Governance

The difference good governance can make to a school!

By Martin Matthews, Lord of Monivea, National Leader of Governance Twitter

When you first walk into a school if there are happy children in clean, warm and well-resourced classrooms chances are governance is good.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

I firmly believe that there are three principal strands of any school organisation that underpin success; fantastic educators and leaders, great governance and amazing admin.

Governance starts by setting the ethos of how the adults treat each other. The tone of meetings and how governors interact with senior leaders sets the expectation. This in turn affects how senior leaders work with each other and the rest of the staff. Governors should follow the Nolan principles and see the same from school leaders. This matters as it directly impacts on teacher retention. Treating people fairly starts with the board.

Teachers are the ‘engine room’ of the school organisation and everything else is there to support them to be their best. The happier and more secure teachers feel the more they can concentrate on educating children. In turn this positively affects how and what children learn. Governors are part of how this is achieved.

Most teachers have little need to understand or work with governance. When it comes to pay decisions, they start to take more notice. This is one example of what governors contribute to the organisation. Teachers go above and beyond what most employees do and paying them fairly is crucial to building and maintaining trust within the wider organisation. Governors in maintained schools decide both what percent pay rise all teachers receive and who gets an increment. This is their legal responsibility and it must be done fairly. The pay process is there to protect both school and individuals. Governors guard against “We can’t give a pay award because of the budget”, unfair career inappropriate targets, unfair targets in general and some of the stranger things that pop up like “We can only have one UPS teacher”.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

Governors and trustees have two main strands to their work; support and challenge. Challenge should never be aggressive or accusative. Its purpose should always link back to what’s best for the children. Having said that, there should be an intolerance of things that fail the children. Support has many forms from protecting school against the ‘noises off’ that plague education to the Chair working well with the head teacher. For example when the DfE made the decision to adopt an academisation policy, we worked on a Plan B for our school. We involved all the staff and made clear this was a ‘just in case’ to protect our school from enforced changes. This gave reassurance to the staff so they could settle and concentrate on teaching.

When staff understand that governors and trustees are there to champion the children in school and champion school to the outside world what’s done makes more sense. We are volunteers but not amateur and use the skills and experience we bring to make school the best it can be. Anything less is not acceptable. What motivates me as a governor is the sense that every child deserves an equal and fair chance to access the very best education we can provide. All children are ‘worth’ the same; who knows what they will become as adults?

We’d love to hear from other governors: what motivates you and what are the highs and lows of the role?

About Martin Matthews
Martin is a National Leader of Governance (cohort 1). Cumulatively he has been a governor for over 50 years. He has given written evidence to the House of Commons Education select committee four times and has the only MA Ed in governance.  You can connect with Martin on Twitter @mm684

Members of #TeamADL work with and train many SEN Governors.  In fact, some of our team are governors themselves!  Anita Devi has also written a SENCO and governor relationship toolkit.  To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com

#Curriculum, #Teaching&Learning, Disability

Scaffolding support in primary PE curriculum for SEND pupils into adulthood

Interview with Jonathan Bhowmick (JB)

With a renewed focus on curriculum this year, Anita Devi (AD) caught up with Actions Mats to ask more about how we support pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND) in Physical Education (PE), as part of the inclusion agenda and active lifestyles.

AD: Hi Jonathan, thank you for your time today.  Tell us a little about yourself.

JB: Hi Anita Well, I am the designer and founder of Action Mats. My background is playground design and working with a school, I was asked by the headteacher to design a solution for engaging pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL).  Hence Action Mats were born.  The mats are a unique PE and active-learning resource created for children between 4 and 11 years old.  The thinking behind Action Mats is to create fitness stations.  These can used in multiple configurations.  They enable ALL pupils to engage in the PE curriculum as well as participate in team building challenges and competitive games. What we have also discovered since from user feedback is Action Mats work well for pupils with a special educational need and disability.  In effect, we have fulfilled our AIM in creating Action Inclusive Mats.

AD: How long have you been operating?

JB: Action Mats was launched in October 2017 and we are now in over one hundred schools in four countries. They were originally created for EAL pupils.  Our vision is for them engage in the lessons and so feel part of the school community.  The unique feature of Action Mats is the simple, yet fun, instructional graphics and symbols printed on each mat. Children of all ages, from any country, can understand these graphics without the need for explanation or translation. This empowers children, giving them the ability to work independently or collaboratively, without the need for teacher/ adult input.  Action Mats are active members of Youth Sports Trust, the Association for Physical Education and UK Active.

Action Mats 1

AD: Did you test the mats with the children?

JB: We tested the Action Mats quite extensively.  In late September 2019, we ran a new trial session at a primary school in Hertfordshire to test our active-learning mats, which incorporate the literacy and numeracy packs.  Thirty-two children in year 4 (8-year olds) tested our level 2 challenge jigsaw race mats.  Each challenge includes sixteen activities.  The activity was delivered as a race.  So, the pupils carry random pieces jigsaw pieces over a course of fitness stations to reach the ‘build zone’. In the Build-Zone, pupils must connect the piece they carry to existing pieces already there. The class was a mixed ability group.

AD: Sounds like quite a high-pace activity?

JB:  It is.  However, from a designer’s point of view, the successful completion of the jigsaw is rather secondary. The objective is for pupils to engage fully in the exercises on each mat. We want our children to be active and see sport, as an important lifestyle choice. A secondary objective is for the whole team to coalesce in the jigsaw build zone to assemble the pieces as a team, collectively. The game fosters teamwork on two levels, during the race section and working together to achieve a common goal.  Ideally before the other team.

AD:  What did you learn from this new trial?

JB:  I was really pleased with how successful the game was. The rationale behind the idea worked perfectly and, as the photos testify, the children were completely engrossed in the challenge.  In particular, the children shared they preferred the numeracy tasks linked to Action Mats and found it helped their concentration.  School leadership commented, “We found the sense of purpose linked to PE activities helpful or children’s learning and we believe teachers could use this accessible resource in many different ways, to engage the children”. As a follow-up, Action Mats was invited to run an active session at a PE Conference in Worcestershire at which we invited twenty PE Teachers to participate in the same game.  There was some initial reluctance, but once the teachers got into it, they found it more challenging than they had originally thought.  Their competitive side also surfaced.  We found their feedback useful.

Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I’m doing – Phil Jackson

Action Mats 2

AD: The jigsaw appears to also help the slow down rest period, after an intense period of activity.  Is that how they were designed?  What is the recommended warm up to the fitness stations?

JB: In this scenario, the objective was to race the other team.  However, it is possible to use the jigsaw for downtime.  The Action Mat stations are used for the warm-up through a circuit-based activity.

AD: Can you give us an example where the mats have benefited children with special educational needs and disability (SEND)?

JB: Action Mats are be used by some special schools and we have anecdotal feedback about impact for SEND in mainstream schools. This is an are we are currently developing.

Sports England 2018

(Source: Sport England, 2018)

AD: London 2012, enabled us as a nation to take sport to a new level. Our pledge was to “Inspire a generation”. Yet, in 2018 Sport England reported just over 40% of children in England do an average of more than 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Our Active Lives Children and Young People Survey (2018), which was the first of its kind carried out by Ipsos MORI, showed that around 3 million children (43.3%) lead active lives.  However, of that group, only 1.2 million (17.5%) are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity a day, every day of the week.  So, there is clearly a need to do more. The report also concluded an insignificant difference in the amount of sport and physical activity that takes place inside school, compared to activity levels outside of school.  Both have a critical role to play. With 22% of children active for at least 30 minutes per day outside of school, while 28% of children do so in school.  How do you think Action Mats can contribute to the national agenda for children of ‘being active and staying healthy’?

Life need not have limits – Richard Whitehead, a British athlete and Paralympian

JB: Action Mats can be delivered through structured teacher-led pedagogy.  The mats come with easy-to-follow activity cards.  Action Mats can also have high impact through learner-led activities.  So, the mats cover both differentiation and personalisation.  In some schools, Action Mats have promoted Family Fitness Sessions, where parents/carers join their children for stay healthy exercise sessions.  This helps promote good family relationships and positive role models, as well active lifestyles outside school.  Action Mats are portal and on suitable external surfaces can be used outside, in the fresh air.

Sports England 2017

(Source: Sports England, 2017)

AD: At #TeamADL, our vision is ‘Everyone thriving in education, employment and life’.  We were therefore concerned when we read in the 2015/16 survey 51% of adults with three or more impairments are inactive compared with 21% of those without a disability. So, my final question to you, what can we do differently to increase activity for those with impairments?

JB: Take the principles of Action Mats and apply them widely.  In other words, simplicity, accessibility and inclusivity.  Richard Whitehead, a British athlete and Paralympian once said, “Life need not have limits”.  This is so true of the philosophy of Action Mats.  The mats are enablers for children to stretch themselves that little bit further, with the hope it becomes a lifestyle choice for their adulthood.  Do check out our video and hear what teachers and PE specialists have said.

AD: Thank you Jonathan once again for your time.  We wish you the very best going forward.  Keep us posted of any updates!

To find out more about Action Mats visit: https://www.actionmats.co.uk/

Chrispina Wilson from #TeamADL is also actively involved in supporting healthy lifestyles and reducing obesity for all children and young people. Contact us to find out more.

Disability, Employment, Preparing for Adulthood, SEND

Awards are not that we have made it, but proof that organisations are trying to get better!

By Maya Thomas

Awards, I have found are very marmite – you either love them or you don’t.  But do they convey much more than just winners and possible winners? The recent Disability Smart Awards are a great example of this.  Led by Business Disability Forum, these awards where a celebration of breakthrough, innovation and better best practice in businesses, large and small, when it comes to inclusion in the workplace for those with disabilities.

We arrived at the Locarno Suite at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and found our place at a table with others who were also finalists for various awards. We sat with representatives from the Dubai Police, Bank of England, Vindhya e-infomedia and the Highways Agency – each team with a story of making real change for those with disabilities. Each team representing organisations going well beyond what is a legal requirement or policy minimum.

What I really enjoyed was, that it wasn’t just projects that had won that were given the limelight. Our hosts, including Paralympian, Stef Reid, gave a brief synopsis on each of the finalists before the winner in each category was announced. There were so many people in the room who are being responsive in their focus on workplace inclusion and transforming the life chances for those with disabilities.

Herbal Essences won the Disability-Smart Design Award 2019 for a change in design on their bottles that makes it possible for those who cannot see, to tell the difference between the shampoo and conditioner. To put it simply, there are now indentations on each bottle to differentiate one from the other – such an ingenious and brilliant idea!

Herbal essence

The Dubai Police were finalist for numerous awards, and they won the Disability-Smart Technology for All Award 2019 for creating the World’s first smart police station free from human interaction. The impact of this project is cutting edge for everyone, especially where anonymity is vital. In this case, real barriers to access have been removed.

Towards the end of the evening the hosts did a superb job adlibbing for about 10 minutes, delaying the announcement of the Disability-Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019. There was a hushed entrance and the seating of a late guest, before it was announced that MI5 had won the award! Having gone the extra mile, the award was in recognition of 10 years of “Raising Awareness, Removing Barriers and Fulfilling Potential” in the workplace, particularly for those with disability and ill health.

The stories that where shared that night, where often personal and I enjoyed meeting many wonderful people at the awards. It was inspiring to be in the room with people who are passionate about influencing and transforming the life chances and experience for those with disabilities. And, as a finalist for the Disability-Smart Influencer Award 2019 #TeamADL we were in great company, which was a real honour!

#TeamADL are passionate about bridging the gap between education and employment, giving everybody opportunities to thrive in education, employment and life. If you feel are able to get involved, or if you already have a project that is making a difference in this area, please do get in touch. We love to hear stories of what is already happening out there, and journey with others for greater creative solutions. Better still sign our #SENDcareers Pledge or view our case studies page.

To find out more visit #TeamADL

About Maya Thomas

Maya wears many hats! She is Anita’s part-time PA and also Operations Lead for #TeamADL Her role continues to grow and evolve, as Maya unfurls the many layers her skills and talent.  In her own time, Maya gives to the local community as a SEND Governor and takes an active interest in her children’s schools.

Employment, Learning, Parenting, Preparing for Adulthood, Social work

Reflections: Community Care Social Work Event

By Stephanie Lister

Once registered and inside the Business Design Centre in London, the somewhat subdued queue of social workers, managers and students were invited to attend any of the over thirty different legal sessions, seminars and interactive zones. These covered topics as varied as ‘Coroners Court Mock Inquest’, ‘Engaging Safely and Effectively with Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse’ and ‘Immigration Law and the Children Act: What are the Social Workers’ Responsibilities?’.  So much choice!  In this blog, I share insights from the four sessions I attended.

The first seminar was ‘Getting it Right in Transitions: Goals and Aspirations’ – a topic close to my heart and an area I worked in for over twelve years. I was pleased to see the focus was on the young person and what’s important to them, such as finding and keeping a job, things to do in their spare time, living independently and staying safe and healthy.  The discussions were grounded in the Care Act and adopted a strengths-based approach. Also covered was the need for joined up working with partners and supporting parents as their child moves into adulthood.  Associated positive risk needs to be juxtaposed with ongoing vulnerability.

 ‘Navigating the boundary between the Mental Health Act (1983) and the Mental Capacity Act (2005)’ was the title of my second seminar.  This was a legal learning session designed to broaden understanding of the scope of the two acts, the differences between them and how to decide which regime to follow in different scenarios. This was a relatively new topic for me, as I have limited experience working within the framework of the Mental Health Act, but some experience undertaking Mental Capacity Act assessments for young people over the age of sixteen. I found the topic both challenging and helpful.  It reminded me of a previous case where the young person, diagnosed with high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder had found it increasingly difficult to self-regulate.  This resulted in deteriorating mental health, increasing self-harm, isolation and risk to themselves and family. After much multidisciplinary debate regarding the needs and provision for this young person, a hospital place was found under the Mental Health Act.  They made good recovery and were able to return to supported living in a specialist educational setting. Having a clearer understanding of the Mental Health Act would have helped me advocate more directly in this case.

Stand up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone 

Suzy Kassem

Seminar three was a refresher entitled ‘NHS Continuing Healthcare and the Legal Limits of Local Authority Responsibility’. Continuing healthcare assessments were a regular part of my working life.  My role involved assisting and supporting young people and their parents/carers through the assessment process, balancing the tension between the Care Act 2014 sec 22(1) and the NHS Act, the various budget holders and the often-desperate needs of the family. This seminar highlighted again the need for clear understanding of what is a primary health need, how the characteristics of Intensity, Nature, Complexity and Unpredictability look across the domains of the assessment and how regional variations in assessment can lead to a ‘postcode lottery’ of funding being agreed. It raised the importance of accurate recording of evidence of risk, strengths and unmanaged needs within the framework of the domains outlined in the decision tool.

SW

The final seminar of the day was one based in adult services, but which occurs in families I’ve worked with.  The focus was ‘Trauma-Informed Practice with Adults who Self-Neglect or Hoard.’ The speaker, herself a survivor of trauma resulting in a form of hoarding, gave an insight into the effect of trauma on the brain, the way life events are then experienced through that lens or trigger and its effect on attachment. We were encouraged to recall three objects that were of sentimental value to us.  We were then instructed to keep one, recycle one and throw one away. We then had to recognise the emotions and physical responses we felt.  This simple activity was a helpful insight into the distress experienced by people when the outward signs are addressed, but not the healing of the trauma. A question was raised about how would a person’s executive function affect the outcome of, for example, a Mental Capacity Act assessment? as often those affected can ‘talk the talk’ i.e. tell the assessor the steps needed to carry out tasks, but are unable to ‘walk the walk’ i.e. actually carry out those tasks.  It was suggested treatment pathways that can be helpful such talking therapies, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Dual Task Therapy.

It was interesting to note that by the end of the day the attendees appeared more upbeat and re-energised and there was a definite buzz of enthusiasm. This was also something I noted in myself as although the day had been full on and exhausting, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and value.

Social work Seus

About Stephanie Lister

Stephanie has nineteen years’ experience as a Nursery Nurse working with children, who have special educational need and/or a disability (SEND).   With a desire to do more and advocate for individuals and families, Stephanie retrained in social work and subsequently dedicated twelve years to working in a local authority with a broad remit covering Children with Disabilities and Transitions into adulthood. Stephanie is a valued member of #TeamADL where she continues to advocate and find solutions in a social care context.

To find out more visit the #TeamADL website

#Teaching&Learning, Early Career Framework, Learning, Purpose

New, newness and learning

by Anita Devi

This month, instead a text-based blog, we’ve put together an 8 minute podcastThis is ‘new’ for us … we hope you enjoy!

Same old thinking.jpg

Break the cycle … and do something NEW today, this term, this year!

Comfort zone

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