My Wellbeing Toolkit- A free resource for those working with young people.


So recently I learned how to use Google Drawings and at the same time this post from the awesome friend @PookyH  inspired me to think about wellbeing action plans. So this afternoon I started to have a  play with google drawings (partly because I was having a play for my own Wellbeing Action Plan- you need to practice what you preach after all!) and I came up with something that if printed on A3 might be useful for those working with young people.

 

My Wellbeing Toolkit (1)

 

It is adapted from the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and I also added some explanatory info to help young people with filling it in. It is probably aimed at secondary aged pupils due to some of the language but when I get a mo, I will look at doing a primary version.

Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit (2)

Anyhow I hope you find this helpful and I provide the PDF for printing on A3 here MyWellbeingToolkit: and the explanatory notes here:Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit

Any feedback, I would love to hear it. I am still learning with Google drawings and I am no designer but I am finding it a really easy to use and fun tool (and Google docs in general is awesome for collaborative work!).

Happy Educating!

 

 

Condom Olympics- A demo video


So a few weeks ago I participated in Teachmeet Taunton and decided to introduce the world to Condom Olympics.  To contextualise this I gave everyone a copy of the lesson plan for this session a version of which I have made available for free on TES Resources.

This lesson maybe good for Science (material properties), D&T (Product Design, Material properties), Business Studies (product development) etc. as well as PSHE teaching about the limitations of condoms in a fun and engaging way.   This lesson isn’t necessarily one I would teach all students (in a time tight curriculum I often have more pressing material to cover) but for some students it will engage them around condom safety in a way that other lessons wouldn’t, so as with all lessons- use your professional judgement to work out what is best for your learners.

The key messages might be:

Oil based lubricants, fingernails, over stretching will all damage condoms but also condoms are very resilient to stretching (fitted 4cans of beans in one condom with room for more- and held over a litre of water before bursting) therefore used properly they are very safe. Condoms are tricky to put on if you are impaired (drunk goggles/in dark), and that condoms are effective at keeping semen in but the blacklight shows the need to wash hands and “penis” afterwards.

The video of my efforts can be seen below (apologies for being painfully loud at times. I have no volume control!)

From left to right the activities are:

  • Rubbing waterbased and oil based lubricants onto blown up condoms (oil based will pop)
  • Picking up paperclips with a condom over your hand
  • How much water can a condom hold (over a bowl!)
  • How many tins will fit in a single condom
  • Drunk goggles- trying to get a condom on the demonstrator
  • Condom in a TV box- demo a condom whilst you can’t see
  • Ejaculating condom demonstrator, with UV sensitive artificial semen and Blacklight

I owe huge thanks to my awesome “Condom Athletes” who helped the activity go with a bang. (literally at 1.18mins in!).  All participants got a “Condom Gold Medal” (the condoms were kindly donated by Pasante and I bought the medals from the party shop!)IMG_1494

Throughly enjoyed my first teachmeet experience and looking forward to the next one TM Exeter where I’m going to do a less fun but very important top tips for challenging homophobia and transphobia. Hope to see you there!

“Being gay is against my religion”- Teachers how do you respond?


As a teacher what do you say to that statement?  You don’t want to be seen to maligning a faith viewpoint, and maybe you don’t personally know enough about the faith in question to start having a theological debate on the issue so instead perhaps you avoid the issue completely?

When I first started talking about homophobia in the classroom, I used to say was that all major religions promote tolerance and respect and even if your faith perspective doesn’t agree with someone’s sexual orientation, that does not give you the right to discriminate against someone because of it. Also despite some religious teachings against same sex relationships, there will be people who are LGBT within that particular faith, and what it actually comes down to is how you interpret the most important aspects of your faith for you, ie. faith is more importantly about your own relationship with god rather than interpretations of your faith by faith leaders. (Which is how my Catholic Lesbian friend explained to me how she reconciled her own faith with her sexual orientation, which was a very helpful perspective to help me understand.)

Since then I have developed an understanding that promoting ideas of tolerance or acceptance are flawed. We wouldn’t ask someone to tolerate black people- the very notion is offensive, why shouldn’t it be the same for people who are LGBT?  (Check out the Riddle Scale of Attitudes for more info) and hence teachers need to think carefully about using words such as tolerance or acceptance (although they do appear frequently in certain religious texts).

Since doing this masters I have realised that LGBT equality is fairly unique in being perceived as against someones religion, however just because the arguments for oppression are religious does not excuse them (the arguments for slavery in the US or persecution of Jews in Europe were also often religious, we don’t excuse those- why should this be any different?).

Teachers need to be clear that there is a limit where respecting one groups freedoms may mean limiting the freedoms of another. It is not always an easy boundary to negotiate but avoiding discussion on the issue at all with religious students/schools is also not an option.  I’ve talked about negotiating the line between faith and discussions on sexuality before in this open letter to MP Matthew Offord, and I share below the example I wrote there about my experience around discussions of faith and sexuality.

“One of my proudest teaching and learning moments was covering a lesson on homophobia with a class, a boy with strong faith views shouted out “I WANT TO KILL ALL GAYS” he was angry and convinced this was a course of action they deserved. He was adament that he believed this because his faith taught him it was wrong.  By the end of the lessons he came to me and said “Miss, I still don’t like it and neither does my faith, but I get what you mean now about not being mean to someone because of it.” For him that was the most monumental shift, and he was a violent angry young man, I have absolutely no doubt that he would be the type to beat someone up for acting “gay” whether or not they actually were.”

During that lesson, I obviously challenged him on his original statement as it was very offensive and breached our ground rules, but during the lesson we explored stereotypes and feelings and human rights. We talked about faith in the context I described above and at no point did anyone try and malign his faith viewpoint, and he still went on to have the monumental shift in attitude (I am not naive, this may not have been a permanent attitudinal change but in a single lesson it was a massive shift in positioning and if nothing else I made him think!).   This is just one example but it shows such discussions can and should take place that respect both faith values and an equalities perspective.

Please don’t let fears around a possible religious backlash, prevent work around challenging homophobia and transphobia. It is not impossible and in fact you maybe pleasantly surprised (I had several strongly religious people actively support the work within my previous school).

Happy Educating.

EDIT: As Gill Frances reminded me from her comments below- we also need to point out to children and young people that religious beliefs do not trump the laws of this land and that both Sexual Orientation, Gender Reassignment and Religion & belief are all protected characteristics within the Equality Act (2010). Also particular faith perspectives are unlikely to be universal within your classroom, having a faith perspective does not give you any more right than anyone else in the class to share that perspective.  Or to put it another way:

So are you gay then?


Talking about my masters in challenging homophobia in schools in the pub the other night I was confronted with the question:

“So are you gay then?”

This person assumed I must be as she could not comprehend why someone who is straight would be bothered about discrimination of a group that they did not belong to.

With students I usually reply to that question (with a gentle reminder about ground rules and no personal questions!)with:

“would it matter if I were?”

and we start to unpick why this stuff should be important to us all, and how ones sexual orientation does not affect their ability to be a good teacher, a good friend etc.

In the classroom it is an interesting one- if you are a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual teacher, do you really want to come out to the students in your school? You could be an amazing role model but likewise in a non-supportive school you could be opening up a can of prejudicial worms. Likewise a straight teacher doing this work maybe worried people will assume they are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and treat them differently as a result, and this may serve as a barrier to this work. Also they may feel they don’t know enough about the issues to address it properly (to that I must point out white male teachers can teach about racism or sexism just fine- this is no different). (Oh and N.B Straight Teachers answering that question with an emphatic “No!” as if its a bad thing, only serves to reinforce the pervading culture of heteronormativity. Sigh.)

To the woman in the pub I didn’t ask her “would it matter if I were?” but said loftily

To me this is an equalities issue and it’s something we should all be bothered about whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.

(and then carried on ranting about my research to the poor woman- sorry!)

Whilst doing this work I have always been aware of having heterosexual privilege. Being a married (to a man) mother of two working in this field, means that it brings this issue into the mainstream. I’m not someone from a so-called “sexual minority” (I hate that term- very “othering”) on a soapbox but someone who never experiences homophobia but is actively engaged in challenging prejudice and discrimination particularly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. In my experience this has possibly added a level of engagement to the work from straight colleagues, that might not be present if I was a gay, lesbian or bisexual teacher?

I’m not saying all teachers need to be as engaged on these issues as rantypants me, but I am saying all teachers can and should challenge LGBT prejudice as much as possible regardless of their own identity. It’s a human rights issue, it’s an equalities issue and even just taking the time to consider how you might answer the question from a student

So are you gay then?

in a way that addresses sexualities equality in some way is a step in the right direction.

Anyhow Macklemore, Ryan Lewis &Mary Lewis say it better than me afterall its “Same Love.”

Equal Opportunities and the New National Curriculum.


Been pondering about the evolution of the National Curriculum and its Equal opportunities statements.

1999 National Curriculum included the statement as part of its blurb about its aims:

It should promote equal opportunities and enable pupils to challenge discrimination and stereotyping. (page 11)

2008 National Curriculum refined those aims and whilst there is no explicit mention of equal opportunities it does state it aims to create responsible citizens who:

  • “appreciate the benefits of diversity”
  • “challenge injustice, are committed to human rights  and strive to live peaceably with others”

2013- The latest draft of the National Curriculum Document (July 2013) no longer has anything about equal opportunities in its aims (page 5) but the specific inclusion statement (page 8) includes

“Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.”

Which is positive, but striking was that “pregnancy and maternity”, “Age” and “Gender Reassignment” are missing from this list despite them also being protected characteristics under the Equality Act and all things that may also affect school students.

On reading the Equality Act Impact Assessment (Which David Cameron announced in Nov 2012 the Government would no longer be carrying out) The possible equalities impacts of the national curriculum inclusion statement is on Page 13 and states

The national curriculum framework document includes an inclusion statement that reaffirms schools’ duties under equalities legislation, revising the current inclusion
statement which is now out of date in relation to the rights of the protected groups covered by the 2010 Equality Act (e.g. relating to disability, sex, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief). The inclusion statement sets out that teachers must determine the support and teaching interventions their pupils need to participate fully in all parts of the school curriculum, including the national curriculum. The statement also gives teachers and teaching staff the freedom to teach the national curriculum in line with pupils’ specific and individual needs and make reasonable adjustments.”

So whilst the Impact Assessment relating to the inclusion statement mentions gender identity- the inclusion statement in the document itself does not!? HMMMMMMM!

In the Impact Assessment introduction the document states “Within a school context, the most relevant protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) are pupil disability; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin); religion or belief (including lack of religion/belief); sex; and sexual orientation“. Which again erases transgender issues which are likely to be experienced in school contexts. The legal definition of Gender Reassignment basically means anyone who transgendered and   does not specify a Gender Recognition Certificate is needed therefore will include school students (as to get a gender recognition certificate you would need to be over 18 and have lived in your new gender for at least two years ie. may not effect school students) but I am not sure as I thought Gender Identity would have been protected and I would welcome comment from those more expert than I on Trans equality laws.

I also found it interesting that DfE when carrying out the consultation asked specific questions about the Equality Act and they state:

“The responses to the public consultation that covered the possible impact of the new national curriculum on pupils with protected characteristics most frequently referred to disability, ethnicity and belief/religion, with sex and sexuality being flagged in a handful of cases (and no mention being made of age, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or being married).” (emphasis mine)

However if you read this response to the Draft National Curriculum from the Sex Education Forum which I helped draft you will see Transgender Identities are specifically referred too, although Gender reassignment not specifically, but it is disappointing this was not acknowledged.

Unfortunately the latest consultation on the National Curriculum Draft (there have been many!) closed on the 8th August.  On reflection I would like to see Gender Identity and Pregnancy and Maternity specifically included within the inclusion statement as issues that teachers should not discriminate against.

What do you think?

QTS Maths- How exactly does requiring teachers to be “fast” at maths help our profession?


Before you read this post in its entirety I want you to set a countdown timer to 18 seconds and listen to this maths question. You may listen to it twice but at the start of the second listening you must start the timer. Once the 18 seconds is up you MUST STOP. If you have not written down the right answer in that time you have FAILED that question*

Did you get the right answer in the time allowed? Would you continue to get the right answer for each of the next twelve mental arithmetic questions in 18 seconds each bearing in mind you can only hear the question and not see it? Then also go onto do 16 more maths questions over the next 40 minutes. You need to get 18 marks in order to pass the QTS maths test. You can try the QTS maths test here if you want.

Now imagine you are someone who has just spent four years of their life doing a BEd in Primary Education. For the first three years of your course you knew you could do the QTS tests at any point and have as many goes as you wanted, but in your final year you were informed this had now changed and you now only have three goes at it plus the pass mark had been increased to 63% (although 18/28 is actually a 64.3% pass mark).

The goalposts have suddenly changed. Now each time you do the test you are under considerable pressure. You pass the literacy test first time, but sadly you fail the maths test, first time on the mental arithmetic section by four marks. Deep breath and you try it again…………. again you fail on the mental arithmetic section by 4 marks, you can get the right answer but just not quite quick enough. Several times you are just about to put the right answer in but the box disappears as the 18 seconds are up and you have missed it by a second.

You take time before you take your third and final test, you spend weeks and weeks revising and preparing for your final chance at this test. Four years of your life are riding on this. You have just been given your dream job at a lovely yet challenging school. The head and governors are really excited about having you start and you are due to start within weeks.

The pressure this time for your last chance at this test is now insane. Again you sadly fail the mental arithmetic test BY FOUR MARKS. Because you are just not quite quick enough to answer mental arithmetic quite fast enough for the arbitrary speeds set by the government. Because the pressure of answering each question in only 18 seconds is already too much and added to that the pressure of how much you have riding on this means that you are flustered and frantic, desperate to get it right but also aware 18 seconds just isn’t quite enough time for you to process the auditory info, do the calculations and get the right answer in everytime. If you had just a few more seconds per question or could read instead of hear the question in all likelihood you would have passed the QTS Maths test and been able to become the teacher you always wanted to be.

FOUR MARKS OFF THE MATHS QTS PASS MARK & NOW FOUR YEARS OF YOUR LIFE ARE NOW POTENTIALLY WASTED.

You are not permitted to retake the tests for another 2 years, the dream job offer you had now has to be rescinded. The head and interview panel are devastated they can’t employ you. You are devastated you cannot be employed as a teacher in this school where you could have made a real difference. The real kicker is if your dream school was an academy this wouldn’t have mattered and you could have started your dream job.

But you can’t just because of FOUR marks in an auditory mental arithmetic test.

The thing is you are passionate about teaching and absolutely brilliant with kids. You already have a C in your GCSE maths, showing you have a good enough grounding in maths, and although maths isn’t a strong point you have really worked hard at it and all your observations for maths teaching at primary level have been absolutely fine, because you have worked hard to understand and overcome barriers in maths and so can really help children with those same issues. But just because you are not quite fast enough at maths, because for 4 questions you didn’t manage to get them done in 18 seconds then you are prevented from becoming a teacher for the next 2 years.

How do you feel?

This just happened to a friend of mine. I’m so angry about it. She is exactly the sort of primary teacher I want for my kids. In fact my kids absolutely adore her and she is brilliant with them. She just knows how to get onto their level and inspire them to inquire about the world. But simply because she can’t do maths “FAST” enough. She has just lost out on a job where she would have been awesome and the school and kids are losing out.

Seriously is the benchmark of a good teacher being able to do “fast maths”? Really? How utterly bonkers?! I couldn’t give a stuff how fast you can work out the proportion of money going to a charity, I care that you can teach my kids well and inspire them to learn.

I suspect I might now fail QTS maths if I had to resit and so would many of my colleagues. I can’t do maths under pressure. Never have been able to. I also can’t work as well if hearing a question and not seeing it in front of me. Should we be barred from teaching as a result? If this test was applied across the profession I suspect many incredible teachers would lose their QTS. Just because we some of us are fast enough at maths or not as good at auditory mathematical processing than visual mathematical processing. I understand and respect the need for teachers to be literate and numerate but emphasising speed over accuracy in maths is just plain wrong (also I wonder if “Troops to teachers” will be expected to do the QTS maths tests?)

It’s a joke it really is. Except an unfunny joke that has put my friends life on hold for the next two years. I don’t know if she will become a teacher now and if she doesn’t that will be a significant loss to a profession that would have really benefited from having her.

Shame on you DfE, Shame on you. Yet another way you are currently destroying the teaching workforce.

* The question from the recording was this:

Six hundred and thirty pupils paid fifty pence each on a charity day. The money collected was divided equally between three local charities.

How much did each of the charities receive?

Remember you are not allowed to see the question only hear it and you have 18 seconds from the start of the second reading of the question. Could you do it in time?

Sex and Relationships Education- A political hot potato game of piggy in the middle.


The government on the one hand says “we have full confidence in our teachers to teach their students what will be best for their education” but on the other hand says “the guidance note on reproduction is included to make sure pupils are not introduced to age inappropriate material”, and thus it lobs the hot potato of SRE into the hands of the teachers.

The teachers whom without statutory status of PSHE, without proper guidance, training and support are just not able to teach SRE to the standard it needs to currently needs to be so they either quietly drop the potato and hope no-one notices or they lob it back to the government demanding change from on high.

Meanwhile the children and young people continue to miss out on their entitlement to high quality age appropriate SRE. Another generation of poor piggys in the middle. IT IS STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

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The power of teachers


Yesterday I spent the day training a lovely group of teachers. We had a great day but during the training a strange thing happened. I was talking about my experiences challenging homophobia in school in particular the privilege of being the first adult a young person came out too, and the impact that had had on her (and me), and suddenly I got all choked and teary and I struggled to regain my composure.

This has never happened before despite sharing these stories many times previously. Without meaning to sound like a sanctimonious pompous prat*, I think it suddenly dawned on me the incredibly important role I played in the wellbeing of that student, and how without me and the work I was trying to do, how differently things could have turned out for that student.

Teachers, never ever underestimate your power and importance in a students’ life. Please try use that power as a force for good. Be there when your students need you, challenge bullying and discrimination when you witness it. Your influence is so much more than achieving target grades. Never forget that.

*Which I do a bit. Sorry. Lecture over. Rants about artificial semen and the like will resume shortly.

Feedback from young people involved in SO What


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the sixth of six posts.

Students shared with me their thoughts about being part of SoWhat (Spellings are theirs!).

“When I first joined the SO What Squad in our school it was barely a group at all. It didn’t have a name, the school didn’t know we existed, and most of the students didn’t know what we were trying to achieve. Or even some of the teachers, for that matter. But that is exactly for me why it seemed so important to start up.

In many ways, homophobic bullying can seem a silent form of bullying. People use derogatory phrases all the time that would never be picked up on – ‘that’s so gay’, for instance – unless it was something that personally upset you, as it does for many young, LGBT students. Not only that, but it surprises a lot of people to hear the range of homophobic bullying, that many heterosexual students have experienced it too.

As part of the group, we went to an anti-bullying conference in our local area where it discussed a range of different techniques to ensure that schools and colleges have as little an amount of bullying as possible. One really interesting seminar discussed how homophobia is tackled in primary schools, not by looking out for aggressive behaviour or derogatory language as we had focused on, but by broadcasting acceptance, and teaching children that people with difference backgrounds, families, people from different races and religions, people of different sexual orientations were all ordinary people, just like everyone else. The leader of the seminar, a teacher who identified as LGBT, was able to discuss the fact that he was gay with his older students, and told us how on seeing a figure of authority, a person that they liked, as gay, the students easily accepted it, and as far as he was aware there was no homophobic bullying within that group.

I think if we were to go back and change the way we established SO What at our school, it would be less focused on the bullying, and more focused on the need for acceptance and appreciation of different people, spreading the message that diversity may seem strange and unfamiliar, but it is good. I feel we needed to spread campaigns such as ‘It Gets Better’, which has a hopeful message for victims who may feel upset or dejected. The younger that people learn that LGBT is no more a label than heterosexuality is, the quicker we can hope that in schools in the future it will be better.

Lucy, Former SoWhatSquad member.

I am a former member of the SoWhatSquad and i am proud to say that the logo design was my idea, my most creative piece yet.
Seeing homophobic bullying was very common before the group started up. The term “Gay” was used in everyones regular vocabulary. A person didnt need to actually be or identify themselves as part of LGBT to get called names and be taunted, if they showed stereotypical attirbutes of a LGBT person, they would be targeted.
The group for some was a place to retreat and feel welcome. It didnt matter if you were part of LGBT Group or just had views on the matter, everyone was treated equally. The logo which was displayed around school was a sign that our school was not going to tolerate any discrimination.

It is a shame however that the group, as former students left, is no longer as prominent in the school community, although i have noticed more students in the school which would identify themselves under the LGBT group and could be in need of a SoWhat Squad.

If i had the chance to relay or help build such groups in other schools, i think it would benefit a huge amount of people, to be themselves, to feel comfortable and to be happy in their school years.

K- Former SoWhat Member

“The so what squad helped a few people i knew come out as well as myself. Ii only had one friend who knew that i was a lesbian but apart from that my life involved a hell of a lot of lying! I didn’t know many gay people at the time and whenever i heard a conversation about homosexuals it was negative. By the time i had joined the so what club i had already come out to a lot of people and most was good and well except i had not told my family yet. The so what squad helped me tell my mum etc by providing me with a safe postive environment where i felt normal an could talk about my fears with people who were in the same position as me. The so what squad was really helpful and what have been an even greater help if i knew about it when i was figuring out i was gay i know it helped a lot of people and schools should definatlly have some sort of group to support other children.”

J- Former SoWhat Member

Another Student who went to set up So What in their college wrote this about their school experience:

As a young gay person growing up in a school with no openly gay students and staff, and an under current of homophobia amongst my peers, I felt incredibly isolated. The homophobia in the school was systemic; it was a very hostile environment and homophobia was routinely unchallenged. As a result I did not feel it was a safe space to come out in. I censor my feeling and behaviours, and became incredibly self loathing. As a result I acted out and began to perform the homophobic actions and behaviours I saw. It was only after leaving the school and that I was able to become the real me. I came out and my confidence grew: my grades improved significantly and I was able to shake off the feeling I was lying to people.

Teaching about Abortion in Schools


*bangs on a drum loudly until have attention of all teachers across the land*

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Inviting anti-abortion organisations into schools IS ABSOLUTELY NOT “enabling students to be able to come to a balanced view of the topic” (as one teacher claimed when the Guardian exposed what was being covered by such organisations*)

The Fab Education for Choice put it far better than I ever could:

Schools often like to stimulate interesting debate about abortion by inviting speakers from pro-choice organisations to balance the views given by ‘pro-life’ (anti-abortion) organisations. Anti-abortion organisations think that abortion is unacceptable in any situation and would like to see the practice outlawed. The opposing view to this would be a pro-abortion stance – the view that abortion is always the right solution to unwanted pregnancy. This is not a view held by any organisation. Instead, agencies that value young people’s health and recognise their rights will support an individual to make their own decision about pregnancy for themselves. The view of these organisations is balanced, in and of itself.

Debating the issues from a pro-abortion v anti-abortion perspective does not help young people to acquire the attitudes, skills and knowledge they need to be able to make their own, informed choices about sex, pregnancy and abortion. Instead it simplifies the issues, stigmatises abortion as an option, and polarises the discussion, which the Department for Education advises against:
“It is all too easy to create a classroom debate in which pupils’ views become polarised and miss the purpose of sex and relationship education in preparing pupils for the responsibilities and challenges of adult life. When abortion is covered within a programme, the challenge is to offer young people the opportunity to explore the dilemmas, enable them to know and understand about abortion, and develop the communication skills to discuss it with parents and health professionals.”
Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, DfEE, 2000

For more information please go and read their brilliant- Abortion Education Toolkit.

Please please very carefully consider any outside speaker you invite into your school and use this excellent guidance from the Sex Education Forum to guide you.

 

*and please note some anti-abortion organisations have been exposed several times to be peddling in lies and truth distortions which simply is not right or fair to our young people.

Rant Over.