It might sound trite to say schools are value-driven organisations, but given that values drive our behaviour as educators, I think the cliché holds true. And it’s a good idea to check in with these values every so often.
Different people will bring different experiences to the table, but if you want a shared vision – for inclusion, of understanding what a graduated approach to supporting students might look like, for anything in education, really – then those values must be shared. How do we go about doing that?
- Set the rules. You need people to be honest, but sometimes people don’t want to say what they really think because they fear they will be judged by colleagues. If you are tackling an emotional or potentially contentious subject, such as inclusion, then setting clear boundaries or saying something like “what is said in the room stays in the room” might put people at ease.
- Give staff a chance to talk. In a school with few members of staff, such as a one-form entry primary school, this isn’t such a challenge, but in a larger school, where you have a lot of business to get through, giving staff time to talk at staff meetings is more tricky. Setting an agenda and chairing the meeting with an eye on the clock will give you a structure within which to allow professional conversations to occur. If you find that there is more to say, or you haven’t covered all the ground you wanted to, you can always put another date in the diary.
- Listen. I do sometimes wonder how much school leaders actually listen to their staff – and I mean the whole staff, from heads of department to dinner supervisors. When we actively listen to our colleagues, make notes, report back what we think we heard and apply all those other techniques that we should be using when meeting with anxious parents, then we stand a better chance both of understanding the values that drive staff at our school, as well as preparing the ground for change.
- Revisit. Like inclusion, getting everyone on board with sharing values isn’t something that is done in a day. Making a plan for the year – one that doesn’t try to do too much at once, and sticking to it – has to be the way forward. We know how to plan sequences of learning for children; we can do the same for adults. If you want to get everyone on board the journey to change, you’d better make sure you have a plan.
Nancy Gedge is a consultant teacher for the Driver Youth Trust, which works with schools and teachers on SEND. She is the Tes SEND specialist, and author of Inclusion for Primary School Teachers. She tweets @nancygedge