The Difference joined the Big Change project family as part of our 2017 cohort, and then received further funding via our 2018 Fast Track scheme. Since then they’ve been hard at work making waves in the media talking about the national issue of school exclusions, and founder Kiran Gill even joined some of our amazing strivers during the Virgin STRIVE Challenge in September.
Now, The Difference is starting 2019 strong with an incredibly exciting milestone! Saturday 12th January marked the official launch of their teacher training programme in reducing exclusion risk.
The first annual IncludED conference was a unique opportunity to access CPD from the country’s leading specialists on supporting the needs of vulnerable pupils. It was held at Oasis Academy South Bank in London; itself a school with an intentionally inclusive model, taking in lots of young people from pupil referral units and alternative provision who otherwise would not have been accepted back into a mainstream school environment.
Young voices on exclusions
Highlights of the conference included a panel of young people from Oasis giving their accounts of experience of exclusion. The main themes that emerged included:
- The importance of believing in young people and treating them as individuals (we heard from at least one young person who had been treated badly by teachers because of his older brother’s behaviour)
- Treating young people with warmth and compassion, helping them achieve their dreams no matter where they come from
- The intense harm and shame of racial bias and how important it is for schools to be a place that is free from this
- How exclusion from school essentially amounts to a prison sentence thanks to the gang grooming that goes on in many estate environments
There were also a number of focused sessions to attend throughout the day. Members of the Big Change team sat in on a session on factors that increase the risk of exclusion, Abuse, Loss, Trauma, Attachment and Resilience (ALTAR), The Anna Freud Centre and Family School, which has pioneered a parent coaching model, and more on St Edmunds Alternative Provision in Norfolk.
More coming in dedicated blogs on what we learnt from these sessions soon!
Insights from Tim Brighouse
The day finished with a keynote speech from Tim Brighouse (former Schools Commissioner during the London Challenge, 2002-2007). Highlights included:
- Turning mistakes into positive learning is crucial
- ‘Trust and optimism have been sacrificed for markets and managerialism’
- Schools need to be places that are kind and gentle, so young people can realise their dreams
- Growth mindset – good schools know that language is important
- Schools should be sharing the achievements of their alumni to raise aspirations of current students
- It’s important for the ‘average’ child to feel special
- Partnerships in and between schools are key, as are using data to follow the ‘hunches’ of experienced frontline staff to understand where to learn and improve
Finally, our own Big Change ambassador, and poet Karl Lokko closed the conference with an original poem.
Apply for the pioneer cohort of Difference leaders here.