Review by Diana Young

Governor, Richard Atkins Primary School

24 Sep 2022, 5:00

Blog

The Conversation – with Diana Young

Mourning in our own ways

The death of Queen Elizabeth has dominated much of this week’s education conversation. With the nation in mourning, along with the rituals, pageantry and ascension of King Charles, the DfE announced school closures for the Queen’s funeral, giving schools a week’s notice.

Despite the global outpouring of grief, this led to a torrent of views across social media channels with some people sharing support for the additional bank holiday, while others aired their  frustrations at the decision to close schools.

As governors, our main concerns is to maintain educational performance in spite of closures. In my view, this bank holiday was a mark of respect that encouraged families to stay at home and witness this historic event together. As such, it was an opportunity for pupils and parents to reflect in their own ways on the spiritual, moral and cultural aspects of the Queen’s 70-year reign, the monarchy, state mourning, British Empire and the Commonwealth.

Varied opinions will certainly create talking points for headteachers and senior leadership teams, but schools should engage their pupils and uphold educational standards while remaining mindful of a nuanced approach, especially when it comes to controversial topics like British Empire and its link to colonisation and slavery. 

Once more unto the breach

Which brings us to the week’s big – if overshadowed – education news, with the appointment of Jonathan Gullis as schools minister and talk of the Schools Bill being shelved in favour of an expansion of grammar schools and high-performing academies.

This is a drastic, though not completely unexpected change of direction with huge repercussions for governance and leadership, and the headline that best encapsulates the past week in my view is a tweet by Karam Bales: “Grammar schools and culture wars to be prioritised”.

And yet neither will feature on the agenda for our next governors’ meeting. A sign of the times.

Poverty’s front line

Meanwhile,there’s the cost of living crisis to contend with. Some schools are reporting energy price rises of 500%, and it’s difficult to see how this (as well as unfunded pay rises for teachers and teaching assistants) won’t impact educational performance and burden already disadvantaged pupils.

But the comment that most affected my perspective as a governor this week came from a food bank volunteer.

Our schools continue to do their best to educate the young people in our care, yet the depth of the challenge is now arguably greater than the one Covid represented. If only ministers were as hurried about putting support in place as they were to get to the front of the queue for the Queen’s lying-in-state.

Ukrainian gains

In other news, the war in Ukraine took a more positive turn this week, with reports of substantial advances against invading Russian forces. But whoever is winning militarily, children still pay the price emotionally and educationally. More Ukrainian pupils are arriving in our schools, and those who are already here continue to need additional support to adjust.

Here, headteacher, Cassie Young has pulled together a raft of resources and learning aids for teachers to support Ukrainian pupils with early language skills and wellbeing. Freely shared by teachers across the country, this is a treasure trove that will go some way to offsetting the rise in demand for teacher time and resources, notwithstanding budgetary pressures to support the influx and higher demand for SEN provision.

Fighting disinformation

Lastly, the introduction of statutory Relationships, Sex and Health education last year is bedding in, and it’s important to ensure  these lessons are being taught inclusively of race, religion, nationality and language – and without spreading misinformation. But many teachers are navigating this curriculum as uncharted territory, so it’s increasingly important for governors to challenge and support them.

Podcasts like The Girls Day School Trust’s ‘Raise Her Up’ provide helpful background for doing just that, and the latest episode with award-winning author and journalist, Candice Braithwaite is a great example. Here, she shares what she wishes she’d known as a girl about money, friendship, love and self-respect – and it’s the perfect way to de-prioritise the culture wars.

Latest education roles from

Learning Resource Centre Assistant

Learning Resource Centre Assistant

Hull College

Course Leader – Electrical Installation

Course Leader – Electrical Installation

Bridgwater & Taunton College

Lecturer Carpentry

Lecturer Carpentry

Bridgwater & Taunton College

Lecturer Electrical

Lecturer Electrical

Bridgwater & Taunton College

Learning Support Assistant

Learning Support Assistant

New Rickstones Academy

Director of Funding and Management Information Services (MIS) – HRUC

Director of Funding and Management Information Services (MIS) – HRUC

FEA

More Reviews

Teaching One Pagers: Evidence-informed summaries for busy educational professionals

Its simplicity could be a drawback, but it is well mitigated and becomes one of its great strength

Find out more

The Conversation – with Frances Akinde

Enrichment, parental complaints, summer teacher attire, term-time holidays - and a festival

Find out more

The Conversation – with Fiona Atherton

Rising fines for school absence, deep and meaningful curriculum conversations, and growing great leaders

Find out more

More from this theme

Developing inclusive schools: Pathways to success

It represents an important call-to-arms for a sector that is highly aware of burgeoning need, limited resources and lack...

Find out more

The Conversation – with Rob Gasson

A big listen on oracy, a not-so-golden thread on recruitment and a falling out about who should and shouldn't...

Find out more

Why Learning Fails (And What to Do About It)

A refreshing, pragmatic guide full of actionable strategies for teachers to keep students learning

Find out more

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *