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Leading Inclusion

A friend of my daughter’s asked me for advice yesterday. She’s a primary teacher with her eye on a job that she’s seen advertised in another school. ‘Leader for Inclusion’ is the job title, with a TLR2 as bait. She’s popping over tomorrow to ‘pick my brain’. Of course I’ve told her “that won’t take long” but joking aside, what should I tell her?

The first thing I’m going to ask her is “what does ‘inclusion’ mean to you?” A leader of inclusion has to be very clear about the meaning of the word itself and be prepared to fight for it. In too many schools ‘inclusion’ means ‘keeping kids in school that we used to get shot of.’  These schools do ‘inclusion’ when they tolerate the erratic behaviour of pupils who would in previous decades have attended a special school. Or it means ‘bad behaviour’ in the sense that pupils get sent to an ‘inclusion’ room or building or even off-site resource. Don’t get me wrong, these facilities are necessary but there’s a fatal flaw in giving them the title ‘inclusion’. In my opinion ‘inclusion’ means teachers meeting the needs of every pupil they serve. If staff get the idea that ‘inclusion’ is something that someone else does in a different resource, we’re lost. The ‘leader of inclusion’ has to fight for the word so that staff take on and don’t pass on the responsibility.

I’ll ask her how her own lessons are ticking over. It’s an old but true adage, the first thing to go is the quality of your own lessons. When you are up late writing case studies for Ofsted and you spend your PPA time on the phone to social services, your lesson planning cannot be what it was. If my young friend is still, as I suspect she may be, in the habit of working past 10 o’clock every night preparing resources, something has got to give.

I’ll ask her how easily shocked she is. Working in pastoral care you soon become familiar with the homes where you wipe your feet on the way out. We are in the midst of the party conference season as I write. When you’ve worked in ‘inclusion’ and seen the great morass of despairing, drug & alcohol dependent, abusive, feckless misery that a (thankfully small) sector of our children originate from, you wonder sometimes what nation these politicians think they are talking to. To survive in a job like this, you need to have thought through pretty thoroughly any ideas you might have about the deserving and/or non-deserving poor. You need a philosophy and a sense of mission.

That isn’t to say that all your workload is going to stem from financial deprivation. There are plenty of middle class homes where children are neglected, palmed off with ‘stuff’ in place of affection or traumatised by family break-up. And then there are the tragedies. The bereavements, terminal illnesses and chronic conditions that blight children’s lives from time to time. All of this takes its toll.

Reading this back to myself I think I’d better be careful not to give the wrong impression! I think I’ll have to tell her that of the inclusion leaders I meet, 99% are in love with the job. There is something highly addictive about getting to know children so well and developing relationships with their families and the wider community in a way that few jobs in school allow you to.

Finally I’ll ask her what being a ‘leader’ means to her.

Schools have mission statements, usually buried in a draw or hidden in plain sight i.e. displayed in the foyer and forgotten about, noticed by no one. The leader of inclusion has a special role, to pull that mission statement off the wall, get it seen by all staff and lead them towards an understanding of how they contribute to making that vision a reality. If the leader of inclusion is able to articulate why and how we both have to and can make them welcome, keep them safe and help them learn, every last one of them, she’ll be doing the job more than well.

Why should you hire me?

Here are some of the issues that I can help you sort: If the answers to any of the issues to the right is yes then get in touch – you have found the man you are looking for!

But you don't need to take it from me, have a look at my testimonials page.

If you have:

  • Some of your staff keep getting into unnecessary confrontations with pupils?
  • Some staff struggle to deal with social chatter?
  • Subject leaders who don’t take the lead on behaviour for learning
  • Head of house/year who are buried in the reactive and want to be proactive?

If you want to:

  • Improve attendance?
  • Improve behaviour?
  • Deliver SEAL whole school
  • Get help with the behaviour and safety SEF?
  • Have better behaviour and attendance data?
  • Get PLTS embedded?
  • Get pupil voice working?

And also:

Do you want the best whole staff behaviour CPD at an affordable cost?

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