Author Archives: goodenoughmum

An education⤴

from @ lenabellina

I tell you

I teach you

The facts, the information, the knowledge.

I repeat, review, re-phrase

Recognise the resistance

Re-double my efforts.

I get frustrated.

Why can’t you

Do as I say

Not as I did?

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes

I can’t bear to see you suffer the same pains

I shudder in the imagining of the same risks

History must not repeat.

Unless it must.

Do the best teachers tolerate this?

Loving so hard that they let go

Never saying I told you so

Having faith it won’t be so

And if it is, just being there

And helping mend those pieces.

The holiday of a lifetime?⤴

from @ lenabellina

Holiday.

And we are off. In the car, en route, unterwegs.

On a journey that we had hardly hoped to dare might happen.

Not the “normal” summer holiday trip in so many respects.

Not the usual first day of the holidays departure, ahead of three weeks away.

Not sitting in the front of the car as the première étape driver…. But sitting in the back while my beautiful learner daughter clocks up miles and experience.

No separately packed bags in the boot for our usual week in France.

And with me not quite the person I was last time I saw family and friends outside Scotland.

But in the car nevertheless. On the way “down south”, lateral flow tests having allowed us an exit pass and with plans to see loved and familiar faces and places.

So much has happened since we last met, as it will have for so many families who experience the first pandemic-delayed re-unions after almost two years, or maybe more.

How will we be with one another? How will we catch up on those conversations round dinner tables and on walks that haven’t happened? How will we fill the gaps left after Zoom calls and WhatsApp calls didn’t quite hit the mark?

I am almost impossibly excited.

I know the danger in this. I know that my tendency to become overexcited and set my hopes too high (which ended up with many a birthday or special occasion of my childhood ending in disappointment) needs to be watched.

I am counting up the things I can tell them about that I am proud of and that have also happened in those 20 months:

The parent, wife and friend I have been; far from perfect but good enough in challenging times for all of us;

(The three people in the car right now, as I write this, will probably never know the depth of my love for them.)

The work I have done in my day jobs to help children who need our professional love the most;

The connections I have made and the invitations I have had, to engage in projects that have helped make Scottish education more equitable and trauma-responsive;

The recognition that I have been granted by the GTCS for values based leadership;

The section of a book that I have written on disability awareness in education, which incorporates my knowledge and experience gained across almost 30 years as a teacher and my recent ADHD diagnosis;

The work that I have done on my Masters in Critical Enquiry;

The Teacherhug radio show that I have curated and presented around teacher wellbeing;

My continued co-leadership, alongside the inspiration and rock who is Christine Couser, of WomenEdScotland, which has flourished as a network and brought increasing numbers of women from across Scotland together, to help one another thrive and connect through values.

I write this not to brag, not in the interests of self promotion. I write it because, for some parts of this year, I couldn’t have brought myself to write it.

I could only have talked about the difficulties, the challenges. Or worse still, not talked at all.

But life is never all good or all bad.

It is both.

The last 20 months have been both.

I have to admit that if ever I have needed to see people who love me for what I am, who won’t judge me and who will still see the parts of me that they have loved and lived with for my lifetime, it is now.

And so for now, I am going to put some things that I can’t control, or solve by endless thinking or worrying, into a box, leave the box on a high shelf and allow my ever busy, curious and intense mind to be intensely busy with other things.

Like dreaming about those hugs, like pondering which beach to swim from first, like deciding what colour to paint my toenails, and like picking which yoga routine to start the day with.

And like remembering to breathe.

Whatever this summer brings you, however you spend it, I wish you peace, joy and rest. If you have been a helper this year, I hope you know how grateful I am.

A response⤴

from @ lenabellina

I read a post yesterday by Professor Neil McLennan. Neil is an education leader, former Young Programme delegate and previous Institute of Contemporary Scotland Young Scot of the Year. The piece is here:

https://www.scottishreview.net/NeilMcLennan578a.html

This is my response to that piece.

If you want to know who I am, you can read back through my blog. There is a lot about me here. When I write in this blog, I do so as me; as the voice of the human who has learnt through all of the experiences that I have lived.

If you think that I am writing about you in this piece and feel upset by it, please get in touch with me and tell me how or why. I am very accessible, I believe. You can get me via Twitter, Facebook, probably even my email. If you you are a friend or relative, talk to me next time we meet. Or ask someone else to get in touch with me on your behalf. But all I ask is that you are very specific with what you say and ask me about. Which words, what you think I am inferring and how we can resolve it.

I think that Neil’s piece is very important. Over my almost thirty year career in education, I have worked in many schools and systems. I have had many, many experiences and I have heard many, many stories. I seem to be someone in whom certain types of people confide.

I do agree with Neil that Scottish Education right now needs scrutinising in terms of the power relationships, professional relationships and personal relationships between various actors and agents. Lots of other people agree with this. The recent OECD report has much resonance in terms of its observations on actors and agency.

I spent much of the last two years trying to understand the issues addressed by Neil through work at national level on trauma responsive systems and leadership. I even had my half hour of attention from John Swinney around this.

For those who don’t know, creating trauma responsive systems is not simply about doing training on the effects of trauma on the brain, or having co-regulating adults in schools to help children calm down. It is about addressing exactly the same issues that Neil highlights.

I am not doing the work around trauma responsive systems any more, however. It seems as if I wasn’t quite what people wanted after all. Am I a bit sad about that? Well yes, as I thought I was doing a good job.

But my sensitivities aside (although I will say that I don’t apologise for being sensitive) I want to finish by sharing a piece I wrote a year ago. I stand by all I wrote then and I think that much of it offers a curious reflection as to why the systemic change we need isn’t going to be easy to bring about. But it is necessary. Because if the adults take too long to understand what is going on and change, the consequences for the children of Scotland will be unforgivable.

Here is my piece:

https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2020/08/15/and-the-haters-are-certainly-going-to-but-why-do-you-hate-so-much/

Ps In the interests of openness, I know Neil through mutual friends, through meeting him at conferences and through the Remembering Srebrenica Project which explores how we learn from what happened in Bosnia in the 1990s and prevent atrocities happening again in plain site.

Proactive Pastoral Care – Book launch and my contribution around trauma responsive education⤴

from @ lenabellina

On Thursday April 15th, I was honoured to be part of the panel for the launch of Maria O’Neill’s fantastic new book, Proactive Pastoral Care, published by Bloomsbury and available on Amazon.

In my contribution, I built upon Maria’s excellent ideas and suggested how a school community can ensure that it is responsive to the needs of pupils and staff who have experienced trauma.

In what I say, I am indebted to those from whom I have learned above all the many children and families whom I have worked with over many years.

I think it is the best summary I have ever achieved in such a short amount of time of what I fundamentally know about how to make schools the places we need them to be.

I am very grateful to Maria for allowing me to re-share this extract of the recording of the event: https://youtu.be/khiVnzQGp5A

I strongly recommend that you read her book: Proactive Pastoral Care: Nurturing happy, healthy and successful learners https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1472980433/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_1KBSSQ6AA6T0YHXG8196

This is my Amazon Review of Maria’s Book:

This is quite simply a book that every teacher and educational leader needs to read. I have a shelf full of fantastic books on how to support the emotional well-being of children and yet not one combines research, evidence and practical reflective tasks in the way that
Maria has managed. The particular strength of Pro-active Pastoral Care is that it has a focus firstly on defining wellbeing and its place in the educational landscape and secondly on evaluating the impact of the work that schools do around the theme. For many years, we have struggled as a profession to know how to measure the wellbeing of the pupils we support; Maria offers tools that allow to do precisely that.

A real act of love that has the power to transform attitudes, schools and the lives of children.

For UKEdchat April 2021. How to be a professional human.⤴

from @ lenabellina

This week I was privileged to present a session at UKEdChat’s global online conference. This is a video of my contribution to the event: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WHrZspW_9-_oTXhbTPn4wNx4PLWT35Jh/view?usp=sharing

This is the basis of what I said.

Hello there I’m absolutely delighted that you’ve joined me for this session today and that you are ready to consider the idea of authentic leadership or how to be a professional human.

Our focus for the next 20 minutes is going to be on exploring the balance and maybe the tensions of being both professional and human but also taking a bit of time and space to think about how we align our professional selves and behaviours with our values.

My contention, after almost 30 years in the classroom is that if we spend too much time playing a role in our working life that isn’t aligned with our true self and personality then eventually that will take its toll on us.. but also on those we teach and work with.

Now although my title for this session talked about leadership, I am coming out at that from the perspective of us all being leaders in our classrooms; leaders of learning but most importantly role models who have responsibility for shaping the lives of children and young people.

It’s my belief that the pandemic and the way that leaders at national and international level have acted has given us a good landscape and maybe a new and current example of what we need from people who are role models and have responsibility for us and our futures.

Without going into politics or commenting about any individuals I’m sure you can all look at the leaders out there and think for yourself which leaders you feel you have faith in, which leaders you feel you would trust with your life and which leaders you would trust with the future of our society and communities and the lives of those close to you.

Now I know you may think that your job as a teacher isn’t really compatible with the job of a prime minister or president …but actually one of the things that I’ve learnt over my career (and it’s backed up by some of the greats in educational discourse) is that we do take on a huge amount of responsibility when we choose this incredible job of shaping the lives of children and young people. And that responsibility is also a privilege.

Dr Haim Ginott who was was a school teacher, a child psychologist and psychotherapist and a parent educator working in Israel and the USA in the 1940s through to the 70s. He said, in his preface to “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers” in 1972:

So, before I say more i’d like you to take a moment to think about this question.

How do you show up at work? I don’t know what stage of your career you’re in, whether you’re new to teaching, whether you’re like me, a bit long in the tooth and having done the job for many years…. but just for a moment, have a think.

Is the person who shows up at work the same as the person watching this presentation?

When you show up at work do you act differently to how you would right now?

When you show up at work do you talk differently to how you would right now?

When you show up at work do you dress differently to how you would right now?

Now when it comes to dress, possibly it would be a good thing if you dress differently for work because I imagine that some of you may have got into some of those lockdown habits, whereby you are in a state of dress or undress right now that is absolutely appropriate in your own home on your sofa but *possibly* wouldn’t be in the outside world….

Because of course we have social norms and conventions of what is acceptable in different contexts.

As a drama teacher I used to talk a lot children about this and I would explain to them about the fact that as human beings we often play different roles in our lives. whereby we change our language and behaviour to suit different contexts and relationships.

So for example I would explain how the language and behaviour that they might use when they were out with their friends would probably be different to the language and behaviour that they might use in front of their granny or perhaps if they ever got to meet the Queen.

I would explain that as we grow up we learn appropriate behaviours to use in different contexts and that school is a place where children can explore this.

However I also used to explain to children that under all behaviours and language we have a personality, identity and a character that shouldn’t have to change across the different contexts that we are in.

Because although in society we have to adapt our behaviours and language so that they don’t cause harm or hurt to the other people around us, we should never have to change the essence of who we are in order to fit in.

And of course that sort of teaching is absolutely underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child and in particular article 8 around identity, article 12 around the views of the child, article 13 around freedom of expression and article 14 around freedom of thought, belief and religion.

So what happens if we take those ideas and relate them to ourselves as teachers? How important is it that,whilst we may change our behaviours and language to suit the context of the classroom and the role of being a teacher, we also need to be clear that we should never have to change the essence of who we are, in order to fit into the role?

Of course it is important, when we explore what the elements of being an authentic professional human might be, that we also take a moment to look at what it is not.

It is not about over sharing or making lessons all about you. We can probably all remember the equivalent of the teacher whom we all adored and who told us everything about his family, dogs an holidays but from whom we learnt practically nothing about ..(insert subject).

It is not about subverting agreed professional codes relating to use of language or dress. (Tattoos, use of social media and hairstyles seem to constantly cause debate but the best advice I can offer is to check out the codes in any school you plan to work in.)

More about boundaries later.

I believe that it is very important and that, in fact, that it’s only by taking our true selves to work that we will make our classrooms the most conducive learning environments that they can be.

Rita Pierson once said that children don’t learn from people they don’t like.

I understand what she was saying but I think it’s about more than liking. In my experience, children will learn best from people they trust.

And how to we get people to trust us?

By being honest. By being consistent.

By showing that we are interested in them.

By giving something of ourselves.

When I was in my second year of teaching and struggling, as a twenty three year old, to manage some of my classes of young people who were just 7 years younger than me, I had in my head this idea that I needed to project an image of some sort of strict, sensible and mature professional in order to gain respect and establish control.

My teacher training has definitely instilled in me the idea that I should never consider smiling before Christmas.

Incidentally if you want proof as to why this was one of the worst pieces of advice that young teachers could ever be given, find the video of the still face experiment by Dr Edward Tronick on YouTube. https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0

Why was it ever thought a good idea to withhold from children the warmth, empathy and enthusiasm that comes from a smiling face?

But I digress. In desperately trying so hard to be something that I was not and suppress my personality, I ended up with lessons that were chaotic and a desperate attempt by me to “keep a lid on things”.

One day, my line manager came to me after a lesson observation and said “the one thing you need to do is relax and be yourself. You don’t have to control it all so much. Take some time to get to know the pupils, talk to them about their hair, their hobbies and their families. You know your subject and your stuff but you need to get to know them. And they need to get to know you.”

In following that advice, I found that my practice was transformed. And it is advice that I have used in every classroom and in every school and every role that I’ve taken on since.

And not just in my relationships with pupils but also in my relationships with colleagues and with parents and carers.

Children will work hard for you and learn from you if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

Colleagues will cooperate with you and, if you’re a leader, work most productively for you if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

And parents and carers will be confident that you are doing the best for the most precious beings in their lives if they trust you and feel safe in your company.

And trust and safety come when people see who you are, what your values are and what makes you human.

If you work in a school or setting where you feel that you have to put on a mask, or maybe worse still, a suit of armour before you step through the door, maybe take some time to reflect as to whether changing your behaviour and fitting someone else’s mould is really serving you and your values. If you are asked to do things that, in your heart or your gut, don’t feel right, if you are being motivated by drivers from someone else’s belief system, consider the toll that, over time, this may have on you.

Back in September I was lucky enough to attend an online conference with the psychiatrist Dr Bruce Perry who is one of the most inspiring and knowledgeable experts on child development and trauma in the world.

At that conference spoke of something called ego-dystonic behaviour in relation to employees who are expected to undertake actions and behaviours which they know are not in the best interests of those they are there to serve – so for example therapists who have to see 8 children in an hour when in fact they know that this is too rushed.

He talked about the negative impact that, over time, working in such a context will have on the health of the organisation and the individual.

I attended that conference as, over the last couple of years and through my work with care experienced children and young people, I’ve been involved in some work around what is known as trauma informed leadership. This is specifically to do with making sure that the practice of anybody working with children and families takes account of the trauma that people may have experienced in their lives and how we as organisations make sure that we don’t traumatise or re-traumatised people through the work we do with them.

If you’re interested in this work more generally I would encourage you to look at the work of Dr Karen Treisman or Lisa Cherry and Dr Bruce Perry at an international level.

However as part of my work in this field I began to explore what it might be like to be a truly authentic trauma informed leader. As part of this I began to talk about my own personal experiences of trauma and the impact on my development and mental health over my formative years.

Two years ago, I stood up at a Head Teacher conference in my local authority to speak to my colleagues about our Trauma informed work.

Many of my colleagues knew me as a respected teacher and education leader with many years of experience. They knew I had worked in a number of countries and schools throughout my career and I had a reputation for speaking and writing on a number of educational issues including leadership, inclusion, curriculum design and pedagogy.

They didn’t necessarily know some of the other reasons that I feel so passionate about this project and this work. But as part of modelling courageous and trauma-sensitive practice, I decided to tell them about the abuse that I had suffered as a child about the coping strategies and behaviours that I developed to help me survive in a world that I saw as unsafe, scary and sad and about the subsequent mental health challenges that I had faced throughout my life.

I had actually already written about these experiences in a book. I first wrote that book three years previously under a pen name but had gradually been sharing it as “me” because I had a strong belief that my authenticity as a leader is what might help change things for others.

I know I took a big risk in doing this. I know my bosses and my colleagues will never see me in the same way again. 

I know it is possible that this has had and it will have negative consequences for my career but I feel strongly that it was necessary for me to take that risk.


I know that, on the whole, people are “either” an “education professional” or an “inspirational speaker on trauma with lived experience” but what I have tried to show that it is possible to be a hybrid, a professional human and simultaneously outstanding and flawed.

But on the whole, my risk has paid off because some of our most “dis-engaged” families have reached out to me because of what they know and because, rather than creating a barrier, it has built a bridge.

It’s not “me over here in my comfortable world as a leader” and “you over there in your family with your trauma and mess”. It’s us, in the middle.

Now to go back to what I said previously about boundaries, I have never mentioned these issues directly to pupils or families who I have worked with. I have never discussed them in classes I have taught or in conversations with pupils.

I have touched on them with colleagues, on occasions, as part of coaching and when I felt that a shared experience might help them.

But my writing is out there and my contributions at events like today are out there.

Because to me, anything else would be inauthentic.

I am absolutely not advocating this approach for anyone else, if it doesn’t feel right or comfortable.

But I do advocate today, as an invitation to you, thinking about whether you make take a little bit more of you to your work.

If you want to find an example of someone who has been an absolute inspiration to me in this respect, I would recommend that you find out about Rae Snape who is a primary head teacher down in Cambridgeshire.

Rae unrelentingly takes her whole self to work and I asked her permission to share her recent avatar which I think sums up the idea of being a professional human.

.

So before I do that, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you have taken something from the time you have spent with me and above all I hope this gives you the power to be the person you want and need to be at school.

Will you dance on a Sunday?⤴

from @ lenabellina

She is no Messiah.

That complex is not one of hers.

She is no daughter of God. And yet.

Maybe, this Easter, resurrection is on the cards?

Has she been brave

Letting the words fall out?

Maybe.

Will the truth be heard

So that the voices of the pharisees and haters can be shaken off?

Or will they carry on strangling

In the solitude they prefer?

Until they win

And she can breathe and speak her truth no more.

One thing is for sure.

She shall not any longer aid that process by trying to hold her breath.

She is actually good, tilted or not.

No more show.

She cannot wait for those who

Hold the power

To push back that boulder and help her escape.

Waiting is no longer an option.

And of course the obvious irony:

That the boulder

Is partly of her own making.

Gathering up the excrement

That others have thrown at her

Over time

Like a scarab

Until she has become trapped by it.

Unable to escape.

Even pushing it up the same hill

Over and over

In some perverse morphing of Sysiphus and Groundhog.

But hell is not other people.

No one else can push the burden away

Until she is ready to accept

That it needs to go.

And then the helpers will be there.

To see her rise again.

Dance again

And fling off that devil on her back.

To smile more

Talk less

And in so doing

Say more

Love more

Save more.

But before she saves someone else

Save her.

She requests forgiveness where she has sinned

Maybe, not least, for these shocking allusions

And offers forgiveness

To those willing to repent and change.

She is worthy of redemption.

Resurrection.

She is no Messiah.

That complex is not one of hers.

She is no daughter of God. And yet.

Maybe, this Easter, resurrection is on the cards?

For any Scottish Secondary teachers who are anxious about tomorrow…..⤴

from @ lenabellina

Many staff in Scotland and certainly in my local authority, did training around emotional regulation and trauma last summer, ahead of the first full scale return to school buildings after lockdown. It may be a good time to remind you of or direct you too these simple slides and the key messages:

https://rise.articulate.com/share/pHyR8D-e60WW1TsKc-b4UdQcHiUkCrZ6#/

Certainly, not all of the children returning this week will have experienced trauma during lockdown. The pandemic has not been traumatic for all. But as we have said many times in education, we are not quite sure what our pupils might have been through and how they will be when they return, in terms of their ability to regulate themselves emotionally.

Learning and recall for school work assessments are likely to be impacted if pupils are not emotionally regulated.

We all know that calm, regulated adults welcoming all of our pupils back this week into familiar routine is the ideal. We know that we as adults will have to work hard on this, particularly as we are having to cope with another big change to our routines (for example, one class spread across three rooms!) and will probably be feeling all sorts of worries around where, what and how we are teaching.

But let’s remember what we CAN control. Our breath, in and out. That first interaction we have with each child as they enter our class. Our own behaviour and actions,

Evidence from the last year and the various changes to rules and protocols has shown that there are likely to be few issues with pupils remembering to follow the COVID mitigation protocols. They quickly picked up on sanitising and bubbles and will quickly get the 2m and mask protocols.

We need to remember also, however, that adolescents are biologically driven and that peer pressure can be a hugely important factor in their lives. The classic teenage brain/head and heart dilemma means that even though they know the right thing to do, they may be influenced to act otherwise if they are in an unsupervised situation with peers. If you want to know more about this, check out professor Sarah Jane Blakemore. Many of them will be craving connection after weeks of isolation. Many of them have missed out on the essential interactions, flirting, bonding and risk taking that normally characterise the natural moving away by adolescents from having their strongest bonds with their primary care-givers. Instead, they have been rather unnaturally trapped at home with these care-givers…..who, however lovely and funny and caring, just aren’t peers!

And just on peer pressure, it can be a strong influence on us all. I distinctly remember last summer, when masks were 2 weeks away form becoming compulsory in shops but Nicola had asked that we wear them, sitting in the car on the forecourt of the local garage. Mask in hand, I said to my child beside me “but no-one else has one on, I feel stupid……” And then I remembered my GP friend and what she would have said and put it on straight away……..

But if that was the process a 51 year old “good girl” went through, we can’t underestimate the power of peer pressure on younger people.

It is also understandable that adolescents may not instinctively follow the protocols as they will not have got into the habit of standing 2 m from their friends or wearing facemasks and these are habits that they need to be reminded of as frequently as possible.

However, if staff and other pupils see that the “rules are being broken”, they may well feel anxious and possibly angry and respond in a way that reflects this, unless they have pre-empted the situation and thought of a regulated response to have at hand.

I am going to adopt “face and space” as the mantra that I am going to use, if I need to remind someone that they have strayed from the protocols; calmly, assertively and with a mask-hidden smile. You may want to adopt something similar ?

I am also going to arm myself with tools to help me stay regulated through the day in school. Deep breaths, in for four, out four six.

A tissue with the smell of a perfume that makes me feel calm in my pocket. The comfiest of clothes that I can find in my work wardrobe.

This is a document I have shared with all of my S1 and S2s as part of our work on choices and speaking up when you feel that someone else has broken the rules. Peter Vermeulen has done incredible work around this. It has been very helpful and not just for autistic people.

Click to access others-not-following-the-rules-1.pdf

The last leg⤴

from @ lenabellina

On Tuesday, I attended the most brilliant session run by my professional association, School Leaders Scotland, on the theme of ‘Remote Learning – lessons learned and what’s next’.

We heard from a representative of Education Scotland who told us about reports and feedback data arising from consultations with schools, families and pupils and also from schools on all that had been achieved since January and what we might do next to refine the learning offer in the period leading up to the full re-opening of school buildings. https://education.gov.scot/improvement/supporting-remote-learning/national-overviews/national-overview-of-practice-reports/

It is maybe ironic that this event took place on the afternoon that the First Minister then announced a phased return to start on 15th March which APPEARED to suggest the need for more children and staff in buildings…. but with both her announcement and the event fresh in my mind, I penned the following.

I am not writing this on behalf of my employer and I do not propose or suggest that this will or should happen in the school where I work. But I do have significant experience of risk assessment, timetabling and teaching in secondary schools. I also went from the event with the SLS to speak at an incredible event organised by a consortium of schools in Aberdeen focusing on the positives to be taken from the pandemic for young people, the focus for educators in a post pandemic world and predictions of exciting opportunities that may emerge.

https://www.rgc.aberdeen.sch.uk/newsarticlespage/~board/all-news/post/the-superpowers-of-generation-z-record-numbers-attend-aberdeen-independent-schools-webinar

With my heading buzzing with inspiration and ideas, I penned these thoughts on what I think could be possible and practical for secondary schools who have worked so incredibly hard to establish an online offer that is fit for purpose for most pupils who are still living within a global pandemic that has caused significant risk to life.

Key considerations when looking at the return to school.

What is the purpose of having all pupils back in school before Easter?

Do we have a clear sense of this from the government and chief medical advisors?

It would appear from all the reports that have been produced by education Scotland that social isolation is a major concern and that getting pupils into school is very much about their well-being and a need for face-to-face in the flesh connection with other peers and staff.

However we also need to consider the fact that the core purpose of teaching and learning at this stage can successfully be addressed for the majority of secondary pupils through the continuation of what is a very well evidenced and successful virtual learning experience which we know works in terms of scheduling staff and pupils.

We know that delivery of the online offer, with most pupils and staff working from home as part of COVID-19 mitigation is fit for purpose, based on the recent surveys conducted at national level and the implementation of subsequent refinements.

Generation of evidence for SQA purposes

It seems that some politicians, staff or schools feel that there need to be full classes of pupils back in classrooms do to assessments or tasks that will generate evidence for the SQA. However the two metre distancing rule means that this is not going to be practical.

(There is an assumption here that measures have already been taken to allow small groups of pupils to attend school for the purposes of the assessment of practical subjects).

It would seem preferable that materials are given to pupils for these non-practical assessments that can be undertaken at home. Whilst this will not be under exam conditions, schools have already set a precedent for this by students completing and submitting work from home. The element of trust around this method has already been established and therefore could be easily replicated in other subjects. So, for example, if a maths paper is to be done at home, pupils and possibly a supervising parent could simply be asked to sign a declaration that the assessment was done without help or supervision. An alternative would be for us to ask the pupil to video themselves completing the work but this may not be necessary at this stage, given that there is no requirement for any evidence to be produced under exam conditions this year.

A further alternative is to suggest that the two week period before Easter is not to be used for these purposes and that if staff wish to give pupils a paper assessment in a classroom with staff supervision, they will need to leave this until after Easter when we hope that the two metre distancing rule may be relaxed. There will always be a risk that this is never actually possible, should another lockdown or stricter mitigation measures be imposed.

We need to be absolutely clear that staff indicate which pupils, if any. need to be in school for the purposes of support or assessment at this stage.

If we assume that the worst case scenario is that full classes will not be in the building at the same time for the rest of this session, we need to know if there are any senior phase pupils who would because of this have no assessment evidence that would enable them to get a national qualification.

If there are identified disadvantaged or disengaged pupils or pupils with other additional support needs who we know need to be in the building with an adult in order to produce assessment evidence, we must find a way of prioritising getting them in for those purposes over the coming weeks, possibly adapting and using Easter study support offers.

Schools could therefore continue exactly as they are now but invite each year group into school for one day a week of each of the two full weeks before Easter; for example S1 Mondays, S2 Tuesdays, S3 Wednesdays, S4 Thursdays and S5 and 6 Fridays.

(In fact this could possibly work by doing it for just one of the two full weeks leading up to Easter, if that is all that staffing allows.)

The purpose of these days would be Connect, Communicate and be Curious.

Each year group would have activities and information shared with them on their day that is pertinent to where they are in their learning journey.

There could be a session on the practicalities of the 2m rule and mask wearing for all pupils, training / refresher information in use of lateral flow testing kits for senior phase pupils and then a focus for each year group on achievements, celebration of success and looking ahead to what comes next in their learning journeys.

Pupils in relevant years could also have input around the options processes.

In addition the day should be an opportunity to look forward with hope and optimism and for staff to ensure pupils that we are confident about how we will work together to help them re-focus and continue with their learning as they gradually return to spending more time in the school building over the coming weeks and months.

Some of this could be done in a large space with two metre distancing, mask wearing and ventilation in place such as school hall and gym or even in outdoor spaces, as long as this is permitted within our risk assessment based on latest COVID-19 mitigation guidance.

At other times the school could be divided up into areas and SLT/ support staff/ other staff as available could supervise across the classes where pupils would be spread out at desks two metres apart.

The smaller breakout groupings would allow staff to connect with individual pupils in a smaller setting and take stock/be curious about how the pupils seem and what their needs might be moving forward.

This would be demanding on the staff facilitating these activities and it would need to be considered how they would be given breaks and rest time during the day.

There would also need to consider their other needs such as childcare.

There would need to be a shared understanding that the staff in school for the facilitation of these days would not be available to deliver their online teaching;, pupils, parents and carers would need to know that for the two weeks leading up to Easter the staff in school doing the Connect, Communicate and Be Curious days would not be delivering online. In fact, the communication strategy around this and the justification would be a crucial factor in its success.

One major consideration would be around ensuring that S6 pupils and any other leavers need to be given an opportunity to come together and process the fact that their last year in school has been so different to what they had hoped for. It will be an opportunity to talk to them about and alleviate their fears and anxieties regarding the future but also for them to plan some sort of marking of leaving school.

This potential solution would ensure that the human rights of adults working in schools to remain healthy and safe can be balanced with articles 28 and 29 (right to and goal of education), 15 (freedom of association) and 24 (health) of the UNCRC.

On the 15th March, there will still be a very uneven playing field for staff returning to secondary schools; some may have had one vaccine dose, some two and some none.

Where our risk assessments, as far I as understand, still have the risks related to COVID-19 for those working in secondary schools at red level (as advised by the Health and Safety Executive) unless mitigation measures can be very strictly enforced, we surely can’t risk doing anything else than proceed with caution?

But what do I know?

Some musings about time management and organisation⤴

from @ lenabellina

So, the book about me and ADHD certainly won’t be coming any time soon. The roller coaster of highs, lows and revelations that has been my life since my diagnosis in December means that I have been simultaneously enjoying new freedoms and holding on for dear life.

There is certainly no time for starting on a book. However, I have had a few Eureka moments and don’t want to lose them so thought I’d add them to my blog as and when I remember. And of course, the fact that I am doing this RIGHT NOW when the deadline outlined below is looming is just typical……..

I have just written this on Facebook:

Here’s a weird thing about my ADHD.
When I am involved with stuff with other people (eg directing and producing school productions, planning and delivering programmes of teaching or having a strategic vision for a class, department or school and staying true to it over time), I am pretty damn good, I think, and have evidence to back that up.
When I have a thing that involves just me, I can’t manage my time, put it off and then have terrible anxiety when I have to get it done at the last minute.
Today I am trying to record a presentation for a conference that I have had MONTHS to do and is due TOMORROW.
See you on the other side. I hope.

And is another thing I shared earlier in the week on Twitter:

Today I sought a bit of help. It wasn’t a big thing, other than in my head.
I am literally Dory when it comes to remembering I need to ask for help sometimes.
That expression “note to self”
Is fine, except when you have ADHD and keep losing the notes.

And this is an article I found that scared me beyond belief because it feels so pertinent but has also made me seek a bit more help around how to handle it:

https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-and-adhd/