On Friday I attended the Participation and Learning Seminar in Edinburgh.
Michael Fielding, Professor of Education at the Institute of Education in London and Alison Peacock, headteacher of the Wroxham School, Hertfordshire, lead the seminar on participation and pupil voice.
I really enjoyed the whole day, and was inspired enormously by both speakers. I’ve decided to write down some short bullet point reflections here.
From Michael Fielding:
- How do we ensure that giving pupils a voice is not an elite process? Is it becoming a ‘tick box’ activity where we select only the good communicators to be chosen to represent the others on, for example, a Pupil Council? How do we ensure that all pupils are heard?
- Is the best way forward to have Management model good practice, or should they look for good practice in classroom teachers and provide the opportunity for these teachers to share their ways with others – not a ‘top-down’ approach, but a distributed leadership model? This would presumably help to give teachers ownership, and not feel that it’s just another new innitiative imposed from above.
- Is one way to get out of the ‘ticking boxes’ culture, to keep asking the questions, “Why are we doing this anyway? What are the values we are trying to establish?”
- How do we create communal spaces where the pupil / teacher gap merges? …… “A place where adults and young people can have an open dialogue”
Michael is also a big fan of Edward Braithwaite’s “To Sir With Love” I’m very familiar with the film, of course (saw it when it first did the rounds in cinemas!), but I never knew that it was a book. I’ve just ordered it on Amazon :-). Accoring to Michael, the best scene from the book wasn’t included in the film version.
From Alison Peacock – a sharing if practical ideas tried out in her own school by creating:
- an atmosphere of inclusion and trust
- creative learning through experience
- exciting and irrisistable learning opportunities
- risk taking situations because – if leaders take risks …. then teachers will take risks ……. then pupils will take risks
- create opportunities for ‘Learning Assemblies’ where pupils take the lead
- introduce ‘Learning Review Days’ where pupils talk about their learning and teachers then put something in place to move that learning forward. Teachers are accountable at these meetings because they have to then ask the pupils if what was put in place worked. Pupils are accountable, because they have to explain what did/didn’t work. Parents are included in these meetings.
- provide opportunities for outdoor learning. Some children find it difficult in a classroom situation, but come in to their own in a more informal outdoor environment – learning can still take place sitting on a log.
- create learning networks for teachers in catchment areas. Open ended discussions take place after a question is posed. An option might be to then use the ‘together voices’ to send ideas for change off to those in charge.
- provide opportunities for children to find out who they are through Emotional Photography experiences. The children are encouraged to use props, etc. in photographs of themselves to show how they feel. This way they learn that it’s Ok to be happy/sad, etc. The photographs are framed (Cardboard?) and they then write on the frame.
- allow children to teach lessons. Videos are made of these (we saw a pupil teach the 6x table – there were rhymes, raps, etc!)
I think Alison’s main message was that there are ‘other ways’ and that learning (and teaching!) doesn’t have to be boring. She explained that we need to recognise the emotional dimensions of learning and always look for new ways forward, but that organised structures need to be in place so that a sense of freedom can be realised.
On Saturday, along with about 200 others, I attended the launch of The Association of Chartered Teachers in the Scottish Parliament building.
I felt very proud to be part of the Association. The speeches were uplifting (as was the music!) and I’ll ‘bullet point’ just a few of the messages I heard on the day:
- It has to be a group decision as to what our role now is – it’s important not to sit passively and be told the way forward
- We are now in a unique position to take things forward
- Achieving Chartered Teacher Standard is not about ‘essay writing’ – it’s about the Art of Teaching which is at the Heart of Learning.
- It’s important that the Standard for Chartered Teacher is far removed from the Standard for Leadership
- We now have an opportunity to create local and national Chartered Teacher Networks to make sure that we have a say as to where the Association goes.