Category Archives: Music

Time to say goodbye!

Working with children with special education needs  and their families is in my blood!

From being a 6th form student studying for my A levels, I volunteered one day per week at a local special school. I was one of those people who always knew what they want to do! I applied and was successful gaining a place at Westhill College in Birmingham where I completed a B Ed with ‘special needs’ as my main subject. My teaching placements were in both mainstream and special schools. on one of the summer holidays during my degree course I went to live with a family who had a young person with ASD so I could deepen my understanding of the experience of a family with a child who has SEND ( they advertised in college for someone to be placed with them to support over the long summer break) . I am pleased to say I am still in touch with them as I am with a small number of families of other children I have taught over my career.

I was lucky to find a teaching job in an all – age special school close to where I then lived in Blackburn, Lancashire where I taught classes of mainly secondary aged pupils with a range of special needs and was also subject leader formusic teaching music throughout the school including to classes in the primary department. I was there for just over 10 years. During that time I was also teacher governor leading the curriculum committee and held a responsibility post for assessment throughout the school.

I was delighted to be appointed to a deputy head post in an all – age school in Rochdale for my next post where I enjoyed teaching in every class in order to cover PPA time for the teachers. During this time I completed my NPQH – I had no intention of becoming a headteacher – I was doing it to become a better deputy!

I gained my first headteacher post in a small special school in Manchester in 2002. The school was established as an assessment centre for children for whom it was uncertain whether they would need specialist or mainstream provision and whilst they were with us we completed their statutory assessment. The school also had a mainstream playgroup as part of the provision allowing full inclusion of children playing and learning together. It was fab! During my time at this school I also  became very involved with Chernobyl Children’s Project and had the opportunity to go on a visit to Belarus to support the work they were doing. During the time I was headteacher there I also completed my M Ed in Educational Leadership.

I took up my post as headteacher of Camberwell Park School in September 2006. Since being at the school we have grown in size from 85 to 146 pupils with plans in place for further expansion, we have been judged outstanding by Ofsted 3 times  and have gained the Gold Award for Investors in People 3 times. The school has an amazing hard working and committed team of staff and the children are most certainly at the heart of the school.

During my tenure as Headteacher at Camberwell Park I became a National Leader of Education which has earned me the privilege of working with a supporting a range of other schools across Greater Manchester. From 2015 to 2019 I also enjoyed setting up and co- running a weekly SEND themed discussion on @SENexchange on Twitter alongside @Cherrylkd

After 14 years as headteacher of Camberwell Park School and 33 years working with children with SEND and their families, I have made the decision that it is time for me to take early retirement.  I will be leaving the school at the end of the summer term. Dora, who has been at the school with me for the last 2 years is retiring with me 🙂

Last year I was honoured and privileged to have been awarded an OBE by the Queen in her New Years Honours list. It was a humbling and emotional  and special experience which for me captured how important children with SEND and their families have been and will always be in my life.

The advert for my post will go live at the end of this week – will start making it real at that point! I know that Camberwell Park School will continue to be an amazing place because of the amazing people that work there!

I have not made any plans for my retirement as yet – I will see what opportunities come my way. What is for sure is that I will always remain Passionate about advocating for Children with SEND and their families, Respectful of the families I have worked with over the last 33 years, Organised in continuing to advocate for SEND after I have left the school e.g. through social media, Understanding of the challenges faced by our families of children with SEND and Dedicated to doing whatever I can to support SEND in the future. I will always be PROUD to have had the opportunities I have had the privilege to work with so many special people.

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher of Camberwell Park School

September 2006 – July 2020

 

 

#Talkingheadsblog

I was pleased to have been asked by Hannah Wilson to add to the Talking Heads blog. Here is my contribution:

Name: Mary Isherwood

Phase: Primary

Sector: Special

Region: North West

Years Served in Education: 30 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 16 ½ years

Leadership Journey: In my earlier career I had middle leadership responsibilities including subject leader for music and whole school assessment lead. I worked as a deputy headteacher in an all age special school where I taught all classes to cover for teacher’s PPA. During this time I completed my NPQH and also my Masters in Educational Leadership. I was headteacher at a small special school in South Manchester for 4 ½ years before moving to my current headship where I have been for 12 years

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: A headteacher I worked for was a really positive role model which in itself was inspirational. In addition she spotted the things I was good at, praised me, encouraged me and facilitated opportunities for me.

Twitter Handle: @Mishwood1

Blog: https://maryisherwood.wordpress.com/

Why do you think we need to develop a coaching culture in our schools?

I have a passion to empower and to develop others and feel that a coaching culture is the best way of achieving that – the idea of transformational leadership to make that shift in individuals and really move things on in the school. More often than not others already have the ideas and solutions and just need that encouragement to develop and have confidence in themselves.

Why do we need to be outward-facing as leaders?

As leaders we have a responsibility for the good of all children not just those within our own school and we are in a great position to be able to influence change on a wider scale so by networking and being outward facing generally, we are in a much better position to be able to do so. There is so much we can learn from others too – it is a privilege to go into others schools and learn from them as well as spend time in professional discussions with others whether that be on line or face to face.

How do you create a culture of wellbeing?

We are a team and as such need to be there to support each other as human beings with things that happen in our lives as well as staff colleagues. I am a big believer in being an Investor in people in the widest sense of the word and that includes health and wellbeing / work life balance. We have a number of things in school to support staff wellbeing including a subscription to the Employee assistance programme https://www.employeeassistance.org.uk/, a school counsellor who is available to staff on certain time – slots during the week and an appraisal system which includes a health and wellbeing discussion as an integral part of the process.

 What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

The children! At the heart of every decision – asking myself what would be the difference / impact on them

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

The children!

Leadership Advice

Don’t feel that you have to give an instant response to every query – people will often expect that as you are the leader. It is ok to respond with ‘leave it with me and I will get back to you’ when you need time to reflect.

 Leadership Inspiration

I am currently re-reading one of the books by Paul McGee (The SUMO guy). ‘How to succeed with people’.  I have bought and enjoyed all of the books Paul has written and found them invaluable in my personal as well as professional life. I am using some of the aspects of his SUMO approach when I am delivering NPQML training as there are so many ‘common sense’ ways of looking at leadership challenges through the SUMO lens

Leadership Mantra

Remember to be:

Passionate,

Respectful,

Organised,

Understanding

And

Dedicated

– PROUD in everything you do!

 Please follow @TalkingHeadsBlog #TalkingHeadsBlog and check out other posts here: https://talkingheadsblog2017.wordpress.com/

Let the Music Play…..

cps-cd-cover

 

Music is and has always been a big feature in my life.

Each morning when I get up I put music on in the house, I put music on in the car  when on my way to work and I put music on through the sound system when I arrive at school so my staff team will tell you they get  musical welcome to work each day!

I am lucky to have come from a musical family with both my grandad and my mum playing the piano. I also learned to play the piano and guitar. In my first teaching post  I was also subject leader for music and taught music throughout school. As a deputy I covered PPA in all classes and taught music. I love live music of many different types – I usually have at least 1 gig booked in – ‘Madness’ at the Manchester arena just before Xmas is my next one!

When I put the music on in school yesterday morning as I routinely do, I was thinking about how important music is in school and how much we use it for a range of reasons – perhaps even more in a special school than a mainstream setting. So my blog is an account of the different ways we use music and the positive impact it has with our pupils.

Before I begin – there is a caution with music of course and I can almost hear some of you screaming it  at me already – it should never become ‘wallpaper’, on all the time and used so  indiscriminately in school that its value is lost. Now I have got that out of the way – here we go………

Music curriculum

It is really important that as part of a broad, balanced, relevant and meaningful curriculum that music has it’s place and that our pupils get access to knowledge and skills about music. Developing musical skills alongside the appreciation of all different types of music is important to me and the school.

School choir

We have a school choir which is part of a bank of choices for our pupils for  ‘Friday Fun Clubs’ i.e. activities including cheer leading, choir, sports, IT, local walk….that our pupils can choose to join on a Friday afternoon. Our choir is a singing and signing choir and we have been proud to have performed at a range of events including in the Exhibition hall at the 2015 SSAT national conference and singing as part of ‘The Tale of Mr Tumble‘ in last year’s Manchester International Festival. Being part of Young Voices each year at Manchester Arena has given our choir a chance to perform along side many other school choirs and be part of a truly memorable experience

Sing and Sign

We have a weekly whole school ‘sing and sign’ session for which we are joined each week by a group of pupils from one of our local primary schools. We have  ‘old favourite’ songs we like to sing but enjoy learning new songs too. The choir have an important role in leading the singing from the front! Time to come together each week as a whole school in this way is very special.

Music an auditory ‘cue’

Many of our pupils benefit from the use of ‘Objects of reference / Object cues’ to support their understanding of the timetable, support their transitions and access to learning i.e. a set of objects which  are consistently used to relate to activities on the timetable such as a book for English lessons, a cup for snack times etc. We have an auditory cue we use for assemblies – the piece of music ‘A whole New World’ is played in the hall as our pupils arrive which signifies to them it is assembly time.

Music to support timetables / transitions 

Building on from auditory cues a number of songs are used regularly with our pupils to support their access to learning e.g. hello songs, days of the week songs, now it’s dinner time song…… This is in addition to number songs, alphabet songs…….

Song boards / song choices and our school CD

Many of our pupils have favourite songs they like to sing and sign and most classes have song ‘choice boards’ where during a singing session the children can either verbally or by choosing a symbol choose the song of their choice. We have song bags of props for a whole range of favourite songs. Following a request from a parent about knowing the words and signs for the songs their child was singing so they could sing them at home, we produced a school CD and accompanying song book which includes the words and signs to the songs. The cover of the CD is the image at the top of this blog.

Music as a  motivator / reward / to calm and relax

Many of our pupils find music as a motivator and will work towards having headphones and music for example as a ‘golden time’ type reward for doing their work. The right piece of music in the right environment can be very effectively used to de-escalate a situation when a child is in crisis.

Steel drums

We have  set of steel drums in school and a range of other drums. We use our music grant to buy in tuition for a group of pupils in KS2 to have access to learning to play the drums. They sound fab!

Music  to enhance and support learning across the curriculum

Without it becoming ‘musical wallpaper’ , music can be really effective in enhancing learning across all different areas of the curriculum. Dance / PE is an obvious one, however, so many other lessons can benefit when used well. A favourite of mine is seeing the children engaged in ‘Write dance’ where the tables are covered with lining paper and the mood of the music which accompanies encourages different mark – making on the paper

Musical performances

Christmas concerts,  part of assemblies – our pupils are superstars when it comes to musical performances. We love to celebrate the work of our pupils and the school and musical performances are a great way of sharing our joy with parents / carers, families and friends of the school. “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo. Bravo, Bravo, very well done!” 

Our school song

We our proud to be a Unicef Right’s respecting school and as part of this work we established a school song which we sing during sing and sign sessions and have sung at some performances:

Respect each other that’s the rule,
here at Camberwell Park School
Be kind and listen to each other
Treat everyone as if they’re your brother
Listen to what the teachers say
Help the children learn each day
 
Respect each other that’s the rule
here in Camberwell Park School
Always try to do your best
Treat everyone else with respect
Be the best that you can be
Have fun learning and be happy
Let the music play……………………..
Mary Isherwood
November 2016