Are you more mindful than Phil?

Are you more mindful than Phil?

It has been a busy few months with lots of new ideas being floated and researched and either assigned to the bin or acted upon in more depth. Most recently I’ve been working and planning training with  Anne McBride from mindfuled,co,uk. She, like me, is passionate about creating the right environment in schools for children and young people to thrive. This entails promoting the positive things adults around the young people are doing and ensuring they act as effective role models.

Obviously, teachers and other education staff are a key part of that and with the current pressures on those professionals it is easy to lose track of how they might create a classroom environment in which all students can flourish. The day to day plod towards positive GCSE outcomes which are heavily laden with content rather than skills development means that as professionals we can often lose sight of the things that brought most of us into the profession – being able to spend time talking to children and ensuring they feel safe and supported.

We are collaborating in s school in Stockport next week and after that have several planned events where we will incorporate Mindfulness techniques to enable effective teaching and learning . If you are interested in attending our event Behaviour for learning – the mindful approach CPD for education professionals in June hosted by then get in touch via the Contact page or through social media.


Good at being paralysed

Recently I went down to TEDx Bristol where I saw some inspirational speakers with thought provoking topics. I went all the way there just to see one of the speakers, Martyn Ashton who is a hero of my children and I. He was a hero initially because of his ability to do tricks on his mountain bike and later on a road bike. We are all keen mountain bikers in our family and there were lots of videos similar to his Road Bike Party of tricks being performed on a mountain bike but none on a road bike. When we saw it he immediately became a hero but a few years later he became a legend when he came back from a terrible accident which led to an even more inspirational film being made.

I’ve used this video to inspire children to overcome barriers to learning with the explanation that if somebody who is paralysed can ride a bike down a mountain then they can definitely improve their own outcomes. I was pretty excited about going to see Martyn at TEDx as you can imagine but I wasn’t expecting the whole event to have such an impact on me with some remarkable speakers and stories. The thing that sticks in my mind most is also the title of this post – if you don’t watch the whole video below at least skip to around 6 minutes and see Martyn’s take on it.

Martyn’s attitude reminded me of a couple of things from my life, with the first being the time my dad came out of hospital needing to use a wheelchair, which he needed for the rest of his life, and how keen I was to have a go in it to see how long I could balance on two wheels. I would practice for ages, trying to balance and move around the living room. I innocently wondered at the time if there was a world record for balancing a wheelchair on two wheels, which reading back now seems to be a bit inappropriate but at the time I was still a kid looking for things to be good at.

The other thing I was reminded of when listening to Martyn was the Rio Paralympics. My youngest son, who would have been 4 at the time, watched many of the events with us and asked, after one of the cycling events obviously(!), how can I race at the Paralympics? As he has no physical disability we had to tell him that he might be better aiming for the Olympics and explained that all the people in the Paralympics have a disability. He was a little confused as often some athletes don’t have obvious signs of disability. We are pretty sure he doesn’t have any hidden disabilities, but what about children and young people that do? Some questions spring to mind:

  • Are they able to aspire to the Paralympics?
  • Do we do enough to promote the positive effects of sport and exercise in general for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?
  • Is there a world record for balancing a wheelchair on two wheels and if not should Martyn Ashton go for it?

Time for a change


So there you go. Half a lifetime of teaching children has now come to an end. My last week was an emotional time with students, and in particular my form group making me feel that I should reconsider my decision to leave the profession. They were an amazing bunch of talented and caring young people who really did challenge the stereotypical teenager (remember Kevin and Perry?) label because they were nearly always in a good mood and if somebody wasn’t the others would look after them during the school day and beyond.

So why leave?

  1. To indirectly support many more children by working more closely with parents/ carers and other professionals involved in education.
  2. To develop parent/ carer networks and support Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) networks.
  3. I’m already working with other outside agencies that deliver support aimed at all disadvantaged students, not just those with Special Educational Needs and/ or Disabilities (SEND) and I believe that growing the number of people who share a similar ethos to me as explained on the Welcome page is a step towards realising that.

Why are those things important?

I’m passionate about finding out what kids are good at, regardless of whether they have a SEND, and then helping them to build on that talent under the guidance of adults who think like me. My reasons are due to lifelong personal experience (my brother who has SEND and parents were not supported effectively during his education), but also through professional experiences both before and during my time as a SENCO. Thankfully lots of parents shared with me their thanks for the support I provided as a SENCO see Testimonials, which shows how things have moved on since my brother’s time, when SENCOs didn’t exist! He was, and is still, talented in ways that the education system does not assess – which made me think of a video I watched a few years back!

One of the most uplifting and inspirational training sessions I’ve ever been part of involved having to watch this video clip from a TED talk from 2007. Sir Ken Robinson knows his stuff and delivers in a really engaging style. If you haven’t seen it before it is well worth 20 minutes of your time but if you have and are already inspired, skip to 15 minutes to remind yourself what he says about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

That’s why we need to make sure we have people in schools and other educational settings that can bring out the best in children and young people, not just in terms of their English and Maths GCSEs, although as Sir Ken said, they are still just as important as dancing!

We also need to make sure that parents and carers know how best to work with schools and other professionals to ensure that their children grow to be the best they can be wherever their strengths lie.


Counting down

So here we go for my last full week in teaching. Just five days to go until I hang up my globe. I started teaching back in 1994, which I know is hard to believe when you see my profile picture but I promise I’m telling the truth. It was the lucky number 7 in terms of interviews I had been to without getting a job. Walkden High School in Salford saw through the nerves and took a chance on employing me as a Geography teacher with some additional RE.


I’ve done a bit of research about the slightly less important things that happened in 1994 and found out the following:-

  1. Friends began the year I started teaching
  2. ER started the same year
  3. Chris Boardman won the opening stage of the Tour de France
  4. USA held the World Cup
  5. The Channel Tunnel opened for business
  6. The National Lottery began in the UK
  7. China got its first connection to the internet
  8. Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president (obviously not less important than my job)

So with just the five days to go until I’m no longer a full time teacher it is getting a bit real. Some of the children I teach and parents I’ve worked closely with over the last five years have been wishing me well, and it all seems very final, in contrast to the last couple of times I left a school. On those occasions it was to go to a new school and work as a teacher in some form or other (see previous post SEND Support), but this time I’m leaving to set up as a SENCO Consultant and work for myself, not knowing if I’ll work directly with children again.

When my plan is put into place, I know I’ll be able to make a difference to a larger group of children by working with adults who support, teach or care for them, but I will miss seeing children smile everyday (hopefully my own kids will prove me wrong) when I cheer them up by promising not to sing to them or perform my best dad dance. I can’t envisage an occasion during any future meetings or training I’m delivering when I can get away with offering to sing or dance because I know my stupidity will make a child feel better about themselves! A bit like my hero

Hopefully the new venture will “Bring me sunshine

SEND Support

The journey started with a simple question in 2007, whilst I worked at Alder Community High School in Tameside, as Head of Geography, ” If I give you a few extra free periods next year, will you run a nurture group with six year 8 students and try and to make sure they don’t all get permanently excluded before they get to year 11? Oh, and I’ve booked for you to take them indoor climbing next week to bond”. No training, just a headteacher’s belief and trust in my innovative abilities. Just for the record, they all got to year 11 and some even went to the Prom. We achieved this through a combination of outdoor activities, such as climbing, mountain biking (I’m a British Cycling qualified mountain bike leader and Go-Ride coach), team-building and the old faithful – manhunt, but alongside this we developed tailored support, qualifications within the alternative curriculum and also a programme of preparation for adulthood, before the Wolf report was published in 2011 and blew the house down (couldn’t resist sorry) the year following my nurture group’s Prom.


After such a fulfilling time the next step was to use the strategic experience I had gained to become a SENCO at Harrytown Catholic High School in Stockport, during 2012,  and broaden the range of children’s needs which I could support. In the post-Wolf era, the outdoor activity was now more along the lines of having the car window open on the way to various meetings, but the belief that I could be a voice for a greater number of disadvantaged children and their parents helped maintain my motivation.


The experience gained over the first few years, followed by quadrupling numbers of children with SEND joining Harrytown meant that we needed to rapidly adapt our approach to supporting their needs. With the backing of a very supportive headteacher and some amazing support staff we managed to develop a dynamic model for working to meet need with a relatively small increase in expenditure.


So after all the experience gained throughout my teaching career I find myself working out my last four weeks as a public servant. I took the plunge and decided to set up my own business as a SENCO consultant. If there is one thing that being a SENCO has taught me it is that it is one of the loneliest jobs in teaching. Everybody knows how to do your job but nobody wants to do it, but they all want to tell you how to do it! The business is aimed at helping stressed out SENCOs to have some time to themselves, so that they don’t have to work 60 hour weeks to get all the meetings, paperwork, marking, planning and assessing completed. Instead some of the strategic and smarter ways to work that I have used can be shared in the hope that they can get a life back.

So I plan to be writing about some of the funnier conversations and experiences I’ve had over the years to lighten the mood, but also to give some concrete examples of things that work and SEND Support (pun only applies to UK mainland) to save you time as you work alone in your SENCO world!