our secondaries and we are all happy with the passage of information and support for moving up. Our secondaries allocate time and resources to giving students the best start, which is why it is so disappointing to hear, through families that their children didn’t make it through their mainstream schooling.’ Liz illustrated frequent conversations about the pressure secondary colleagues experience which she said ‘affects their professional judgment.’ She did add that she is angry with a system that claims to measure standards while allowing schools to ‘gamble with life-chances.’ Although Liz did not share her perceptions on predominate pupil groups affected, she did mention that the complexity of secondary schooling is challenging for ‘needy families’ and that ‘covert exclusion’ adds to the strain. When I asked Liz if she had discussed any individual cases with secondary headteachers she responded ‘I’m not the person who should be holding them to account.  This is a wider issue and someone needs to start challenging what we all know is bare-faced exclusion. Secondaries need support to meet needs and to contextualise the impact of individual needs on data.’ At the close of our conversation she made a point of referencing a local secondary school who ‘go to great lengths to meet the needs of their pupils. Their results take a dent, but they are relentless in providing for individual needs. I hope there is some way of recognising this, because their exclusion rates remain low despite the fact they take on unwanted pupils from their neighbours.’

Although rich in their illustrations, these snippets from practitioners cannot be used to generalise or inform any firm conclusions about the nature or prevalence of ‘off-rolling’. Practitioners appear reluctant to acknowledge off-rolling, perhaps because it does serve the purpose of increasing inclusion for students who work hard, conform and become safe bets on their progress flightpaths. It appears that some schools use the ‘vanished’ students for the purposes of behaviour demarcation and rule re-enforcement, by warning the rest of the cohort about what happens to persistent non-conformists. This leaves unresolved questions about the moral character of secondary schooling today, because some learners are confronted by a polarised fear system of attainment and exclusion.  Those who do not benefit from their entitlement to an adequately enriching curriculum have no ‘soft place’ to hide from the sword of Damocles. By educating through police-style rule enforcement and a readiness to fling errants down the ‘off-rolling’ trap door, we are confirming the deepest fears of a generation of children and young people; that they are not good enough, that they don’t belong and that their needs simply do not matter.

We must remember that, as educators we bear a collective responsibility to fight relentlessly for the highest standards in educational inclusion. To bring an immediate end to off-rolling, we must make space in our schools for the difficult inter-professional conversations that must and should accompany the exit of any pupil from any school for any reason. As Geoff Barton (2018) emphasises, ‘At a time of too many stories of unethical practice, too much language linked to inappropriate conduct, this focus on ethical leadership has never mattered more – to us and to the young and often vulnerable young people for whom we are the educational guardians.’.

References:

Barton, G. (2018). ‘Off-rolling is unethical, inappropriate and beyond repugnant – the consequences are devastating’. Times Educational Supplement

https://www.tes.com/news/rolling-unethical-inappropriate-and-beyond-repugnant-consequences-are-devastating

Spielman, A. (2017). Speech on the launch of Ofsted’s annual report. Gov.uk

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amanda-spielman-on-the-launch-of-ofsteds-annual-report-201617

 

Supply teaching: Career purgatory or fertile pastures? Part 2 of 2

purg 2

I wrote about my flawed perceptions about supply teaching yesterday, and hopefully ended with a demonstration of my personal zeal for temporary teaching positions as a viable and exciting career path.

My biggest gripe? The pay and conditions. Working for £120 per day and facing the technically unpaid holiday periods with a mortgage to pay can be a challenge. For the most part, supply teachers face variable pension contributions and the possibility of limited contracts during the ‘quiet times’ in July and September.

An article in The Guardian presented the negative pressures faced by an ever-growing population of casual teaching staff employed by schools. I fully agree that a ‘tipping point’ has been reached where we need to look at the huge fees paid to supply agencies versus the contractual issues for teachers. The NEU also highlight the relative underpayment of this versatile, adaptable and flexible sector of the teaching profession.   I might espouse the virtues and delights of working supply between consultancy contracts, but then supply teaching isn’t my everyday reality. Yet.

I’m not going to gift-wrap this; the current UK teacher shortage is around 47, 000 while data indicates a further 35% of the profession are seeking support for stress-related mental health issues. Supply teachers make a massive contribution to the day to day lives of the schools they serve. Ask any Headteacher what would happen if the transitory workforce dried up!

‘As the country struggles with teacher recruitment and retention, the amount of supply used in schools is soaring, costing the taxpayer more than £800m in 2015-16. The issue is currently being reviewed by the Department for Education, which is considering creating a pool of trusted supply agencies, offering a better deal for schools, which are often charged up to 30% commission by agencies for a temporary staff member’ The Guardian, June 2017.

Do we need supply agencies? Absolutely! Should we apply increased regulation of career development, QA and value for money? With immediate effect. 

Considering all of this, is supply teaching heaven, hell or somewhere in between? When it comes to contractual rights, I’d argue for the state of purgatory referenced in my title because we are long overdue a fresh look at the skills and attributes the casual workforce brings to education. Responsibility also falls on our schools to ensure temporary team members are given support and embraced with respect by all members of the school community. We simply cannot challenge negative perceptions within a market that persistently devalues professional expertise.

If the sector gets it right, the developmental possibilities offered by supply work are enormous. Imagine how many exiting teachers we could retain within supply if we were able to position it with the value it deserves? For many stressed out teachers in need of a break from the relentless pressure, a phase spent in supply can truly refresh perspectives on the actual purpose of education. When considering leaving the profession, teachers tend to adopt either an ‘I’m in’ or ‘I’m gone’ stance without considering trialling an alternative ‘middle way’ in temporary positions. We’re haemorrhaging talent daily and need to consider:

  • Re-positioning supply as a means of encouraging teachers back into the profession
  • Addressing pay and conditions to bring them in line with the National Pay Arrangements for teachers (including access to the Teachers Pension Scheme)
  • A commitment by supply agencies to work ethically and to contribute meaningfully to the professional development of their employees

Can we envisage a day when supply teaching becomes a positive and viable career pathway for teachers who wish to contribute towards education in a personalised way? The supply work I’ve completed provided me with a completely unique set of experiences, allowing me to learn from contrasting approaches to behaviour management, teaching and learning whilst deepening my understanding of the centrality of ethos in education. I chose to work with reputable agencies who openly valued and developed my skills, provided me with feedback and sourced work that matched my needs.

Was it purgatory? In terms of the pay, yes because I couldn’t have survived without consultancy. The fact that no-one could capture or see the vast professional development every supply day yielded was frustrating and a little limiting, since I wanted to tell the world how refined my understanding of leadership was becoming.

In the end I did, on a successful job application that took me to those fresh pastures.

Shame, really

 

 

 

On the career- enhancing joys of supply teaching: Part 1 of 2

I spent the first 20 years of my career in education harbouring a set of flawed understandings about supply teachers.

I’m going to bare my soul on tdorothy supplyhis one and confess to each and every misconception I had before getting stuck in and trying supply teaching for myself in 2016.

The first supply teacher I ever met back in 1996 was drafted in to cover maternity leave in our department. He was a well spoken, confident chap who commanded a great presence in the school. The kids despised him for his quick witted retorts and successful insistence on absolute silence during extended writing tasks. I recall him doling out vast quantities of lines, and always getting them in until he had his classes conditioned to his expectations. Though he appeared on the timetable as ‘supply’, I quite admired his tenacity and wondered how he sustained the need to set up camp over and over again. I never thought to ask him why he did supply as opposed to a ‘proper teaching job’, perhaps because he was there long enough to leave an impression and to make a mark. He was also very scary.

Later on in my career, my views on the colleagues who filed in and out of schools, collecting and returning their visitor badges and appearing fleetingly and anonymously on the cover list changed. I began to see them in a more negative light as I made progress in my own career through middle management. They usually brought their own mug, clutched a small tub of coffee and sat in the corner eating their cling-wrapped sandwiches in silence, whilst flicking intently through a book. Without recognising it, I started to see them as oddities, failures, as maverick misfits who clearly couldn’t cut the mustard. A couple of times I admit to feeling a pang of jealousy, for the lady who rocked up in a vintage MG every now and then between stints in an international school in Madrid. Her free and easy manner and Chanel shades gave me a little pang of yearning for a different form of educational existence.

Brace yourself for my biggest confession. During my long career as both University and SCITT director, I have steered hundreds of trainee teachers away from considering supply teaching as a first choice career. Perhaps because I felt a sense of stewardship towards my trainees as the moved into their NQT phase and wanted it to be seamless for them.  It was more likely down to a shamefully thin understanding of supply as a varied and viable career pathway.

In 2016, things became interesting for me. Having taken the plunge into educational consultancy, I found myself at a loose end between contracts in schools and universities. Not only was I bored, I needed a steady income stream to pay the mortgage. And buy shoes. I toyed with the idea for three months before rocking up to my first assignment on a cold January morning in 2017. I confess to harbouring a bit of self-loathing and a a gnawing feeling of devaluing myself as I gawped into the camera for my visitor registration, feebly handing over my DBS before my timetable was slid under the glass in the reception area.

The first thing that struck me was the friendly, enthusiastic and welcoming nature of staff (which continued to be the case in every school I worked in). A senior member of staff often came down to brief me and checked I was doing on. Free coffee was usually on tap while the behaviour policy and SIMS setup was re-affirmed. Surprisingly (for me), most schools had teaching and learning protocols for supply teachers.

During 2017 I had the privilege of working in 10 schools, some of which were repeat contracts. My perception of the role of the transient, will-o-the wisp (or as my Granny would say ‘rambling Rose’) existence of the teachers who pass through schools across the UK daily changed overnight. Around half of my cover was spent in schools facing challenging circumstances, and I never once experienced an incident that was beyond my control. No-one locked me in a cupboard, and pupils were consistently respectful on all  placements, though as one would expect I did encounter some ‘interesting characters’.

Between my consultancy appointments, I would spring out of bed and get half-ready for the possibility of that 7.30 am phone call on the supply bat phone. I even experienced a bit of disappointment on the rare occasion when work didn’t appear. To my shock, I began to love the life of a supply teacher, especially when I ran into former trainee teachers who I could observe flourishing in their teaching careers. I met other supply teachers and learned from their creative approaches to developing consultancy, broadening my reach as an educator or just enjoying the ride! All of my assignments were the ones where you leave the school with no marking, and I often found myself feeling like I’d forgotten my trolley of books. It was a liberating phase of my career.

I loved the buzz in the classroom, the variety of meeting new classes, attempting to teach Chemistry, working with TAs and trialling the free, break-time scones. As an RE teacher, I was required to develop my ‘Scratch’ skills for frequent ICT cover in an absolutely lovely school in a challenging area. It was an utter joy to be welcomed back by the classes there, not because they could ‘park”themselves or swap names, but because they enjoyed the lessons. I noticed that the pupils actually benefited from the need to support me by sharing their animation skills and by taking a collective responsibility for bartering strategies so that everyone could meet the day’s learning objectives. They were utterly lovely to me, and in return I engaged them, enthused them, supported them and praised their maturity.

The only drawback was that supply re-ignited my desire to work in a school full-time, and I abandoned my consultancy to take the opportunity to gain further experience as an assistant headteacher. Having returned to my freelance work, I’m considering signing up for supply teaching again. To my horror, I still faced the automatic emotional response of ‘if I see people I know, they’ll think I’m unemployable’ or ‘I’ll devalue myself as a consultant’. The truth is quite the opposite, and I’m looking forward to dipping back into the enriching experience of working across a variety of schools. I truly believe that there is no greater means of deepening your understanding of schooling, and look forward to sharing what I hold to be the leadership experience I’ve gained from my membership of the free-flowing troop of pedagogues who serve our schools daily.

Thanks to my cousin, Paul Carney for helping me to find the courage to enter the world of supply. You were right. It’s a refreshing existence.

 

Initial Teacher Training 2018: Churn, Flux and Stabilisation

pexels-photo-248337.jpeg

When asked recently about my perceptions about the current challenges and opportunities in ITT, my response was a bit fumbling and erratic. I can forgive myself for darting around, for struggling to articulate with any real clarity and for randomly changing my line of argument, because this reflects the sporadic nature of ITT policy since 2012. The variability and lack of substance in my own expression mirrored the haphazard management of significant national  strategy change, while my blank expression provided a terrifyingly accurate capture of a battered sector emerging from almost a decade of churn and flux.

As expected, I’m going to bang on about the negatives for a bit, though might just manage to end with a ray of hope. Maybe. Listen, if the architects of educational policy can change direction with the wind, I am perfectly entitled to conclude with anything that takes my fancy. I might have a gander at PISA scores, root around briefly in the Singapore model of teacher training and give my associate in Finland a ring to anchor my finale in a sense of substance.

Let’s start with the relentless churning, upending and flux within ITT, which has and will continue to be kept in a state of constant change. We’ve lacked the equilibrium required to develop grounded approaches to teacher supply, or to feed the constant demands of numerous masters. ‘Produce more teachers! Make them better! Make them outstanding within their first term! Keep them in teaching for 5 years! And remember, if they don’t rave about you in evaluations you’re a rubbish provider.’ As we know too well, all this must be achieved against a backdrop of talent-loss within the profession, as thousands seep from the leaky churn in the face of life-impinging, work-related stress. That being said, I feel that teacher education and is emerging from flux and regaining its professional status.

I’ve always maintained that being a teacher educator is a dead good job, and saying that seems to be okay again. We’re no longer consigned to the educational bonfire, along with the poor old quangos for being ‘dangerous, theoretical lefties encased in a socialist libertine blobby thing intent on blackening the pure souls of new teachers’ (or similar), and in the face of desperate need we’re acceptable human beings again. Thanks to agencies such as the Education Endowment Foundation and Teacher Development Trust, ‘What Makes Great Teaching’ and CollectivED, research-informed practice is back on the tick-list. They’ll be letting us use the ‘P’ word* again next.

Another reason for climbing back into the churn is that it is well- stocked with ideas. Funding, innovative SCITT pathways, school immersion and a set of training priorities steered by curriculum, assessment and pupil needs have added immense value. I’d even go so far as to say that the ingredients are all there, including some particularly compelling Ofsted phase reports.  It  will take brave and decisive leadership from within the ITT sector to apply the brakes,  stabilise, repair and push forward on urgent intervention to address the supply and retention of teachers. Can government trust us to do it without incessant meddling and castigation? I actually have a good feeling about this, and am encouraged to see that Universities back at the consultation table.

Let’s talk about recruitment. We’re around 27% down on last year, with significant dips in Primary, History and PE. All training routes are suffering, and a buoyant economic forecast is exacerbating the profession’s desperate attempts to draw in the ‘brightest and the best’ (Gove, 2010). Providers find themselves compromised in that Ofsted expect high quality trainee outcomes, rigour in recruitment, and yet criticise providers who are looking for ‘oven ready trainees’. They might have a point though, in that too many ITT selection programmes reject potential applicants for non-essential reasons. Failure to spend two days in a PRU or to have taken KS1 to the Llama park are not justifiable reasons for the rejection of potentially talented recruits, and I’d argue that all selection processes should be absolutely attuned to potential versus readiness. If we soften the criteria without reducing quality and weed out any ‘petty’ reasons for rejection, we can begin to plug at least one of the leaks.

The last area I’d like to tackle is teacher workload, currently on the agenda of Teaching Unions, DfE and Chartered College. As a sector, ITT has a fantastic opportunity to offer a root and branch approach to supporting beginning teachers in managing the demands of stress and pressure. We can embed the capacity to remain open to mentoring during their early careers and to be positively assertive in placing their health, well-being and personal lives high on their ladder of needs without feeling ‘wussy’. Rather than offering a couple of sessions on ‘mindfulness’ towards the end of the course (in that week when they can choose to do a self-placement or study the sociological benefits of Jeremy Kyle), life management can and should provide the backbone of training to be a teacher. The messages teacher educators project about managing pressure are absolutely vital in reinforcing the enormous and enriching benefits offered by a career in the profession that yields all others.

So, all hands to the churn to stop it revolving so that we can just get some sensible interventions off the ground. I feel it is vital to congratulate myself on having avoided the temptation to insert frequent, dairy-related witticisms. Instead, I chose to end the discussion and move to pastures new.

I’ll get my coat.

*Pedagogy. Don’t tell anyone I said it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my education blog

Jo McShane imageGood morning! This is my first education blog which I’d like to use to set up my stall!

I’ve been working in education for 23 years and held numerous positions, including RE, Philosophy, Geography and English Teacher, Local Authority Manager, Teaching Fellow in Education, Director of Initial Teacher Training, SENCO, Editor, Writer, Inclusion and Behaviour lead and two Assistant headships. I’ve recently taken the huge leap into freelance educational consultancy, which I see as both terrifying and hugely exciting in that will give me opportunities to draw from the diverse expertise I’ve developed over almost a quarter of a century (and yes, I feel quite ancient committing that to paper!).

Since becoming a self-employed educationalist, I’ve realised the fantastic power of social networking in making valuable connections to both new learning and professionals, and hope to contribute to this vibrant community with my own reflections. I will also frequently reference the friends, pedagogues, teachers and colleagues who have contributed to my own professional growth and inspired me along the way.

In addition to pieces on Initial Teacher Training, Inclusion and Educational Leadership, I plan to engage critically with emerging educational policy, global perspectives and the moral purpose of education. I might even reconnect with my undergraduate studies and delve into the Philosophy of Education. I’m particularly interested in the management of change in education, the complexity of educational institutions and I have a huge interest in issues relating to inclusion.

Focussing primarily on social and economic exclusion, I will often reflect on my own childhood and the time I spent living in deprivation. I do love to use the examples of a childhood phase characterised by living in a squalid house which was attached to a lamp post via a cleverly positioned wire to access free electricity. Although anecdotal in nature, references to my own origins underpin my passion for education as a universal enabler and fundamental human right.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings and look forward to sharing my thoughts about the changing educational context.

JcEdu