Review by Sarah Gallagher

Headteacher, Snape Primary School and PGCE tutor, University of Cambridge

8 Jul 2023, 5:00


The Conversation – with Sarah Gallagher

Listening books

I have to confess: we don’t yet use listening books in our school. Having heard Louise Baring from ‘Listening Books’ discuss the charity with the hosts of The IncludED Conversation podcast, we will from now on. What a world of reading opportunities this can open up to children who, for various reasons, may not find it easy to pick up a book and read to themselves.

The inclusive opportunities afforded by the charity are wide-ranging. What struck me was to what extent children who are not able to read with ease and who are not growing up hearing stories, miss out on being children.

Here, Baring explains that the charity is always adding to the range of fiction and non-fiction texts on offer and how easy it is to give children logins to listen at home without comprising GDPR. Sign me up!

Leaning into wellbeing

This is a pertinent podcast from Shane Leaning this week, talking about his own mental health and stresses in his teaching life. Leaning teaches abroad and discusses the stresses inherent in that work, including cultural nuances, parental expectations and language barriers. But it wasn’t this context that struck me the most; rather, it was his way of dealing with his own need to take a break.

Leaning makes an interesting point worthy of consideration as we approach the summer: that it’s an opportunity to work on what we love most instead of stopping altogether. Our identities are tightly intertwined with our roles in education, and I took heart from his suggestion of not giving up on a ‘passion project’, whether you’ve signed off for the holidays or have been signed off from stress.

Doing the thing he loves most, Leaning says, is helping him to manage his feelings and helping him to recover more strongly and heal. It is also reigniting his passion for education as a whole, breaking the association of teaching with stress. I love the idea of pursuing passion projects, resting, and reigniting our fire for September.

Weather with you

Another protective measure for wellbeing is to try to mitigate the stress of the lead-in to the holidays. The summer term is a time when energy levels ebb and tempers can flare. In that context, it’s easy to forget how powerful our interactions with children and young people are. Meaningful, warm interactions can change the weather for a young person, so it’s all the more important that we are not unintentionally sharp with them.

In this podcast, SENCO Ginny Bootman chats with Dale Pickles about the power of those seemingly incidental conversations. It’s a powerful reminder of the important role we play in children’s lives. I always tell me trainees in September that we might  be the only adult who ‘sees’ that child when they come into school and we must make it count. Come July, it’s harder to sustain being the sunny weather in their lives, but sustain it we must, especially for those whose lives are otherwise cloudy.

Equality. Diversity. Legality?

And finally, this blog from Carole Green is a timely intervention as make our plans for next academic year. Here, she makes the point that, although all schools are required to publish an equality statement, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion in practical terms.

Given the time pressures on our roles, it’s easy to make meeting legal requirements the goal in itself. The act of even gathering enough survey responses alone can seem a herculean task, which means the insightful part that comes from truly listening to our school communities can get lost. It struck me that it’s all well and good issuing questionnaires and surveys, but worth little if we don’t follow up by making time to feed back on the results and make changes accordingly.

Green makes the point that, in order to drive improvement, it is imperative that we truly value people’s input. She also reminds us of the importance of involving young people and children themselves to ensure genuine engagement.

Perhaps that should be the passion project for this summer.

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