Rethinking mental health first aid in schools

  The need to improve support for children’s mental health is rising to the top of the political agenda. As a highly emotive issue with celebrity status it makes sense to politicians for them to launch headlines that promise the earth. But we need more than promises on the front line, where caring is something we’re doing minute by minute, an essentially practical issue. We […]

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Getting creative about inclusion.

Ok, this is bad. It’s time for the hard hats. The exclusion rate is rocketing skywards, ground control has lost communication with Major Tom and everyone’s running for the shelters. A headline from BBC News recently; “Barnsley and Middlesbrough see pupil exclusion rises of 300%”  “The number of pupils expelled from schools in some parts of England has risen by more than 300% in three […]

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Bad behaviour? All you need is ……..

My first full-time teaching job was at a private 5 to 16 residential special school for children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. The year was 1995, I was 45 and taken on to teach Key Stage 3 and 4 science. When I first read the job advert I didn’t know this type of school existed but I soon found out. ‘EBD’ meant ‘too difficult for […]

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Solutions Focused coaching in schools – Impact16

Closing the gap in behaviour, engagement and achievement.   The first green shoots of spring were showing when I was contacted by the ‘Teach First Impact16’ conference organiser to be asked if I could run four workshops on Behaviour in summertime Leeds. On Monday this week I was late getting to the main arena for the keynote speakers – I’d had a problem setting up […]

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Why focusing on children’s strengths is vital for their mental health

  Every week is mental health awareness week Last year ago I wrote about the importance of relationship in promoting mental health. In mental health awareness week 2017 I published the article again as my contribution, specifically about what practical support for children to add to our general awareness of their need for support. In schools we need to critically examine what we do to […]

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Rambling in the brambles

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew claim today that there are 390,900 species of plants on Earth with 2,034 new species being discovered in 2015. The total number excludes algae, mosses, liverworts and hornworts and includes 369,400 flowering plants. 21% of known plants are at risk of extinction and the unknown will become extinct in private. What do you make of that? The […]

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Relationships? Talk to the elephant

What’s Debate? Debate is all about winning an argument. It’s war and as we all know, all’s fair in love and war. We know what Debate means, the toffs learn how to do it at nanny’s knee. It’s a blood spattered battle of words, with crowned winners and cowed losers. It’s PMQs. How about Discourse? That’s one of those words that drips off the balcony […]

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Asthma and behaviour – a modern parable

Asthma’s in the news at the moment because of an odd problem about something with an odd name. The problem is that it’s being overdiagnosed, diagnosis often leads to medication and too many people, many of them children, are using puffers when they don’t need to because they don’t actually have asthma, a dangerous condition in its most severe form. From a lay perspective diagnosis […]

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Punished to exclusion ….. or

People find it very difficult to judge the power of their response to a challenge. However gentle the first tap, the replying hit would be harder, more painful. And the next harder still, and the next, ratcheting up. Somehow, mysteriously and even if they were doing their level best to give as good as they got, they couldn’t do it. An eye for an eye […]

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Behaviour management: myth or monster?

  Myth Children’s behaviour must be externally managed by one psychological approach – reward them when they get it right, punish them when they get it wrong. Behaviour has to be managed from the outside, children can’t be trusted to make their own futures and they have to be pushed, extrinsically motivated. The worse the behaviour, the more forceful and unpleasant the punishment required. Children […]

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Teaching, relationship and children’s mental health

The problem Are good teacher/student relationships important in promoting children’s mental health? When the subject of children’s behaviour comes up, teacher/student relationship is always mentioned as an important factor in the development of good behaviour. Good relationships engender good behaviour, good learning and good memories of school too. When we talk about behaviour it’s not usually good behaviour that’s the main topic. Good behaviour gets […]

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Solutions for behaviour – No white lines, fewer crashes

Removing the white lines on roads results in drivers taking more responsibility for keeping themselves safe. More safety, fewer crashes. That’s an odd idea isn’t it? But I must say that it often strikes me that when I’ve got so many signs, lines and instructions to pay attention to it’s almost impossible to watch the clock that tells me how fast I’m going. As Simon […]

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Solutions for behaviour – Behaviour and Snake Oil

                               Sixty second summary If we were designing our approach to helping children behave well in school today, we wouldn’t start from where we are now. The reward and punishment approach has been subjected to a long field-trial, a natural experiment, which shows up its limitations. It produces segregation of a large minority of children and promotes exclusion. It’s largely unchallenged and is vociferously […]

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Solutions for behaviour – skating on thin ice

Sixty second summary Behaviour management in schools is made up of two parts. One part is fairly uncontroversial, aimed at making the classroom a manageable and productive space and to encourage children to cooperate and comply. It’s about the rules and regulations and how they’re selected and applied. Classroom management is a necessary part of a teacher’s job and when is done well is positive […]

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Solutions for behaviour – ITT and searching for Bigfoot

Sixty second summary Behaviour of children in school is a continuing worry. One significant cause of the problem has been isolated – it’s the inadequate initial training (ITT) of teachers. The concepts that training is built on are not under scrutiny. For example it’s commonsense to use rewards and punishments to control children’s behaviour. There is no need to look for better alternatives. A check […]

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Waving, not drowning

You know that feeling you get when you think you know what you’re doing and then someone points out that you don’t and it’ll end in disaster? One minute you’re up. ‘This is a great idea, I’m so clever, it’s hard to do but I’m making it work!’ your inner voice whispers. The next minute you’re down. ‘Oh no, I’ve got it all wrong, now […]

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Solutions for behaviour – Treadmills and tracks

You’re a teacher. It’s a new year and the old routines from last term are there, waiting for you like comfortable slippers. The routines to get children ready for learning every day and the ones for behaviour, ready to make life and learning in your classroom buzz with energy and enjoyment. Behaviour is good, stress is low. Except. There’s one student, you don’t know what […]

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Behaviour Report Card – 2016 week 1

Section 1: What’s been happening this week with behaviour as we set out into the new term? A behaviour expert, who asked not to be quoted and who shall therefore remain anonymous, has told us that in his personal experience of working in a secondary school, 95% misbehaviour is opportunistic. Children are poised and waiting for the opportunity to muck about unless he can get […]

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Restorative Justice in schools – what? and why?

1) What is Restorative Justice? And 2) Why it should not be used in schools Proof of guilt When someone is found guilty of committing an offence the justice system attempts to ensure that perpetrator suffers a suitable punishment for having committed the offence and makes restitution or compensation to the victim as evidence of their remorse. In the face of rising youth crime in […]

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Stop working so hard and dream for a while

    Interesting suggestion Number 1 Our brains are never asleep but always active and scanning for information. Neuroscientists are renaming what used to be known as the ‘resting state’ as the ‘default mode network’. Sounds good doesn’t it? ‘I wasn’t asleep I was activating my default mode network’. 3000 scientific papers have been published on this topic. Interesting suggestion Number 2 Dreams seem to […]

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Behaviour’s 3 Rs – Part 2; Reward

Part 2; Reward Starting work as a specialist behaviour support teacher in 1998 I could see that punishment and reward were the twin pillars of behaviour management in my numerous schools. I could see the awards and the children’s work displayed in the corridors, the school council members and the school’s values displayed in reception. ‘Every day is a new start’. And yet some individuals, […]

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Behaviour’s Three Rs – punishment, reward and something different. Part 1

Part 1; Punishment  Looking at behaviour in detail A websearch of primary and secondary school behaviour policies highlights the global dominance of the behaviourist reward/punishment approach currently being taken in schools. As misdemeanours grow into more seriously bad behaviour punishment becomes the main agent of change, together with the involvement of senior staff who will hold meetings with the student, including family members later on. […]

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Mindsets and set minds

Mindsets have been around for a while. I heard about them when I studied psychology in the late 1960s and was told about the lost stair effect; you’re walking downstairs in the dark, you lose track of the steps and think there is still one to go when you have actually already arrived at the bottom and you experience that jarring thump as your body […]

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Why cruelty should be excluded from school

#kindbehaviour – a message in a bottle Now It is obvious that we should punish children who don’t behave isn’t it? Behaviour expert Mr. Bennett said in his Top Ten Behaviour Tips (TES June 21 2015) ‘The idea of sanctioning against behaviour we’re seeking to discourage, and rewarding that which is good, would appear to be uncontroversial. But the chattering classes can find offence in […]

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Introducing #kindbehaviour and #behaviourinquiry

In 2001 I first met Tim Taylor (#imagineinquiry) across a table in the NEC Bimingham, when we attended a seminar as participants in the Teacher Research and Learning Programme. Tim was interested in the use of inquiry in teaching the academic curriculum in his primary classrrom and I was looking into an inquiry approach to my job as a behaviour support teacher in all phases. […]

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An open letter to Nancy Gedge on inclusion

Dear Nancy, I’m writing to you with your article on exclusion (TES of October 9 2015) in front of me. It’s good to have a light shone into this dark corner. To put it in journalistic terms this is collateral damage happening right here at home with full official approval. Now it’s time to capitalize on your efforts and get into action. I’m writing to […]

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Why hearing isn’t the same as listening

In the doctor’s surgery I took my five year old son to hospital yesterday. He sat on my knee. In the room were a doctor, two medical students, two parents, a little brother and the patient himself. We talked about him, over his head. After a while the doctor said to him; ‘I’m going to ask you something, because I think you know about this […]

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What you give you get back

#kindbehaviour – a message in a bottle Now It is obvious that we should punish children who don’t behave isn’t it? We call it by different names but sanctioning is punishment is intended to be unpleasant otherwise it won’t work. Behaviour expert Mr. Bennett said in his Top Ten Behaviour Tips (TES June 21 2015) ‘The idea of sanctioning against behaviour we’re seeking to discourage, […]

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When is enough enough?

How can I tell if I am writing a blog or tweet or an essay or…You see once I get writing I seem to get carried away with it and it tends to go on and on and. (160 characters – a tweet) My friend and guide Tim Taylor told me a blog I’m writing is too long at 1600 words. ‘It’s a blog!’ he […]

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Getting behaviour under control 2

  Getting behaviour under control I wonder who thought this one up? You’ve got a thirteen year old boy in your class who thinks he’s the teenaged Alan Alda. His class is his audience and he knows how to catch their attention with a throwaway line. You like him, he’s clever and funny but he messes up your best-laid plans, he’s irrepressible and in your […]

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Getting Behaviour under Control 1: Deporting disruptive students – the new guidelines.

 The newly established Office for Population Control (Opcon) has announced the publication of guidelines for schools and education authorities in England on the deportation of permanently excluded students (academy chains are encouraged to continue using their own internal security services which can buy into the scheme). This is part of the government’s initiative ‘Cracking down on bad behaviour in schools’. Des tinations have been secured in […]

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A flipping academic

This graphic from http://knowledgeworks.org was posted on twitter recently by Mr. Bennett, the new behaviour tsar. Mr Bennett’s comment? ‘Oh God, the future’s run by an idiot’ I asked him via Twitter; ‘Is that a balanced critique of the knowledgeworks programme over the last fifteen years in Ohio? Evidence informed?’ He promptly replied; ‘No, it’s a criticism of witless speculative futurism and faux prognostication.’ Fine […]

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Teacher research – making a start

The concept of research in education is very open with a wide spectrum of activity and an equally wide range of areas of inquiry. This openness encourages multiple perspectives and helps us to reflect on our own position. But it can and does lead to misunderstandings when it comes to the detailed work of doing research. I think that teaching and research in are inseparable […]

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Doing Research – what does it mean for teachers?

Traditionally educational research has placed university researchers as the knowers and teachers as the doers, with the knowers studying the doers. Lay users, teachers and policy makers, can then take the products of research as findings and recommendations, to improve schools and schooling. Research conferences, research journals and libraries are filled with educational research studies of this type but it seems that few practitioners read them […]

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The Research Quality Myth

For research to be taken up by teachers it has to be of high quality. In assessing the quality of research, lay users, notably policymakers and practitioners, face two problems; 1) How to assess research findings in the way they are presented, in the specific language and beliefs of a field of research. 2) How to relate these findings to what they already know, in […]

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It’s not rocket science

The ‘O’ word. I am following up Tim Taylor’s reflective piece this week about the relationship between research and teaching.(1) Taylor makes the point that ‘research in the social sciences is different to research in the natural sciences. Ontologically different, meaning they involve fundamentally different phenomena,’ different phenomena existing in different realities. The Ofsted Chief Inspector knows this and says that dealing with disruptive behaviour […]

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Marching to the sound of a distant drum – Behaviour, behaviour, Behaviour, obedience, dis-obedience

Marching to the sound of a distant drum   I am cautious about blog discussions on about the behaviour of students in schools. Tim Taylor  has the same sense of caution; http://www.imaginative-inquiry.co.uk/2014/03/obedience-is-not-a-virtue/ “I, rather regretfully now, joined in: regretfully, because behaviour is an emotive subject amongst teachers and one of the few that is truly divisive. I wrote a blog once about behaviour on the […]

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Being effectual is better than being right

  Some children and young people are hard to teach. If we could put this group of students to one side and just keep the ones who are easy to teach, it would make teaching much more simple. Some schools have strict selection processes to ensure the entry of the ‘easy and clever’ ones and regularly assess students’ performance so they can advise the parents […]

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Why are some students hard to teach?

Two questions: Why are some students hard to teach? Does it matter?  Working with children and making a difference in their lives are two major factors in drawing people towards school teaching as a career. Student indiscipline and teacher stress and burnout are consistently reported as factors pushing teachers away from teaching. Teachers report that the burden of paperwork, performance management, long working hours contribute […]

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Critical thinking and critical values

  I’m returning to this topic, long after the Twitter heat is off and maybe too late to be of much use to fast moving bloggers. It all seemed to start with Willingham’s article; somebody read it and told The Education Secretary Mr. Gove about it. He said; ‘Daniel Willingham again makes the point powerfully in his work when he points out that, “research from […]

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Observation: It’s science. It’s obvious. It’s observable.

What are teachers? Well, they’re teachers, obviously. What do they do? Hmm. That’s a bit more tricky. Work in schools? Spend a long time in classrooms? Do the best they can? Meet lots of different people, most of them from the future. Talk. Listen. Make plans. Have a life. Spend too much time worrying. Have long holidays. Blog a bit. I don’t know……… How do […]

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I no therefore I can. Or knot.

There’s an old country joke that you probably know. A Lost Driver stops to ask the way from a gentleman walking along the narrow lane. The Walker has the knees of his moleskins tied with baler twine and the band of his battered felt hat decorated with two cock pheasant tail feathers. The Lost Driver pulls up beside the Walker and opens his window. ‘Good […]

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Behaviour and Tough Young Teachers – the other way of looking at it

Part 2 of the new BBC Three documentary series ‘Tough Young Teachers’ was shown last week, its production supported by Teach First. Their mission is to ‘end inequality in schools’, the aim of the series ‘to show the sometimes gruelling, often life-changing journey of a new teacher on screen for the very first time.’ Part 2 was all about behaviour. Is ‘Tough Young Teachers’ a […]

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Paradigm – loose ends, tidy thinking Part 2

  Knowing about knowledge Part 2   Superficially it seems that we know enough about knowledge to be able to talk about it fluently. It comes in two forms: procedural and declaritive. Procedural knowledge can be directly applied to a task, for example solving a problem, and the knowledge is formed by doing the problem solving task. Declaritive knowledge here could be called knowledge about […]

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Paradigm – loose ends, tidy thinking Part 1

Knowing about knowledge Part 1   Ontology-Epistemology-Axiology-Pedagogy – a teacher’s paradigm. I’m writing this series of pieces as reflective research; I believe that writing is research, not merely a product of it.  It certainly helps me to clarify my own thinking and I’m grateful to you for your reading of it. The purpose is to get a better understanding of pedagogy in theory and practice, as […]

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Being pragmatic about teaching

  Two responses to my last Elephantological posting: Neil Gilbride (@nmgilbride) “Aw, no Pragmatic Realism in that piece, such is life” and Karl Bentley (@bentleykarl) “amazing blog post re pedagogy – hell to pragmatism, why what we do is equally, if not more, important”.  Thanks Neil and Karl. I set out with this series of Elephantology blogs with the hope that we could have a […]

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A herd of elephants: Paradigm, ontology, epistemology, pedagogy

  I’ve just read a blog by a teacher working in a Pupil Referral Unit, for 12 students, with several teachers and teaching assistants. It provides for primary aged students with behaviour problems and secondary aged students with conditions that apparently make them medically unfit to stay in school. This little school could be seen as markedly different from mainstream school; it’s a temporary school […]

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What’s your Paradigm?

  ‘What’s your paradigm, if you don’t mind me asking?’ I’m using some good material at www.erm.ecs.soton.ac.uk: (an e-learning resource about research) in talking about this particular Elephant. ‘Paradigms can be characterised through their: ontology (What is reality?), epistemology (How do you know something?) and methodology (How do go about finding out?) (Guba (1990), These characteristics create a holistic view of how we view knowledge: how […]

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Part 2 Ontology – Getting Relevant

Part 2 Ontology – Getting relevant What’s the point of ontology? Who cares? It surprised me that when looking at the ontological question as part of research for my thesis, it wasn’t a big deal in research terms. Method seemed to be more important. But it seemed important to me to open up the assumptions about ‘gold standard’ positivist research and the about research into […]

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Part 1 Ontology – Getting Real

Part 1 Ontology – Getting real   The start When I was ten I spent every Saturday outdoors at Bullocks Farm in Canfield, Essex. It was a typical mixed farm; small fields with thick hedges, woods, pigs and chickens, potatoes, wheat, barley, field beans and sugar beet. There were old ponds and a big orchard with all kinds of apples, pears and plums. The farmhouse […]

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Elephantology

Elephantology: The study of what’s big and lurking in the room to which no-one is paying any attention. What kind of science can handle that? How can we investigate it, when by definition we will have to do it whilst not noticing that it’s there? How can we organise it, when even though we might individually have an inkling that it’s there, we can’t discuss it? […]

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Support …….. now!

I am writing this in response to an article by ‘Bergistra – “Headteacher on a Knife-Edge’ in the Education Guardian of May 28 2013. She said ‘I have a reception child, aged four, who desperately needs some serious long-term therapy. In school she is unmanageable.’ She goes on to talk about the difficulty of keeping this child in school and her deep commitment to fulfilling […]

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Thinking about children’s behaviour and learning

I’ll state the obvious. When children start school they are all young and small. They might have already learned how to walk and talk but they mostly can’t do maths and don’t read and write too well. They’re also pretty shaky when it comes to Geography and the history of the Celts and in how to behave courteously to other young and small people. Some […]

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“Always someone else’s problem” – a comment on the Atkinson Report

Always someone else’s problem – (unless you’re the child involved) The recently published report on illegal exclusions ‘Always someone else’s problem’ by Dr. Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner, looks into one aspect of a serious and recurrent question; what we do when we’ve tried everything to get children to ‘behave’ and failed? Her report, in common with most research activity, is problem focused. You could […]

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A bit more direct instruction

A recent (April 11 2013) TES post said: “Social science is often not science. It is investigation; it is commentary; it often illuminates, and helps provide valuable light and guidance in human affairs. What it does not do is offer reliable predictive powers, nor irrefutable explanatory mechanisms for processes. Merely commentary, case study, opinion, and subjective analysis.” I’ll come back to this in the last […]

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A bit of direct instruction

The ideas that the three psychologists, Clark, Kirschner and Sweller (Ed. Psychol. 2006 42(2)99-107) are putting forward to support their argument for direct instruction are: The brain is made up of structures, cognitive structures which handle learning. Two of these structures are the working memory and the long term memory. Their existence is demonstrated by experiments in psychology over a long period. Being described as […]

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The Dodo Verdict

I’ve been working for a Local Authority Educational Psychology and Specialist Support (EPSS) service for 16 years. I’m called an Advisory Support Teacher. In written documentation it is stated that the service we provide is based on sound psychological principles. In the last few years we have been trying to tighten up the interventions we offer to support children who are struggling in school for […]

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Ideas about agency

Ideas about agency I’ve been reading though a lot of comments and tweets from people interested in children’s behaviour today. There’s a theme about the motivation of children who come onto the ‘behaviour’ radar. This is how I see it. I am a solution focused practitioner. The solution focused framework for my work is very clear. I’m interested in where the child says they are […]

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Guardian Education article April 2 2013

Two sides of the same coin – learning and behaviour

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Doing something different – children’s behaviour

When it comes to children’s behaviour we’re all looking for something that works so how about this idea? I’m employed by a Children’s Service in England as an Advisory Support Teacher. The main behaviour problem in schools is low-level disruption which is routinely managed by consistent good classroom practice. My work is with the much smaller group of children whose behaviour soaks up so much […]

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Good evidence

The purpose of science is to reduce uncertainty. That is not to say that science claims to produce 100% certainty, but it aims to explain things in a way that makes the world more predictable, constructing a more solid reality than if we just guessed at explanations. It’s generally assumed that there’s one proper scientific method and it’s what scientists do, standing at their laboratory […]

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That’s evidence for you…..

That’s evidence for you …………………     I hear people talking about ‘evidence based’ practice a lot in my work. It’s been creeping up for a while. ‘All our interventions must be evidence based’ I’m told. That seems like a very clear message. What do we mean by the ‘evidence’ we’re going to use to provided the basis for all of our work? That seems […]

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Look into my eyes………….

Look into my eyes…..only my eyes………… We conceptualise students in school as being resourceful and engaged across the range of pedagogies that we use in our teaching work. After all it’s their engagement that makes our pedagogy work. That is, until we come to children making a few mistakes in becoming themselves, learning socially and emotionally to be the best person they can be. So […]

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Making a start

Making a start I got my PGCE in 1994 when I was 46. I got my first job as the science teacher in a special school. I was told the last one went home at break time on his first day and never returned. There had been a two year gap before I came along. I’d been doing supply teaching in state schools for a […]

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Growing the good – children’s behaviour in a new light

Making the paradigm shift: where children’s behaviour is concerned, go for the good and make the most of what’s already working for greater success and more happiness in school. It’s about pedagogy, the unique work that teachers do. It’s about children becoming themselves in the world, being the best they can be, and us knowing they’re doing their best, even when it doesn’t look like […]

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