Gerry Robinson’s top blogs look at welcoming students back, taking nothing for granted, leading with honesty, and spreading the joy of reading
Arriving back at school in September after a restful break soaking up the somewhat limited summer sun we had this year, it’s all too easy to forget that for some students (and staff) the time off will have been a challenging one.
Primary headteacher, Amanda Wilson’s excellent blog is a timely reminder to us all about how we navigate those ‘welcome back’ conversations in the first few days of term. Seemingly innocuous questions such as ‘so, what did you get up to over the summer?’ can be tricky to answer for students who had no choice but to sit at home by themselves every day while their parents worked, or those who perhaps lost a family member to Covid over the break.
Wilson offers personal reflections on the impact these conversations can have and calls for much-needed mental health and wellbeing support in schools to help students navigate the start of term.
This blog is vital for all school staff, especially those who work closely with students who have autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and/or any form of school-based anxiety. Steph Curtis is the parent of two girls, the youngest of whom has autism and, more specifically, PDA. She uses her blog to detail family life, including their experiences with the education system.
As with Wilson’s post, this one is especially important to read at this point in the year. Curtis reminds us poignantly that for some young people, the start of a new academic term is fraught with stress, anxiety and despair. Not only that, there is a risk that school staff don’t see the extent of the distress young people experience, sometimes due to ‘masking’ or perhaps because they avoid school altogether.
It’s a timely reminder of why we should create spaces for parents and carers to have a voice in our school communities. Not only can they help us see what we’re missing, but with insights like these, they can truly help us improve.
I recently had the privilege of reviewing John Tomsett and Mary Myatt’s new book, Huh – Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders. So I was delighted to discover this blog, highlighting why the book is so important.
As a recently retired headteacher, Tomsett is well-placed to reflect on the common occurrence of senior leaders being assigned to line manage leaders of subjects which sit outside their own area of expertise. Here, he wryly points out that in such situations we quickly find ourselves ‘the proverbial chocolate teapot’ because we are essentially novices trying to hold experts to account.
Better still, he insightfully proposes that senior leaders should approach this inevitable aspect of the job by being honest with our colleagues (and ourselves) about what we do and don’t know, and willing to learn by working collaboratively.
The alternative is to adhere to a strict hierarchy to the detriment of curriculum and teacher development. And that surely wouldn’t do.
The network of Alternative Provision schools and services of which I’m executive headteacher has just opened our first ever school library. We are resolute in wanting this space to be more than just a room full of books; our vision is for it to be a well-used and well-loved space which is integral to a wider culture of reading for pleasure.
It’s for this reason that I returned to this blog post by Elisabeth Bowling this summer. Her love of literature and determination to share the joys of reading with her entire school community radiates through her blog.
There are no shortcuts, but Bowling helpfully offers a range of tried-and-tested practical strategies which will support schools to build a reading culture, with the library at its heart, that brings staff, students and families alike on board to celebrate the joys of reading.
And what better aim could there be for the new academic year?