This is not my first ever blog. I have flirted with the genre, on and off, during the past 3 years, with a continuing resolution to get into a habit and do more of it. I have been both inspired by the world of educational blogging, but also intimidated. This feels a bit like a club that might either welcome and embrace or ignore and exclude, and where the rules of engagement are not entirely clear. It does feel a bit risky to use the #nurture1415 arena to ‘put myself out there’ at the beginning of a new year, but I am anticipating my as yet unwritten hopes for 2015.
Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney) tweeted earlier this week about the potential difficulty of using #nurture1415 to blog about her year as a journalist. I have something of a similar ambivalence, because:
- I am no longer a teacher, but an educational psychologist;
- I no longer work for a local authority, but have set up a social enterprise that provides services to schools on a ‘traded’ basis;
- I write about psychology, education, and social business;
- I’m not sure that I can write a blog post that maintains the right balance and doesn’t come across as a piece of marketing.
So, with all that in mind, here goes…
My best bits from 2014
When I sat down to list my best bits it was really hard to select only five:
- Our social enterprise has had a better year financially – as a social business one of our stated aims is to “put people before profit”. We did this so successfully in our first two years that we became concerned about the longer term viability of our organization. However, in the past year we seem to have redressed the balance to some extent and we are now cautiously optimistic about the future. This constant balancing act, I have learned, is a feature of the business world and requires a certain attitude of mind as well as a lot of hard work.
- We achieved Centre approval from NCFE – this means that we are able to offer our CPD for teaching assistants as a proper award with Level 2 certification. The approval process was rigorous and we were delighted to receive an “excellent” judgment in many areas. Until recently, local authorities were able to offer some level of guarantee of quality in the services offered to schools. As a business operating outside of established structures I think it is important that there is some external scrutiny of the quality of training and other services we are offering to schools. This was our first step in this direction.
- Our first Trainee Educational psychologist achieved qualified status and our first assistant psychologist has successfully started their professional training following acceptance onto the training course. One of the reasons that I decided it was time to move out of local authority work was because three years ago, at the height of the financial crisis, it was very hard for local authority services to support the training of psychologists. Without secure pathways into the profession it will not be possible to sustain our professional discipline into the future. In setting up our social enterprise, part of our mission was to provide pathways into employment for aspiring psychologists. As one of the most popular degree subjects, it feels important to create opportunities to use the knowledge and skills of our graduates in the service of improving outcomes for children and young people.
- Northern Rocks14 (and Tristram’s List) I have enjoyed feeling part of a wider movement of enthusiasts. One of the best bits about Northern Rocks was that I went with my daughter – our first outing as fellow professionals (she is the most enthusiastic maths teacher I have ever met). Despite the rain we had a brilliant day out and I am so sorry that I won’t be able to join the Northern Rocks 2015 event as I had already booked a weekend away before the date was announced! Following on from this, I was pleased to be able to attend the fringe event at the Labour party conference also organised by the wonderful Emma Hardy and others (I found myself in both pictures in Emma’s #Nurture1415 – an achievement of sorts - Emma, thanks for facilitating my best bits!)
- Our own Inclusion Matters conference was a huge highlight for our whole team. This is such a great team event as every member is involved in the advance planning and the organisation on the day. I’ve said it before, but worth repeating – Philippa Stobbs (of the Council for Disabled Children) was absolutely brilliant – she stepped in at very short notice as keynote speaker and stayed for the whole day reassuring and advising our SENCOs about the SEN reforms, in such a down to earth and practical way.
My best hopes for 2015
- Blogging…having started, I want to be able to continue. This will be part of “my blend” (see below…)
- To increase external validation of the quality of what we are doing. In 2015 we hope to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark and also to begin our journey towards achieving Investors in People status as employers.
- Continuing with this theme, we want to list our training in the Good CPD Guide I am a great admirer of David Weston and the Teacher Development Trust, and I am determined that when we register with the Good CPD Guide, every member of our team will be fully signed up to the principles and all our CPD will meet the required standard.
- We will consolidate our assistant psychologist roles and continue to build on our pathways into employment. We have a number of plans underway to achieve this.
- I hope that our Inclusion Matters 2015 conference will once again offer a forum for discussion, debate, information and inspiration for all those interest in supporting children and young people who face additional challenges in their educational journey. We have started to plan already. Our theme this year will be Mental Health in schools – if anyone reading this knows of inspirational work in this area please get in touch!
Finally, having struggled for some time with the concept of ‘work-life balance’ I discovered this holiday that the new concept is one of “blend”. I will be working on my preferred ‘blend’ during 2015, and will report back on how this has gone next year!