Employment, Purpose, SEND

What’s your story?

By Anita Devi

This week (4th – 8 March 2019) brings together four main events:

It is therefore, not by chance six months ago when we started planning our first #SENDcareers event, we chose this week.  The World Health Organisation with The World Bank published the first ‘World Disability Report’ in 2011.  At the time, it stated about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning.  It is important to remember, these are only the cases that are known.  A colleague working in assistive technology, recently shared with me, given a rise in the retirement age, this number is much higher.

In the Foreword of the World Disability Report (2011), Professsor Stephen W. Hawking, shared the following:

Disability need not be an obstacle to success. I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a prominent career in astrophysics and a happy family life. Reading the World report on disability, I find much of relevance to my own experience. I have benefited from access to first class medical care. I rely on a team of personal assistants who make it possible for me to live and work in comfort and dignity. My house and my workplace have been made accessible for me. Computer experts have supported me with an assisted communication system and a speech synthesizer which allow me to compose lectures and papers, and to communicate with different audiences.

So why does the #SENDcareers project matter to #TeamADL?

Our overall mission is about:

Strengthening Localities

Within this, though we recognise a wide range of vulnerabilities that need addressing.  Supporting people with learning difficulties and disabilities into the workplace and sustaining them in such dynamic environments is vital for individuals, families, employers and communities.

Different companies like Microsoft and Apple are developing a number of ‘lifestyle, open access tools to help. We have also come across various organisations working to develop vocational opportunities for those with disabilities.  We commend all these efforts.  However, we believe, there is a need to do more.

We want young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities:

  • to have a voice
  • to tell their story and define their story going forward
  • to ‘own’ their abilities and future
  • to advocate for themselves, so they can experience independence and choice
  • to be connected and part of a community

To do that, we need to give people a platform to tell their story that is safe, empowering and forward thinking.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with The RIX Media Centre at The University of East London to utilise researched technology to give people with disabilities a voice to tell their story.  We will be sharing more information about this in due course.

For now, here is a statement about the partnership:

TeamADL RIX Partnership

… and pictures of us working with Ajay Choksi, Wiki Master at RIX.  One of Ajay’s goals this year is to travel by himself to an unknown place, using public transport.  He has used the wiki to communicate his goal, his plan, what it would look like and celebrate success.  This is part of his story.  Regardless of what profession we are in, isn’t this what we do every year?  As part of his wider travel plan, Ajay wanted to learn to drive.  He plots his full journey of taking both the theory and practical test, through his wiki.  Another story part to his life.  By weaving all these sub-stories together, we develop an understanding of Ajay’s life … and his story.

Ajay at RIX

Stories are powerful.  They embrace a beginning, middle and end. This short video I made for UKEd Chat Conference highlights the need for stories to be at the heart of person-centred approaches.  Stories aren’t just about, what has happened, but also what could happen.  They bring to the forefront possibilities.

Recently, I was privileged to visit The Book Trust to review a range of books for secondary special schools.  One genre particularly fascinated me.  In this book, the pupil reads a page and then makes a choice.  The choice determines which page is read next.  Then there is another choice and so the journey continues.  It was great to hear from librarians in special schools how much pupils enjoy these types of books.  The book brings together not just alternative endings, but also different scenarios, journeys and new possibilities each time.  To me, it is such a reflection of life and the choices we need to give young people.

At #TeamADL we do not claim to have all the answers, but we are keen to ask the right questions and explore possibilities and different solutions in partnership with young people, adults, families and employers.

The #SENDcareers Project is relatively young, but we have BIG plans.  So, if you are interested in keeping up to date with developments, do sign up for our termly newsletter.  We will be sharing new solutions and good practice case studies, as part of the editorial.  We will also provide readers with updates on the use of wikis in employment.

Further reading

Can Sam have special educational needs and be more able?

Change my story: ’Facing the abyss’

About Anita Devi

Anita has had an extensive career in education.  Her why is based around the ‘joy of learning’.  As such, she focuses on what enables learners and what hinders them and more importantly, what can she do to improve the system.  Amongst many other roles, Anita leads #TeamADL

To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com

 

#Curriculum, #Teaching&Learning

Curriculum under the magnifying glass

By Jeremy (Jez) Bennett

What knowledge, skills, attitudes and values will your pupils develop in order to share and thrive in their world in 2030?

(The Future We Want, OECD)

This is a crucial question for all school leaders, and its answer will shape our curriculum decisions.  Is our current system fit for purpose?  Are current curriculum and assessment structures effective in meeting the needs of our children?

The school curriculum and the National Curriculum are different.  The National Curriculum is compulsory for maintained schools but not for academies.  It is detailed for some subjects, and cursory in others and in both cases should only form part of the full school curriculum.  Leaders have the opportunity to design their school curriculum around their priorities and in response to their local context.

Ofsted’s recent draft Education Inspection Framework (EIF) places the curriculum under the microscope, and provides an opportunity for schools to conduct a curriculum review.  Schools must consider how their ethos and philosophy drive the curriculum (the intent), how well this curriculum intent is designed and shared across the school (the implementation), and the evidence that the implementation is effective (the impact).

Many of our curriculum decisions are driven by high-stakes accountability, which has increasingly become through examinations.  Everyone has an opinion about exams.  We have all experienced them, and often feel strongly about them, either positively or negatively.

“Scrap ‘pointless’ GCSEs” (Robert Halfon MP, BBC website, 11/02/19)

“Overhaul ‘narrow’ A levels” (Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, BBC website, 12/02/19)

Exams are the culmination of a programme of learning, and are only one way of assessing this learning.  Why are exams so prevalent?  Possibly because they are relatively simple to administer, efficient and reliable in a low-trust system.

There are alternatives.  Coursework, formative assessment, skills matrices, national reference tests – these could all be used collaboratively to build the picture of a system’s performance.

We know that, in any system, “What gets measured gets done.”  So what do we want to measure?  Organisations like the National Baccalaureate Trust have been working to develop frameworks to recognise and reward the spectrum of students’ achievements and development, whatever their background or starting point.  Does such a framework led itself to greater social mobility? In reality, such a framework probably needs to start from where we are, using GCSEs and the rest of our current suite of qualifications.  However, there is then scope to add in additional elements for the gaps or consider alternatives with equity.

In my opinion, there are reasons to be cautions about the draft EIF. For example, it states one of the factors that research and evidence indicates makes for effective education is that “the curriculum remains as broad as possible for as long as possible“. The English exam system leads to curriculum narrowing sooner than most countries. So a tension exists between what we aspire to and what we are doing.  This raises some interesting questions:

  • Is a child’s experience at KS2 particularly balanced?
  • Moving forward will the majority of schools revert to a 3-year KS3?
  • What does a broad curriculum at KS4 look like in your context?
  • Should schools encourage breadth at KS5, as happens in many other systems internationally? We could call it a Baccalaureate !?

The future is bright, the future is #curriculum

I am confident that school leaders in the system will balance the nuances of the EIF with the principles of their curriculum intent.  Having reviewed the curriculum in several schools, I have noticed that most school leaders understand these tensions well, and are fully supportive of holistic curricula.  Areas for development I have raised have included, for example:

  • How well leaders and teachers understand and build on prior learning at the start of a key stage, particularly following a change of school.
  • How effectively learning is planned through a key stage to embed and consolidate knowledge and skills.
  • The extent to which the curriculum intent and language for learning is disseminated and shared across the organisation.

This is an opportunity for school leaders to become creative curriculum designers.  If we are bold, perhaps by 2030 we will have schools confidently tailoring their curriculum to their local context, with carefully designed programmes of learning ensuring strong progression with assessment informing the process rather than driving it.  This would, no doubt help to ensure children develop the attitudes, skills, knowledge and values they need in order to share and thrive in their world in 2030!

This remains an on-going discussion and I welcome your views …

About Jez Bennett

As a member of #TeamADL, Jez focuses on #Curriculum review and development using theory of change models such as ‘Appreciative Inquiry’.  As a music specialist, Jez contributes to curriculum development in this area for trainees and he utilises his leadership and headteacher experience to coach other leaders. To find out more visit: www.AnitaDevi.com