Review by Melissa Jane

Class teacher, Castle School, Cambridge

27 Mar 2021, 5:00


Melissa Jane’s blogs of the week, 22 March 2021 

Melissa Jane’s top blogs cover resisting competition, surviving exclusion, improving inclusion for those with autism and supporting colleagues fasting for Ramadan


Build Back Bolder: Five Choices All School Leaders Can Make   


This critique gets to the heart of a problem

As I write, my timeline is full of reflections on the anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown. I don’t think I’ve even begun to process all the grief and anger I’ve felt over the past year. But throughout, I’ve been able to rely on my headteacher to make compassionate, ethical decisions in the best interests of our staff and students. This post by Jonny Uttley is a call to school leaders to show this kind of ethical backbone and courage as we move towards rebuilding ‘normal’.  

While school leaders may criticise the government’s ‘tone-deaf messaging’ about reintroducing graded Ofsted, Progress 8, and league tables, Uttley asks them to acknowledge their own power to either reinforce or resist these measures. Competing with other schools, he argues, is a “zero-sum game”: “When we compete with other schools, we seek to gain advantage over other children.” This critique gets to the heart of a problem I have always had with mainstream schools, so if more leaders follow Uttley’s advice and resist competition, you might see me setting foot in one again. 


I Am More Than My Survival  

 @1JamalKhan via @ExpertCitizens 

[Note: This post contains mentions of a suicide attempt] 

The most useful perspectives come from those who have been through it

Jonny Uttley mentions exclusion and off-rolling as examples of harmful pre-COVID practices we should abandon, which links nicely with my next blog. Exclusion continues to be an incendiary topic, but my personal view is that the most useful perspectives come from those who have been through the process as students.  

Here, Jamal tells us how his exclusion aged 15 was followed by imprisonment, untreated mental health symptoms, and a suicide attempt in prison, before he was ultimately able to heal after his release by finding community and solidarity through his writing. His is just one story, but as Khan says, “when you tell your own story, you contribute to the healing of all those who have dealt with the same struggles.” 


Growing Up Autistic: What it Was Like


The more accounts we have, the more we can make enabling environments

Continuing the theme of learning from students’ perspectives, this post by blogger Authentically Emily outlines the challenges she faced accessing the curriculum as an autistic learner. These included struggling with anxiety and perfectionism, difficulty interpreting instructions, and uncertainty in social situations.  

Emily’s post is in the first person, which is important – every autistic learner will be different, and she doesn’t speak for everyone. However, her post gives examples of the kinds of barriers autistic students might face, such as sensory sensitivities: while Emily hated the feel of socks, other autistic learners might struggle with the sound of a scraping chair, or even really enjoy certain shapes to the point of being distracted by them. The more accounts we have of the way autistic students experience school, the more we can make enabling environments for as many students as possible.  


Not Even Water? Supporting Muslim Staff and Students During Ramadan  


April 12th is likely to mark the beginning of a second Ramadan in lockdown

April 12th this year is likely to mark the beginning of a second Ramadan in lockdown for Muslim colleagues and students. Khan’s post is a valuable resource to help those of us who aren’t Muslim deepen our understanding of this time of fasting and reflection. Khan explains that while many fasting colleagues won’t mind sharing their reflections and experiences, endless well-meaning questions can have a cumulative impact – “some do find it unnerving and tiring to repeatedly correct others”.  

So if your fasting colleague turns down a staff room cup of tea, don’t demand an elaborate scriptural justification! It’s been a long year for everyone, and the least we can do is ease burdens on each other where we can. 

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