Let’s work together
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders writing in the TES (April 3rd 20200 was looking ahead to the time when 10 million children and 1.3 million staff get back to school;
“When schools return it will not be ‘business as usual’ …. many of our pupils will be deeply anxious about the crisis in general and their own family and friends in particular. Some will have been seriously ill themselves, or lost close family members. All of us will be affected by scenes ahead of disease and news of an increasing death rate – yet without the sense of community schools can give, to help young people to navigate things so upsetting.”
We know that change causes stress and the stressful experiences like these that children are witnessing now will resonate in the future. We’re at the eye of a storm of huge changes at all levels, from personal to global. We know that the same levels of stress impact us all very differently, depending on whether or not have the resources to bounce back. We know that many of us, children and adults alike, are able to recover our balance and move forward. We also know that many of us, children in particular, can get swamped by adversity.
Geoff Barton was focusing on an important issue, the effects of the current disruption on school and pupil performance and how they’re assessed. My interest is on closely related issues; the engagement and achievement of the significant minority of children struggling under the old performance system, with the increase in both Government and governor approved exclusion and illegal off-rolling. It covers the behaviour, mental health and well-being of many thousands of children and young people.
There is growing wave of interest in reframing policy and practice away from the extremes and back towards centre of balance, looking towards rebuilding the hopeful future.
Geoff Barton hit the nail on the head.
“When they return to school then, children will be at very different points from where we would normally expect them to be, and from one another. The disparity between the advantaged and disadvantaged will be increasing by the day.
If schools are now shut for an extended period, it is essential that they are able to concentrate on tackling these issues when they return. The last thing they will need is a return to the full paraphernalia of the accountability system.
……. It just won’t be possible to return to business as normal, because the new normal is likely to be very different from the old normal. And so it will need to be.”
The “old normal” was a tilted system based on the doubtful assumption that without the micro-management of behaviour and performance there would be a descent into chaos. These times are showing us what’s possible when people are trusted to do their best. My work for the last 25 years has been to develop and apply an approach which produces balance – rules and regulation in their place together with the structured response of Solutions Focused Coaching for children who need more than reminders and consequences, and the staff who will soon have the job of resettling unsettled children into school.
Geoff Barton ends with this;
“We have some tough days and weeks ahead. But that notion of rebirth – of creating the future we want – lies somewhere ahead. And it will give an extraordinary opportunity to focus on what truly matters.”
Let’s make the most of the opportunity.