28 Feb

It’s always a pleasure to welcome students back after the half term break. It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through this academic year.
This week we have been holding our internal management boards where we have been reflecting on our journey so far. It’s also the time of year when we are looking forward and making plans for next year. It’s definitely a rather busy time.

When my time has been taken up with lots of meetings, I like to find the time to touch base with the students. I was chatting with one of our Year 12 students who was talking about the differences between her previous mainstream setting and the Learning Centre. One of the key features that has helped her settle has been how the Learning Centre staff take the time to listen and get to know her so when things go wrong she is able to talk them through.

Developing these relationships has always been at the heart of the New Bridge ethos and values. I have long believed that a key to understanding and supporting young people is developing an ‘empathetic’ approach and positive relationships rather than implementing punitive measures in response to behaviours. So, I was rather frustrated at a government statement released on Friday around behaviour in schools. I’m not often inclined to respond to political rhetoric around education policies within my weekly blog, however, the Education Secretary’s announcement about the launch of a £10 million behaviour taskforce focusing on behaviour and discipline in schools has prompted this response.

A recent study entitled ‘Empathy, Not Punishment, Improves Discipline, (Jason Okonofua, David Paunesku, & Gregory Walton, National Academy of Sciences.) states that a crucial part of teaching young people is to create positive relationships with students, particularly students who are struggling. But some school environments have “zero-tolerance” policies concerning student behavior. In turn, this exposes some teachers to a “default punitive mindset.” “It is heartbreaking,” Walton said. “Teachers are caught between two models, a punitive model that says you have to punish kids to get them to behave and an older model that goes to the heart of the profession, which says that teaching is all about building strong relationships with children, especially when they struggle.

Walton noted that teachers can get distracted when punitive policies are in effect. Negative punishments can make children feel disrespected and often lead to even worse behavior. Okonofua added, “All kids need supportive, trusting relationships to help them grow and improve. Our intervention helped teachers reconnect with those values, who they really want to be as a teacher and how they want to relate to their students.”

I’d like to finish with a quote from our recent Ofsted report:

“Pupils love coming to school. They feel valued and say that staff listen to them and understand them. They told us that staff, ‘respect us for who we are’. Pupils’ behaviour around school is excellent.” (Ofsted Jan 20)

Just a couple of ‘thank you’s; firstly to the whole of E-Base 1 for their amazing Spring mural which now takes pride of place in the main hall at the Learning Centre..

..and secondly to Chantelle from Year 12 for my yummy pancakes!

Have a great weekend,

Dawn

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