Category Archives: Support

Visiting Belarus with Chernobyl Children’s Project

I was sorting out some of my files and photo albums at home when I came across a folder where I had recorded a visit to Belarus with members of the team from Chernobyl Children’s project back in 2005. I can’t believe it was over 10 years ago now! The recollection of the visit plus the desire to promote the amazing work done by the team has led me to write this blog.

At the time, I was headteacher of Rodney House School in Manchester and one of the privileges I had was to have developed a relationship with Linda Walker , the National Co-ordinator who had brought several groups of influential dignitaries from Belarus to visit the school and see the work we were doing with our pupils with SEND. This included the person in charge of SEN in the Ministry of Education, groups of staff from children’s homes, the Director from the home for abandoned babies in Gomel including a senior staff responsible for training. There was such a strong will to make positive changes in the area of working with children and young people with SEND and we know it was having an impact because of the letters we received following the visit e.g.

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“Titania has gone home full of ideas of how they can improve the care and education for children at the abandoned baby home”

I was really honoured when asked by Linda if I would participate in a visit to Belarus to share my expertise. As well as visiting various schools and orphanages I also was to be given the opportunity to speak at an international conference in Minsk , spend a day with members of the early years team visiting children out in the community and participate in interviews for the staff for the Mayflower centre which was to be the established as the first respite care home in Gomel.

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The week was a busy one filled with a range of emotions as you can imagine. I have such admiration for the children, their families, for those that were and still are working so hard to improve things for the children in Belarus – the children with SEND and the children with cancer. The work that the Chernobyl Childrens’s project does is amazing and I would urge you to take a look at their website to find out more about their work and support in what ever way if you can.

I met  and had the chance to spend time with some very special children:

Speaking at the conference in Minsk was an ‘interesting’ experience ! Not least having my presentation simultaneously read in Russian! Things have moved on a lot , it was over 10 years ago, however I faced lots of challenges from the ‘medics’ in the auditorium at the time about the educational value of working with children who had such significant learning difficulties and indeed being taken to see the ‘cot children’ in the orphanages even now brings a lump to my throat.

Like I say though it was over 10 years ago now and such will to change. As a strong advocate for our pupils with SEND and a supporter for  UNCRC Receiving a letter like this says it all and made my day:

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UNCRC: Article 28. The right to education – ‘after her visit completed work on a new law which entitles all children to an education what ever their level of ability’ #result!

Interviewing for the Mayflower Centre was a blast and how privileged to have a big role in appointing staff for the first respite care home for children and their families!

I had an opportunity to spend lots of time at Rodni Kut which was the first care home established by Chernobyl Children’s project –  I took Rodney House t-shirts out for the children who had moved in to live there. Again, in terms of an honour and privilege – there can be no greater than receiving a letter like this:

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“Whenever we have brought visitors to your school they have been greatly impressed by the happy atmosphere, the high standard of care and education and the obvious dedication of all the staff. When we created our first home for children with special needs we were trying to think of a suitable name for it. One of our Belarussian friends suggested ‘Rodni Kut’. In Russian this means ‘cosy corner’ but to us it is now ‘Rodney House’ and we hope to model the care and education as much as we can on what you do at your school.”

I have so enjoyed looking back through my file of leaflets, photos, letters and re-living some of the memories. The work of Chernobyl Children’s project still goes on however and I for one will be continuing to support them.

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Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I know what I did was a drop in the ocean to the hard work done by the team at Chernobyl Children’s Project but I’d like to think I did my little bit and I thank Linda and everyone involved for allowing me to be a part of the bigger story.

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‘Preparation for the next stage of education’ Supporting pupils with SEND in their transition to high school

Whilst we all accept change is a part of life and change can be a good thing, never the less change can be hard. We all find comfort in things which are familiar and have ways that we prepare ourselves for changes ahead of us.

In the context of school life, transition from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest changes and whilst opening up lots of new  and exciting opportunities, can also provoke anxiety for all pupils. For pupils with SEND, this is particularly the case. It is often in our experience a really difficult time for families too as they worry about their little ones making this next big step.

In this blog I write from our own experience @camberwellpark  school in supporting our pupils and their families through the experience in order to make it as positive and successful as possible.

Whilst this blog is focussed on the change from primary to secondary school, managing change is something we support our pupils with throughout their time in school from day to day changes of time – table  / rooms / activities through to changing to new classes at the end of the year. This can include use of visual schedules, now and next cards, social stories, circle time activities – what ever is relevant, appropriate and useful for individual pupils as like us, all of our pupils respond differently and need different levels and methods of support.

With regards to transition to high school, our positive and collaborative  relationship with @NorthRidgeSch  where most of our pupils move on to is integral to making our pupil’s transition successful. The headteacher or other senior colleague from the school attends the annual reviews for all of our year 5 pupils to start to get to know them and to share information about the school with their parents. She also  welcomes families of year 5 pupils to visit the school. We find families value the opportunities to talk to us about their child’s move to high school as over the years we build a relationship of trust and support, as well as talking to staff from the high school so that they can feel reassured and have any questions they have answered directly.

Whilst the transition plan follows a general format of a programme of visits  for the pupils in year 6 to their high school during the summer term, it is important for us to consider the individual needs of the pupils and where needed offer additional visits / support or indeed recognise for some pupils the programme of visits may be unhelpful in terms of them managing the change. It is our knowledge of the pupils that enables us to work with them in a way which is most helpful to them. We ensure we staff the visits with staff from our school who know the pupils well and who are best placed to share relevant info with high school staff as well as support the pupils on their visits. The visits are gradually increased in length from a short visit with a drink in the community cafe, extended over a period of weeks to include lunch and eventually full days. This is accompanied by relevant work back at own own school in relation to the change – work on feelings as well as practical aspects of the move to the new school.

Pupil voice is very important to us and whilst through our observations of the pupils and informal conversations with them we felt our transition programme was positive and effective, we wanted to investigate this further so we set about doing a pupil questionnaire – completed during year 6 before the move  to high school and repeated during year 7 after the move.

Here is a case study of one of our pupils

Transfer to High School  :  Case study  

M was a Y6 pupil in Summer 2016 who was transferring to Northridge High School in September 2016.

He had been on 7 visits to his new class/school, starting with a one hour visit/tour of the school and finishing with a full day visit. 

M had been asked during the start of his transition visits,  ( Easter 2016 onward) a few simple questions.  Familiar symbols were used to support M understanding the questions. His answers are in bold below written as they were said.

·         How was your first visit to your new school? ‘I liked it and was excited.’

·         What did you like? ‘I like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe’

·         What did you not like? ‘ I liked everything’

·         Are you worried about anything?  Why? ‘ I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from’

The answers that M gave were then discussed with him, and strategies put into place to further support his anxieties/transition process.

M was then asked some questions in November 2016 once his move to high school was complete.

·         Have you settled into your new school? ‘Yes’

·         What do you really like about your new school? ‘The “cafe, mugger and the football”’

·         Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‘Yes’

·         Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‘No ok’

·         Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‘ “A nufer day”

The responses from M and the other year 6 pupils have been used for us to continue to shape and develop our transition processes for all of the pupils moving on to high school so that we can confidently feel they are effectively prepared for the next stage of education.

We are discussing how we support our pupils to manage changes of all different sorts on @SENexchange at 8 – 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 14th June 2017. It would be great if you could join us and share your good practice too

 

 

#TwitteratiChallenge

twitterati challenge

On Thursday 30th April, I was honoured to have been included by my much valued colleague and close friend Cherryl-kd @cherrylkd in her top 5 of  ‘Go to’ Educators in the #TwitteratiChallenge  http://tinyurl.com/lgacyzw 

It is a challenge initiated by Ross, @TeacherToolkit – “In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support”:  http://tinyurl.com/m6nn5wv

I very much appreciate the collaboration I have and the support I receive from a number of people  – so what a great way to give them a mention!

Here are the rules:

There are only 3 rules.

1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.

2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge.

3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post.

What to do?

There are 5 to dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues.

1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.

2 .If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm.

3. The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chose) drink over a glass of ice.

4. Then the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their 5 other educators to participate in the challenge.

5. The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are.

That’s the easy bit – saying the purpose of the post and including the rules – it was hard for me to choose only 5 as there are more people if the rules had allowed I would’ve included so please don’t be offended – I could only include 5. I did think of giving a few more a sneaky mention but I am a good girl so top 5 it is…here goes – in no particular order:

Julie Clarke @JulieEClarke

Socialist, swimmer, Hornets fan and, hopefully, good friend and good company. All views my own.

   Julie Clarke

I have known Julie since 2007 when we did our M.Ed in Educational Leadership together. We met on the course and it turned out we lived near to each other. Julie has continued to be a valued colleague and close friend. I trust her implicitly and know that both personally and professionally her advice will always be honest.  She is frank and direct in her views as those that read her tweets and blog will know but she writes her blog posts with eloquence and considered thought. I enjoy reading them. She sometimes challenges my thinking  but I know she always has my best interests at heart. She is generous with her time and her support  and I know she is equally supportive to many others around her. I’m glad to have you in my life Mrs Clarke. Thank you.

Nick Hague  @educationbear

Primary Teacher, Associate Head, Leadership Coach/Mentor, Primary School Governor & . RTs do not imply agreement. Views are my own.

Nick

Nick was one of the first people I followed and who followed me on twitter. I distinctly remember one of our first interactions was me asking if I could send him a draft of a plan for a staff meeting I was working on and seeking his views. He readily agreed and gave me helpful, constructive feedback. This continues reciprocally on a regular basis to this day. Nick and I regularly share resources and information by email and also chat on the phone about a range of issues. Nick has also become a true and close friend. I respect and value his views, friendship and support.  Thank you Nick for being who you are.

ClaireC @Constant55

Primary Headteacher. I love collaboration, communication and seeking out the spark that ignites individuals passion to improve. Music lover, baker,cook,thinker

Claire

Claire is also someone I have been in contact with since my early twitter days. Like me, Claire is a ‘lark’ rather than an ‘owl’ and can often be found tweeting in the early hours of the morning, usually accompanied by her cat, Ollie. I have been delighted to have been able to have met Claire at a conference last year, but even before I did her kind, generous, supportive, warm, caring nature came through very much in her tweets and our interactions. Claire has been generous in sharing information she has gathered on training with me and colleagues and has also been willing to share information about her own school to support me in my inspection training. Her philosophy and approach to leadership is one I subscribe to and I am delighted that I have the opportunity to meet with her at her school very soon. I look forward to valuable professional discussion but also – as on twitter – lots of laughs! Thank you Claire for our connection.

Nicola Wood @NicolaWood64

Primary Headteacher. ‘Jill’ of all trades; Master of none. Aspiring to be outstanding but requiring improvement daily.

Nicola

Nicola is a twitter colleague I ‘became aware of’, noticing her tweets as my twitter journey went along –  noticing her dedication, wit, care, support of others and appreciated her interactions with me.. Nicola also is consistently willing to share ideas and resources and information from her school. I just loved the ‘Take-away’ CPD model she produced and not only did she let me have the PDF copy but also the word copy that I could adapt for my own purposes. Most recently Nicola as shared with me and a small group of colleagues her completed SEF  – it is such a privilege when colleagues feel they have the trust with each other that they are able to share in this way. As headteachers, it is really important to have that type of relationship and Nicola I value our professional contact and also your friendship and support very much. Thank you

Jay Virk @virkjay

Head teacher, owner of Bonnie the boxer, on a constant quest to increase fitness through running, love baking, enjoy good food and wine. Ever the optimist!

Jay

What would the early bird club be without Jay! Jay is one of the most positive, encouraging and supportive people I know on twitter. She always has time to respond to people, congratulating on their successes and sending supportive messages when they’re feeling low. What people do not necessarily know or see however is how generous and kind Jay is behind the scenes. As with all other colleagues mentioned in my top 5, I count Jay as a friend. We regularly share DMs. She remembers things going on in my world and sends me good luck messages, asks me how I have gone on, celebrates and commiserates with me as needed. Jay also is generous in sharing information and resources from her school and from training she has received. I meet Jay last year at a conference – can’t wait to see you again soon Jay! Thank you Jay for everything you do.

So there it is – my top 5!

Like I said before – there are others I am finding it tough not mentioning……I am thinking of you as I am writing this…… Twitter is such a great place for CPD, support, sharing and more than a few laughs along the way!

Enjoy the ~TwitteratiChallenge everyone!