“It was a very thought provoking day”
Our Associate Teachers met at the end of the Autumn Term to consider the importance of social justice in education. Our SCITT director, Patrick Garton, set the tone by sharing a story of observing injustice in his own schooling, making clear that our words and actions as educators can have great impact. He encouraged reflection on the Values aspect of our OTT Curriculum and asked Associate Teachers to consider how their personal philosophies influence their work in the classroom and allow them to contribute to the wider values and ethos of our school communities.
We were delighted to welcome as our keynote speaker Professor Sonia Blandford who captivated Associate Teachers with her immensely knowledgeable perspective ranging from the uniquely personal to the global. Sonia challenged us to consider our preconceptions, in interactions with both pupils and parents, urging us to consider how all children can feel truly included in our settings. Her final message was to be curious and to take the opportunity as beginning teachers to contribute fresh ideas to the ongoing debates in education.
“Please pass on my thanks to the interesting and engaging speakers – they were all incredibly inspiring.”
Having considered the big picture of social justice, nationally and internationally, the remainder of the day saw three school leaders from Oxfordshire talking about the local landscape and their own experiences of addressing inequality. Lyndsey Caldwell, Principal of Greyfriars Catholic School in Oxford, talked about the enormous contrasts within the city of Oxford, where huge privilege sits alongside deep poverty. Meeting the needs of children and families who feel to some extent excluded from the city in which they live, a feeling which has been exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, requires a clear vision which Lyndsey described with great clarity and warmth.
The same warmth, tenacity and determination to make a difference was shown by Charley Eaglestone, Headteacher of Bayards Primary School, as he described how personal development opportunities lay at the centre of strategies to address disadvantage in the school community. One aspect of this involved highlighting to families the many free opportunities that lay within a short distance, such as the University Museums or the local library, to ensure they were able to support their children’s learning in the widest possible sense.
Our final speaker of the day was Jake Jones, Deputy Headteacher at the Marlborough CE School. He explored the key ideas of cultural capital and the impact on pupils who may, for a variety of reasons, lack the vocabulary, understanding of social convention or communication skills that allow their peers to be successful in the school environment. Having developed this definition, he then gave examples of his everyday classroom practice as a Science teacher, to begin to address the key question of the day: ‘What can we do?’
“I had been sceptical before the session but feel that I have come away with a new understanding of social justice and the impact of cultural capital in mainstream education.”
Throughout the day, Associate Teachers were animated in their discussions with each other, and full of thoughtful questions for each of our speakers. They showed a clear understanding of the wider importance of their role as teachers, to foster positive relationships, promote opportunities and to seek to understand their pupils and families through continued professional curiosity. The conversations started during the day will continue in subject specialist sessions and will certainly be revisited in our Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Super Day later in the year.
Linda Hull Primary Subject Specialist – OTT SCITT