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Timpson Review & Teachers – Friday Insights (10 May)

Caitlin Ross, 10/05/19

The main event this week is the long awaited Timpson Review on school exclusions, which has shone a bright light on this crucial issue.

This week’s Friday Insights from Impact Manager Caitlin also looks at the surprising ways in which inequity can manifest itself (in school scheduling, for example).

And then we look at teacher agency as Scotland’s looking to Finland for teacher empowerment ideas, and a head teacher in Great Yarmouth is holding her community together (but should she have to?) – as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.

Timpson Review and the state of inclusion

We’re not surprised that the Timpson Review revealed the state of school exclusions in the UK is dire – 55,000 students have disappeared from the schooling system for unexplained.

We’re starting to see promising actions off the the back of the review – including schools being accountable for students’ progress and results once they are off-rolled, and increased attention on the need for quality alternative provision

Inclusion, or lack thereof, is a complex problem that requires a networked solution. It’s going to take much thought, cross-sector action, and some significant spend to really start making a dent in the conditions, mindsets and practices that got us here in the first place.

We look forward to playing the best part in this that we can, by continuing to support project partners with innovative models that are needed to start making education and learning inclusive for all young people – including The Difference, The Key, City Year, Whole Education, Bounce Forward, and Franklin Scholars.

We know that no one model, even the most innovative, can make education inclusive on its own, so we look forward to continuing to support a network of innovators who can work together to increase inclusion.

Case study in addressing inequity – Hoover High School, San Diego

When Hoover High School found that its most vulnerable students, including students with disabilities and students learning education as an additional language, were being taught by less qualified teachers and were being separated from other students throughout the day, they found a surprising culprit – timetabling. 

What hadn’t occurred to administrators at the time was that inequity is an operational challenge just as much as it is a fiscal and pedagogical challenge. With resources so scarce and there being so many other factors to consider when doing operational planning in schools, it can be easy to forget to apply a diversity and inclusion lens to operations – in this case, they were able to spot the issue and rectify it, making sure they mindfully allocated the same quality resources to vulnerable students and made sure their schedules didn’t keep them separate from the rest of their peers. 

This example of inequity in school, and what it takes to address it, highlights how complex this issue of inequity really is, and how important it is to be challenging our assumptions – even when doing something as seemingly uncontroversial as scheduling the school timetable.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Today marks the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week – big love to all of our educators out there!

Sharing learning to empower teachers

Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney is calling for our amazing teachers out there to be fully empowered – and is hoping to take a lesson from Finland in how to achieve this in Scotland.

Specifically, he wants to follow the Finnish example of creating a climate of trust and teacher agency, and have committed to create a system-wide culture of teacher empowerment, alongside making sure that teaching remains a trusted, attractive, highly qualified and varied vocation, and continuing to back their Curriculum for Excellence.

We think that decision makers here in England could take a page or two from this focus on bolstering trust and teacher agency. Teachers can often be the agents of change that our education and learning system urgently need.

We love the shared learning exhibited between Scotland and Finland, and are looking forward to seeing (and learning from) their plans to put this commitment into practice.

Recognising educators for stepping in – even when they shouldn’t have to

This week saw a story out of Great Yarmouth featuring a primary school Head Teacher who turned her school into a ‘fourth emergency service’ once she realised some of her students and their families had nothing to eat.

Upon uncovering the hidden levels of extreme deprivation in her community, Head Teacher Deborah Whiting opened a food bank in her school. This is a particularly poignant example of how important teachers and school leaders are for the young people and their families in their communities, and how they can be agents for the change they know their communities need.

However, there is sobering underlying message from the Great Yarmouth story: when a Head Teacher has to open a food bank in the local primary school, we know that our system is truly leaving people behind.

This teacher appreciation week, it’s important to recognise educators and leaders for their compassion and their service of the community – but it’s also important to recognise that they shouldn’t have to pick up the pieces of our broken system in the first place.