Championing Children and Adults

In the past I’ve been called a ‘tree-hugger’ (amongst other things), and you know what? I’m really happy with that. I think it’s because I’m one of those trendy teachers who, you know, uses big paper and open questions. I even use masking tape when appropriate, but that’s because I like Poundland.

In reality, like most educational tree-huggers, I just want stuff that works for me in the classroom where I find myself teaching at that given time. I’m not a proper teacher anymore as I don’t work full time in one place. I am in the fortunate position of being able to teach in different settings in different places.

The most challenging environment I’ve spent time in is a special school that supports children whose behaviour cannot be supported in mainstream. It’s now over five years ago that I was first asked to work with colleagues and children at Springwell Special Academy in my spiritual home of Barnsley in South Yorkshire. We rebuilt the curriculum from scratch. It is rooted in inductive pedagogy, inclusive practice and unconditional positive regard. The lessons have to be worth behaving for (a statement that has got me in warm-to-hot water before, without an understanding of context) and the engagement of children, through routine, high expectation, and Executive Principal @davewhitaker246 ‘s mantra of warmth, intimacy, banter and trust is paramount. In this setting Drama is often used as a vehicle to deliver some of the curriculum. We call this blended approach to some subjects (with an emphasis on literacy) ElementsContext-building and narratives are used to build an investment in the content. This emotional engagement enables the teacher to ask bigger questions and often gives the children a reason to write, beyond ‘because you have to‘.

I champion this school and its work in much of what I do – I am basing much of my MA on the place – so I thought I’d share @danjohnsonnews ‘s piece for The Victoria Derbyshire Show that was aired a few months ago. It’s revealing not only to us, but perhaps to those who make bigger decisions around children and young people. It also offers a stark reality-jolt to the needs of those children who are still in mainstream and perhaps not in the best place for them. But that’s the tree-hugger in me coming out again.

Here it is:

For more information about the school see



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