Diary of a Dyslexic Teacher

Liz Boyer portrait

Written by Liz Boyer

Liz Boyer has dedicated 21 years to education, she specialises in EYFS and KS1. Liz has taught across phases in both the Independent and State sectors, most recently in inner-city schools that are wonderfully diverse in nature. Liz has held various school leadership roles and has devotedly mentored ITT/E students for 15 years. In 2021, she became a SCITT Tutor, and currently serves as Primary Lead for Bluecoat SCITT Alliance BSA. Starting in September 2024, Liz will begin her role as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Derby UoD, continuing her commitment to fostering excellence in education and developing the next generation of teachers. Liz is also dyslexic but doesn’t wish that to define her.

In 2021, I wrote a diary during a 10-day COVID isolation. Fast forward to today I am a Primary SCITT Lead at Bluecoat SCITT Alliance BSA within the Archway Learning Trust ALT. Here, I have the honour of collaborating with an array of exceptional trainee teachers, each with their own unique experiences. Some of these trainees have encountered the challenges associated with neurodiversity, and it is a privilege to support them as we navigate the dynamic landscape of teaching together. I firmly believe that every individual has valuable contributions to make, and I am committed to working with both trainees and educational institutions to ensure that everyone’s strengths are recognised and celebrated.  Some schools actively champion colleagues of all backgrounds, while others are striving to achieve this inclusive environment. My primary support in this endeavour is Diverse Educators DE, an organisation that not only shapes policy but also guides schools as we navigate the era of inclusivity.

2021 Highlights

Day 1: Introduction

I am Liz Boyer, an educator with 18 years’ experience, whilst I have had many senior school roles I identify first and foremost as a teacher.  What sets me apart from some others (although 20% of the population are with me) is my dyslexia, a facet of my professional life I typically do not emphasise however, I am not saying it should be hidden. Today, I aim to share insights, coping strategies, and reassurance for teachers—whether dyslexic or not—drawing from my own journey. 

Day 2: Lists

Make a plan with tiny steps to kick start tasks, applicable beyond teaching. For instance, when tackling a long-term plan, start by just gathering necessary materials. Set a specific day and time for each step, adhering to it diligently. Embrace list-making to maintain momentum—I find ticking tasks off deeply rewarding.

  • Write day 2 diary entry for blog.

Day 3: Mathematics

Reflecting on my own education in maths, I faced significant anxiety around numbers, which mastery, a concept absent in my schooling, would have alleviated. My breakthrough came shortly before my PGCE during a refresher course, highlighting missed fundamental concepts. Witnessing mastery in Early Years, I see its power in building confidence and comprehension, ensuring all students succeed.

Day 4: Level 7

For reluctant readers and writers aiming for academic credibility at Level 7, the demands on trainees, ECTs, and their mentors are undeniably higher than before. While high expectations for teachers are justified, they should come with increased trust and respect for the sector. Amidst such pressure, retaining and nurturing good teachers becomes crucial. Here are practical pointers for those feeling overwhelmed:

  • Start with subjects that genuinely interest you, for me EYFS or ITT/E.
  • Cultivate a network of trusted friends and colleagues who can help read and rephrase materials.
  • Utilise social media groups for resources and support.
  • Incorporate audiobooks or podcasts into your routine for multitasking.
  • Engage in webinars or teaching hubs for ongoing, affordable support.

Day 5: Phonics

Balancing play, phonics, and literacy is challenging but crucial. Reflecting on my education and my son’s journey, I recognise the importance of time in learning to read and write. While the new EYFS framework is positive, there is still a lack of trust in children’s need for exploration and play. More emphasis on Phase 1 and language development in Reception is essential.

Day 6: Asking for Help 

Accepting support is vital, even though I found it challenging in the past. My mum checked my work as a teenager, and although I found it embarrassing then, I now appreciate support from her or other trusted checkers.

Day 7: Making Mistakes 

Mistakes are part of learning, but professionalism demands accuracy in communication. You also need to set a good example to children and I think that written and spoken English needs to be correct.   Daily practice and support are essential for improvement, use flashcards and revision techniques just as you would with children. Senior Leaders need to play to people’s strengths and celebrate the creativity, ability to communicate and energy to name a few positive attributes that often come from pupils and teachers with dyslexia.  

Day 8: Health and Resilience

Resilience is vital for teachers. Learning from setbacks and taking care of mental and physical health are crucial. After setbacks like nerves in interviews, it is important to learn and grow.

Day 9: Supply Teaching 

Supply teaching offers valuable learning opportunities and keeps educators sharp. It allows observation of various school cultures and improves subject knowledge through diverse experiences.

Day 10: Conclusion

I hope you have found my experiences useful and that I have emphasised that having dyslexia or other learning needs need not be a barrier to teaching. Full blog available on request.

Inclusion Love Languages

Caroline Anukem portrait

Written by Caroline Anukem

Caroline Anukem is Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Beaconsfield High School in the UK. She is a driving force, a change-maker, and a relentless advocate for equity.

Forget Acts of Service: The Love Languages Revolutionising Inclusion

Tired of the same old diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives that fall flat? It is time to do away with the generic and delve into a framework that speaks to the heart of belonging: Inclusion Love Languages.

Imagine this: You walk into a conference feeling a pit in your stomach. The name tags are impersonal, the panels lack diverse voices, and you struggle to find someone who “gets” your background. This is the opposite of inclusion. Now, picture a different scenario. You are greeted warmly with your preferred pronoun, the agenda reflects a range of perspectives, and breakout sessions offer opportunities for collaboration across differences. This – this – is inclusion in action.

Beyond Tolerance: A Celebration of YOU

Inclusion should not be about simply tolerating differences. It is about actively celebrating them.  The “Love Languages” model, popularised by Gary Chapman, categorises how individuals receive and express love.   I propose adapting this framework to inclusion, recognising that everyone has preferred ways of feeling valued and respected in a space.

What are YOUR Inclusion Love Languages?

Just like some crave words of affirmation from a partner, others might feel most included through mentorship opportunities or invitations to social gatherings.  Think about your own preferences. Do you thrive in environments with clear expectations and open communication (Acts of Service)? Or do you feel most valued when your unique perspective is acknowledged and celebrated (Words of Affirmation)?

Understanding your own inclusion love language is just the first step. Now consider how you can identify and address the preferences of others.  Perhaps a colleague or a fellow student feels most included through casual check-ins (Quality Time), while another appreciates being included in focus groups (Gifts – offering opportunities for contribution).

From Feel-Good to Functioning: The Power of Inclusion

True inclusion is not just about creating a warm and fuzzy atmosphere. It creates a sense of psychological safety, where individuals feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas freely, and being their authentic selves. This, in turn, unlocks a treasure trove of benefits:

  • Innovation Unleashed: Diverse perspectives combined with psychological safety create a breeding ground for ground-breaking ideas.
  • Engagement on Fire: Feeling valued motivates people to bring their best selves to work, leading to increased productivity and engagement.
  • Collaboration Takes Flight: A sense of belonging improves teamwork and inevitably reduces conflict, thus creating a more positive and collaborative environment.

Speaking Your Inclusion Love Language: Building a Thriving environment 

By understanding the “inclusion love languages,” we can move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.  This reframing equips us with practical tools to cultivate a culture of belonging, the foundation for a truly thriving and equitable working or learning environment.

What Could Sustainable Teacher Recruitment Campaigns Look Like?

Emma Sheppard portrait

Written by Emma Sheppard

Emma founded The MTPT Project, the UK's charity for parent teachers, in 2016 when on maternity leave with her first child. She has 12 years experience as an English teacher, Lead Practitioner and ITT Lead, and now runs The MTPT Project full time.

When I trained to teach in 2010, I was drawn into the profession by the motivation to Make a Difference.  I wanted to be a Changemaker; to have Social Impact; to Do Good.  And I was willing to work all hours and make sacrifices to – essentially – satisfy my guilty white saviour complex.

Maybe that’s a little cutting: after all, a sense of moral purpose and the pursuit of meaningful work are values to live and stand by.

But, two years later, after missing holidays with my family, developing chronic migraines and unable to identify any other hobbies beyond the bassoon that I had once enjoyed (but no longer had time to play), I burnt out and quit UK education for a stint in an international school, and the luxury of an expat lifestyle.

Vivid memories of two recruitment videos remain with me from this time.  In the first, a young man rides to school in the dark, and is the first in the building to switch on the lights.  He excels at his job, cares for his students.  At no point do we see him doing anything other than living and breathing teaching.

In the second, a young man wakes up, arrives at school, and we jump between his previous office job (dull) and his current teaching role (fulfilling).  At dinner time, he talks about how great teaching is and then gets into bed, and the cycle repeats itself.  At no point is there anything in his life other than teaching (and the back of his girlfriend’s head).

There is nothing incorrect about either advert: teaching is a brilliant and life-affirming career.  And – let’s admit it – as teachers, we do love to regale our friends and family members with hilarious school anecdotes at every opportunity.  The kids are the best bit.  Indeed, both adverts are powerful appeals to potential recruits who want to do nothing but teach.

But for how long do we want to – or are we capable of – martyring our whole lives to our profession?

Surely, if we want to see improved teacher retention, we need recruitment campaigns that sell teaching as a career choice that allows for a life beyond the classroom?

This is where a recent video from Reach Teacher Training has got things so right.  Like the videos previously mentioned, this advert follows two teachers from the start to the end of their working day, but the marketing team behind this piece have made some deliberate directorial decisions about the culture that new recruits can expect at Reach.

In the first iteration of the video – a 29 second clip – Reach dedicate 6 seconds to images of one of the teachers hugging her own child and waving goodbye at the door before she drives away.  That is 21% of expensive marketing time given over to stating that teaching is a family-friendly career choice – at least at a Reach Academy.

In the second version of the video, Reach set aside a glorious 23 seconds (of 55 seconds in total, so 42% of the entire clip) to the life-friendly nature of their school.  The first teacher joins her running club to run home with her pals in the sunshine.  Meanwhile, we zoom in to the second teacher closing her laptop and checking her watch as she finishes her day.  Her watch says 15:54 and, presumably, she’s on her way to school pick-up.

In both videos, we see the teachers enjoying animated conversations with their students.  We see them delivering excellent lessons.  We see them Making a Difference.

Indeed, the text that accompanies the social media posts sharing these videos reads: Join our community; Change lives; Train to teach.

But unlike those adverts that drew me into a military lifestyle of teaching that – as a 22-year-old with no real prior experience of the workplace – I could not sustain, these adverts state very clearly that the dream is possible.  Teaching is a life-friendly career, state Reach, and one that you can enjoy for years to come around all the other beautiful moments that life will offer you.

Bravo, Reach Teacher Training, and the team behind your recent recruitment video. 

Pride Month 2024 - Responding to homophobic language: guidance for schools using Oracy and No Outsiders

Andrew Moffat portrait

Written by Andrew Moffat

Andrew Moffat has been teaching for 25 years and is currently PD Lead at Excelsior MAT. He is the author of “No Outsiders in our school: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools” and “No Outsiders: everyone different, everyone welcome”. In 2017 Andrew was awarded a MBE for services to equality and diversity in education and in 2019 he was listed as a top ten finalist in the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

Ensuring equality for all cannot be achieved if any group of people feel they are unseen, unwelcome or feel targeted because of the person they are. As teachers, we strive to ensure that everyone feels seen, everyone feels welcome, and no one feels they have to hide their true selves, or parts of their identity. 

In preparing children for life in modern Britain, we need to be clear and consistent in our efforts to make schools a safe place where children understand there are different ideas in society and prejudice may exist in the outside world, but prejudice and discrimination do not exist here, because in our school, there are “No Outsiders” and everyone is welcome.

Children are allowed to hold different views. I am a big champion of oracy as it encourages children to see both sides of a debate and understand it is possible to hold two views at one time. However, while different views are embraced, the othering of a group of people is not allowed. A child can disagree with a point of view and still show respect; this is the golden thread of a no outsiders ethos. 

If a child chooses to use homophobic language, this must be tackled immediately. Children must understand there is no tolerance of prejudice at our school. It is the job of any adult to respond to homophobic language, as this is a safeguarding issue (KCSIE, 2023, “Children who are LGBT” page 51),

A quick response is; “Excuse me?” or, “What do you mean by that?” followed by, “And what do we say at our school?” to which the expected reply is “There are no outsiders”. Reiterate, “That’s right, there are no outsiders here, so you need to think about the language you are using. How are you going to put that right?”

All homophobic incidents should be recorded, and parents informed.

If homophobia arises in a debate where no individual is being targeted but there are attitudes forthcoming that need to be addressed, make sure they don’t go unchecked. An oracy framework enables us to challenge such attitudes effectively by asking the class to respond; “Would anyone like to respond to that?”. If the comment is offensive, for example if a child says, “gay people are wrong” it’s important that the adult responds immediately along the lines of; 

“Can we think about the language we are using here… those ideas may exist in the outside world, but we need to be really careful about the words we use here. To say something is ‘wrong’ is different to saying, you ‘don’t agree’ with it. Do you want to re-phrase so that you are not othering anyone or being offensive?”

“What does the law say about this?” (The Equality Act, British law says it’s ok to be LGBT)

“What do we say at our school about different people?” (We say there are no outsiders, and everyone is welcome here.)

It’s vitally important the teacher addresses the attitudes while not giving their own opinion so we don’t get in to an argument or lead the children down any particular path. What we need to do instead is remind children it is ok to hold different views (“and that’s what makes this debate so interesting”) and we can still show respect and non-judgement. It’s ok to disagree with one another, the important thing is that everyone still feels they have a place here, including the child who is being offensive. It is the child’s views that are not welcome; the child is still welcome.

If a child brings their faith into the discussion; “My religion says it’s wrong”, respond in this way:

“You’re right, there are different views about this in different religions. And that’s the best thing about living in the UK- we have different views and beliefs, freedom of speech and democracy, and we have the Equality Act which protects religion and belief, so people are allowed to hold those views under British law. Who else is protected under the Equality Act? (disability, age, race, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sex, LGBT) hmmm that’s interesting isn’t it – on the one hand you have religion and belief and on the other you have LGBT … both protected, both allowed… so I suppose we have to find a way to respect both views. We can co -exist without saying the other is wrong….”

And then open out the conversation, move it along using the oracy technique; “Who wants to build on that?”

Keep coming back to “That’s why we say there are no outsiders… we can have different opinions, and we can still respect each other. No one is pushed out because of their religion, their race, or because of their sexual orientation.”

I recognise that these conversations are not easy but they are important and we need to be having them with our children. My advice is to practice responses with each other as a staff team. 

Here are some useful assembly links from  www.no-outsiders.com:


Assembly pictures : Football shirt (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : football (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : Bathroom (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : Beano (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : LGBT history month (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : What is homophobia? (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)

Assembly pictures : Curly hair (no-outsiders-assembly.blogspot.com)


South Asian Heritage Month: free to be me.

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

Zahara is founder and editor of the blog and podcast, School Should Be, a platform that explores a range of topics helping students, teachers and parents on how to ‘adult well’, together. She is a DEI lead across 2 secondary schools and advises schools on how to create positive and progressive cultures for staff and students. Zahara is a previous Head of English, Associate Senior Leader and Education and Wellbeing Consultant.

This year’s theme for SAHM is beautiful: free to be me. As we celebrate lived experiences, storytelling and authenticity, it seems only right that freedom and embracing our individual narratives is next.

This year’s theme has made me think where have I felt my most free? It’s not an easy question to answer. You see, growing up South Asian, (in my case, a British Pakistani Muslim, who’s family was born and raised in Africa), masking your identity can often feel normal, particularly when masking makes you feel safe in public, school and at work. Returning home, comes with its own comforts and conflict: finding joy in your culture and sticking out because you don’t really ‘fit’ within it either. Freedom then becomes a rather grey area and one that does not feel easily attainable.

Over the years, particularly I adulthood, there are a few spaces where I have come close to ‘free’: one was in my classroom. When teaching, my classroom was predominantly full of students who looked like me, shared similar lived experiences and most importantly we connected over an understanding of shared ambitions, aspirations and values. I felt free in an office with a colleague who shared my heritage; breaktimes and lunchtimes were full of laughter, candid conversations and asking each other, ‘what did your mum use to store atta in the kitchen?’, ‘were your sofas covered in shrink wrap too?’

Since then, I have felt most free in conversation with South Asian educators across the sector, most recently in conversation learning all about the wonders of Pehalwaan Juice (if you know you know…I definitely didn’t!). In many ways I share this with caution: for someone who works to amplify diversity, is there a problem if my freedom is sought and felt within my own community? Do I then just enjoy being a part of my own echo chamber?

The answer is no. Within these spaces diversity thrives. Diversity of thought, feelings, faith, work, experiences – being South Asian does not make us all one and the same and every South Asian friend, colleague and student I have connected with has a different story and identity. If anything, the freedom I feel in these spaces makes me more determined to centralise my identity in mainstream spaces too.

My childhood and teen years were branded with the term ‘coconut’ – in many ways, I didn’t think much of it then and I don’t think much of it now. What I do think about now though is how the identity of a ‘coconut’ lacked freedom. Consciously and subconsciously (and I really hope fellow South Asians can relate) I spent my childhood and adolescence straddling between several identities, depending on the audience – and I happened to be pretty good at it; I still am (we are pros when it comes to masking). I (still) do not know enough about my heritage, and I still don’t feel very ‘white’ either. Perhaps this is what imposter really means.

I studied all of this at university, wrote about it for my dissertation. 15 years later, specialising in a field that very much reflects the truth of my life couldn’t be more imperfectly perfect, no matter how much I question it on a daily basis (awareness and celebratory months are only one piece of the ‘work’). If anything, my experiences as a teacher and now EDI trainer, speaker and consultant are in some ways liberating and in other ways, revealing of just how far ‘we’ (marginalised and minorities in the West) have to go to be free.

South Asian Heritage is rich, diverse, nuanced and just huge – I am so naive and ignorant of its beauty. There is so much to learn. I’m not sure I’m free to be me just yet…but I think (and hope) we’ll get there soon.

In light of this and all of the learning and connections we have to make, I’m excited to share a space, network and group for South Asian Educators to connect, talk and be. Assistant Headteacher and Author, Yamina Bibi has said, the network will be a space ‘for anyone who is looking for a safe space for those of South Asian heritage. The challenges and issues facing South Asian Educators is somewhat different to those from other heritage groups as they are often thought of as the hard workers, obedient, quiet, shy, oppressed by colleagues and society in general. This network will support more educators to have their unique voices heard.’  We want this network to be collaborative, safe, empowering and a community where we can learn from one another too. Please Join us here!


Global Citizenship and the Role of a Global Network in Education

Nadim M Nsouli portrait

Written by Nadim M Nsouli

Nadim M. Nsouli is Founder, Chairman and CEO of Inspired Education. Founded in 2013, he re-evaluated traditional teaching methods and created a new model for modern education. Today, 80,000 students in 111 Inspired schools across 24 countries benefit from a student-centred approach and globally relevant curriculum.

With digital communication facilitating the exchange of ideas, the world is more interconnected than ever before. As such, it’s increasingly common for individuals to identify as global citizens. This presents opportunities for young people. Yet also poses challenges. 

Adapting to globalisation necessitates a strong sense of self-identity and an open mind. Individuals engage with other cultures and challenge stereotypes. Thus, learners must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and values to navigate and contribute to the world in which they want to live. 

There’s a growing recognition that educating for global citizenship is of importance. In 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said “Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about citizenry”. Global Citizenship is an all-encompassing concept that acknowledges the web of connections and interdependencies in the world. According to Ban Ki-moon, “Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant societies.”

Students’ desire for international travel and cross-cultural programmes has been apparent for some time. In the past, a one-dimensional approach to this was for an institution to partner with a pre-existing educational facility in the location of interest. However, we’ve witnessed a substantial transformation in the way educational institutions operate, i.e., the emergence and rapid growth of global school networks. With a presence across countries and continents, they’re bringing about a new age of learning possibilities.

Educational institutions are recognising that global citizenship education can develop and enhance much-needed values and skills that will better equip students in a changing world. The concept of ‘global campuses’ has gained prominence, wherein the focus is on cultivating a multicultural ethos. 

The Inspired Education Group demonstrates this model with 111 institutions that provide its students with opportunities beyond the capabilities of a single entity. Nadim Nsouli, CEO and Founder, describes it: “We’re now present in 24 countries around the world. This allows 80,000 students from different cultural backgrounds to meet and learn from one another.” Each campus offers a safe space to explore complex and controversial global issues. This approach encourages learning from, and about, people, places, and cultures that are different from our own.

Beneficiaries of the Global Approach to Education

Academic freedom and inquiry are encouraged in international education. It’s a force for promoting open, safe, and peaceful environments. The ability to cultivate global citizenship is grounded in the commitment to giving learners the tools to bring about positive change. 

To be effective global citizens, individuals need to be proactive, innovative, and adaptable. They must be able to identify and solve problems, make informed decisions, think critically, articulate persuasively, and work collaboratively. 

An educational institution is traditionally centred on imparting knowledge to its students through academia. However, the acquisition of these ‘soft skills’ is also needed to succeed in workplaces and other aspects of 21st-century life. At the crux of fostering global citizenship education – and by association, these skills – is a network. 

How a Global Approach Translates to the Classroom

The powerful message of Aesop’s quote “In union there is strength” has never been more relevant than it is today, as educational institutions embrace multiculturalism. Many campuses are now interconnected, which allows students to access any of them – and their specialisms – with ease. This is even more powerful with the addition of extracurricular activities facilitated abroad, providing invaluable experiences. Nadim states: “To develop a rigorous global understanding, an education for global citizenship should also include opportunities for young people to experience local communities. Global campuses, exchange programmes and summer camps offer this.”

Teaching global citizenship itself requires methodologies that facilitate a respectful and empathetic atmosphere. This includes techniques like in-depth discussions and cause and consequence analyses. The objective is to foster critical thinking and encourage learners to explore, develop, and articulate their views while respectfully listening to others. “This is an important step,” says Nadim, “These methods of critical discussion may not be unique, but used in combination with a global perspective, they build understanding and foster skills like critical thinking, questioning, communication, and cooperation.”

Facilitating a participatory classroom environment requires a significant shift in the role of the teacher. They move from being the primary source of knowledge and direction to a facilitator. One which guides as students adapt to think critically, assess evidence, make informed decisions, and work collaboratively with others.

Creating an active classroom environment requires the adoption of a learner-centred approach. This means that the teacher becomes an organiser of knowledge, creating a holistic environment that supports students. As Nadim affirms: “Rather than being passive individuals simply answering questions and competing with their peers, learners must assume an active role. This means taking responsibility for their learning as well as their understanding of the global context of their lives”.


The notion that all human beings are equal members of the human race is central to the concept of global citizenship. Regrettably, entrenched beliefs in the supposed superiority of certain groups persist in our words, actions, and systems. The educational space is no exception. It can manifest, knowingly or unknowingly, in policies and curricula.

We view the world based on our own culture, values, and experiences. Hence a range of perspectives will exist on any given issue. Thus, gaining a comprehensive understanding of a subject relies on the exploration of other cultures.

As the world grapples with complex problems, global citizenship education has emerged as the gold standard of any institution. This is fuelled by a growing movement promoting peace, human rights, and sustainability. These three pillars are the foundation upon which global citizenship education stands. As Nadim remarks, “The future belongs to young people who can think critically and creatively, collaborating across borders and cultures.”

A Curriculum That Empowers Young People in Care

Anu Roy portrait

Written by Anu Roy

Anu is a TeachFirst leadership Alumni and digital trustee and teacher committee lead for charities in England and Scotland. She is currently a digital curriculum development manager and works in inclusive education projects incorporating tech.

This year is the first time I have developed and designed curriculum models for young people in the care system. Although students I have taught in previous roles come from a range of backgrounds, this role is the first time I have looked at curriculum specifically through the lens of an education that often forgets the difficulties faced by care experienced young people. 

Out of nearly 12 million children living in England, just over 400,000 are in the social care system at any one time. They face a lot of disruption in their learning journey due to personal circumstances, financial difficulties and challenging home circumstances. This means in comparison to their peers, care experienced young people fall behind in most education and health outcome indicators.

Working with a team of educators, social workers, web developers and UX/UI designers, these are the ways we believe curriculum development can help experienced young people thrive: 

  1. Introduce context alongside technical concepts: technical concepts across all subjects can be difficult for CEYP to master in a short space of time so contextual information wedged on either side of a technical explanation will enable their understanding and grasp to learn and embed the technicality in their wider learning framework. 
  2. Champion peer learning– CEYP could have challenging interactions with direct instruction if it reminds them of unpleasant previous instructor situations therefore activities that use peer learning not only lowers the stakes for them to develop their self confidence and interactivity in a lesson but encourages building friendships within the classroom while learning key concepts together.
  3. Open ended ethos– instructors and teachers should veer away from specifying the outcome of a learning topic as ‘to achieve grade _’- instead the learning objectives should first be anchored to exploring the curiosity around the topic with prompts such as ‘what would happen if____?’ or ‘what could we learn if we explored how___’. Academic pressure to perform instantly can feel overwhelming for CEYP. While they should not be met with lowered expectations, instead the reframing helps to welcome them to first explore before learning the topic and moving on to an evaluative stage where they gain more agency. 
  4. Knowledge connection outside the classroom-Learning feels more relevant for CEYP when they are introduced to topics through the lens of real world use. Introducing a curriculum through a skills development framework linked to increased employment motivates them to understand the use of each topic, further strengthened by real world examples, work based scenarios and soft skill demonstrations. It helps them bridge the transition from education to active skill application and any learning based curriculum should also have opportunities through project work for practical applications related to public speaking, project management, team building and problem solving for CEYP to gain experience in these areas. 

Many educators are unaware of the students in their classrooms who come from a care experienced background. While this should not be the only aspect of their identity to focus on, a student centered approach to relationship building alongside these curriculum findings should enable educators to build strong relationships by understanding the story and journey many of their students have taken to make it to the classroom and learn each day. Aimed with this knowledge and bespoke approach, schools and their wider communities can foster a sense of belonging for care experienced young people, something they have been denied of for too long. 

Peanut Brittle or Marshmallow? (Growing into Flexible Working)

Erin Skelton portrait

Written by Erin Skelton

Erin is first and foremost an educator and her extensive experience includes a diverse range of roles, encompassing both pastoral and academic leadership positions, across both independent and state education settings. Prior to joining Bright Field, Erin’s most recent role was as Assistant Head and Head of Sixth Form in a top independent girls' school. In this role, she nurtured her students, instilled a sense of purpose and provided invaluable mentoring to prepare them for life as a woman in the 21st century and beyond.

It’s 8:39 on a Monday morning as I sit and type this. I’ve already had breakfast, fed the dog, emptied the dishwasher, folded and put away the laundry, and undertaken the mammoth task of ensuring that my son was prepared for the day and is sitting on the school bus. My first meeting isn’t until 10:00… Normally, with military precision I would be up, packed and gone by 7am on the dot to get myself to school for 7:45. Logged on, armed with the first of many caffeinated drinks, I would already have sent multiple emails and dealt with numerous issues before anyone else arrived; after all, I had spent the last seven years as Assistant Head in charge of a large Sixth Form in a top independent school. 

And yet, here I am, on a Monday morning, sitting in my home office. I am one of many senior leaders in education who have opted out of senior leadership. If you’re reading this, then I’m sure that you have read the constant stream of headlines and statistics about teachers at all levels wanting to redefine what their working lives look like. Well, I am one of those people.

Full disclosure, the decision to step out of a SLT position has been a challenging one. As an Assistant Head, on a good day, I felt like I was making a significant difference to the school and students; I felt a real sense of purpose, like I was an empathetic superhero. That is a feeling I still love and it’s one of my core values. But realistically, I knew that to achieve that I was working sixteen-hour days, I was at every school event, answering emails at 11:00pm before I closed my eyes, and the first thing I would do in the morning was to check my email with dread to see what had come into my inbox whilst I was sleeping. I was sacrificing my time, my family and ultimately my wellbeing, and I was measuring my sense of worth solely by my job. But what about the holidays, I hear you say. Most Heads of Sixth Form work most of school holidays; we field university and UCAS application issues, worries about mock and real examinations, we prepare for and support Y11 students around GCSEs and entry to our Sixth Forms and we work tirelessly around A level results, university admissions and UCAS clearing. Almost every issue that lands with us is a matter that could change the course of a young person’s life. It is not a job for the faint of heart.  

I spent so much of my time giving inspirational assemblies and talks about knowing your worth, being brave and following your dreams, that I had ultimately known for several years, that I needed to do that for myself, even if I knew that I would probably have to unravel many of my own self-beliefs to get there. I loved my role and I love my school. I was also fully aware that I could have tried to find a better balance, that I could have had healthier boundaries around my job, but the nature of my role meant that if I did that, it would be the students who lost out, because my role wasn’t about ticking boxes, it was about people and what made me a great Head of Sixth Form was that I was invested in ensuring every student was happy and as successful as possible. 

Cue discussion about being authentic and following my dreams… The reality was that I felt trapped; I had been a teacher for eighteen years, all of which had been in some type of leadership position. I had no idea what it was to not have leadership responsibilities and like so many of my colleagues, I thought the only thing that I could do was “teach”; we forget the vast skill sets that teachers have. I made lists, I sounded people out, I listened to podcasts, and I read. I tried to remember what my dreams actually were.

Eight months ago, armed with my thinking, I walked into my Head’s office after psyching myself up for three months to speak to her. That initial conversation with my Head set things in motion, and I returned to my school in September as a part-time main-scale teacher for the first time in eighteen years. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

We are educationalists not simply teachers. We have a vast skill set and are not defined by the parameters of a job description. Teaching seeps out of our pores and when you work outside of one singular educational setting you get a real sense of how this is a superpower that can be applied in so many areas of life and work.

I didn’t step down, but I did step out. I think it’s important to think about the language that we use when we talk about changes in the ways people work. I have had such mixed responses to my decision. When a person wishes to work more flexibly, particularly when the decision has nothing to do with childcare needs or health, that decision is often questioned on the grounds of their ability to “cope”. We shouldn’t have to cope; there are no awards for giving so much of yourself into any role that you have nothing left. I am a highly successful, highly competent leader in education; I didn’t fail because I wanted to step out of the parameters that were defined for me, I wanted to draw my own.

Flexible working doesn’t come without its challenges. I work full-time across two roles: one teaching and one largely within educational settings both in the UK and globally, plus some additional passion projects. Balancing the demands of both roles requires a lot of organisation and commitment to both institutions equally. I would add that as teachers, we are very institutionalised; our days run to a formulaic schedule, and we become adept at putting ourselves last during the course of the school day. This is a real issue for everyone I have met who has moved to part-time teaching or moved out of the classroom altogether. Suddenly there isn’t a bell telling us when we can go to the toilet, a timetable dictating how we spend our days, or a salary that we receive irrespective of the additional hours we put in. Suddenly we have to navigate part-time working conditions, changes to the complexity of how our tax, pension and benefits are calculated and sometimes a lack of understanding from the full-time staff managing our HR and payroll.

Stepping out of a leadership role and remaining in my school has also personally been a real challenge for me. I now know that I could have undertaken my SLT role part-time as well as taking on my new role with relative ease. I am also slowly settling into being a classroom teacher where there are no expectations for me outside of that role. It is hard to have to say ‘no’ when students approach me for support, or you can see colleagues struggling with the burden of their workload or a problem they would have previously approached me to solve, particularly given the nature and size of my previous role. At present, there is still a lot that I am doing behind the scenes to support which I am not paid to do, but I do so because I care, and my decision has had a significant impact on the school.

If you can make peace with the frustrations, flexible working can give you space, time, and a balance to your perspective and the way you live your life. It’s very early days for me, but already I am excited about utilising my skills in new ways, taking the time to meet new people, read inspiring books and work more creatively on projects that have a wider impact. I am noticing little things, taking reflection time, being out of doors, being more present with my family, resuming old hobbies and taking up new ones.

I find myself growing to fill an expansive space and I welcome it.

‘What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There...’

Audrey Pantelis portrait

Written by Audrey Pantelis

Audrey Pantelis is an associate coach, consultant and trainer. She is a former Headteacher of a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities school and a current Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant and leadership coach.

We are, without a doubt, going through some tumultuous changes right now.

It’s a challenge not to be impacted by the troubles that surround us, and I do find it interesting that there is so much backlash regarding the lack of commenting on the Israeli-Hamas conflict by diversity, equity, and inclusion leads.

Do we HAVE to speak on everything?

The conflict is especially complex, and I find it interesting that it has a long historical narrative.  Naturally, what is happening right now is horrific and deserves our voices to decry, denounce and condemn all those who are causing the horrendous losses of life.  That is not in dispute.  However, these same voices have been silent during the past ten/twenty years – or did I miss something?

This idea of difference and the subsequent displacement is something that I can resonate with – and while the conflict is not just about race and religion – there is a similarity with the concept of superiority and inferiority that is echoed when considering the definition of racism.  As I have said, this is not about racism.  

I don’t know how many of you have watched ‘This Is Us’ (2016-2022).  It is an American TV series that follows the lives and families of two parents and their three children born on the same day as their father’s birthday.   It tells of the trials and tribulations of triplets – Kevin and Kate are the biological children – of parents Jack and Rebecca – and Randall is adopted by Jack and Rebecca following the death of the third biological triplet.  Randall is Afro-American and was ‘left’ at the fire station – a fireman takes Randall to the hospital and Jack speaks to the fireman following the death of the third triplet and adopts Randall.  During Season 5, the episode entitled ‘Brotherly Love’ shows characters Randall and Kevin having a deep and healing conversation that addresses their upbringing and the way that they perceive one another.  The discussion confronted issues around race and their family dynamic, specifically Randall’s experience of being a black child adopted by a white family and the microaggressions he faced.

It was a fascinating watch – most notably because Kevin admits that he has been actively racist in his sibling rivalry – he connects Randall’s blackness to the way he was treated within the family and then tries to take him down a peg or two because of it.  I was moved by it because of the admission by Kevin and how it resonated with my own lived experiences.  Randall was always made to feel that he should be ‘grateful’ for being found and taken in by a white family.  The parallels between my understanding and Randall’s understanding of whiteness aren’t that different:  wanting to be part of the majority when you are the minority; attempting to ‘blend in’ using language, accent, and behaviours; ensuring that you are no ‘different’ than anyone else through an understanding that merit gets you where you aspire to be.  Emotionally detached and focusing on what can be ‘seen’ rather than ‘felt’.  However, the idea of ‘whiteness’s superior identity to blackness’s inferior one’ is not enough for Kevin’s character and his need to try and ‘take him down a peg or two’ appears to be predicated on fear.  Fear that Randall just might be better than Kevin.  Randall plays into this – he is a high achiever, and he aspires and achieves success.  Would he have done this if he had been raised in his own biological family?  This we do not know, but we do know that Randall is living his life as best as he can – but he still feels ‘othered’ and not ‘enough’ despite his achievements.

Back to the title.

The history books tell us how one-sided life has been for those who are considered ‘other’, and it feels as if we are now at that reckoning.  

By continuing as we were doesn’t cut it in the world – different times.

When George Floyd was murdered in 2020, the world watched, horrified and stunned at seeing what had been happening in plain sight.  Maybe it’s a modern characteristic that we now seem to have ringside seats to horrific and heinous crimes, but with this opportunity, we need to be change-makers – not from our keyboards and phones but from our platforms, our places of work, wherever we have influence.  Consistently chipping away at the rock will disintegrate the mountain.  

But it’s difficult.


Because we cannot control everyone’s attitudes or actions and approaches to everything.  However, polarisation appears to be king – you are either FOR something or AGAINST something, and nuance is not brought into the narrative because it doesn’t fit the ‘for or against’ stance.  Equally – having a strong conviction about right and wrong is not to be condemned either – but we do need to listen to and be able to understand viewpoints that differ from our own, even if we don’t agree with them.

The hierarchical, colonial, and restrictive structures of the past no longer serve us – the old rules are now proving to be obsolete and hanging on to them scares the heebie-jeebies out of most of us – change can be considered to be fearful.  However, what I believe is more fearful is the desire NOT to change, adapt, or try to do things differently.  

We can aim to do what we can, with intention and with integrity; and with the idea that the next generation brings their energy and innovation to understanding old and entrenched viewpoints.  We need new eyes on old situations.  As educators, we are responsible for ensuring that nuance is part of how we think about things and how we can apply it.

Take Back the Narrative: Reflections on #DiverseEd Conference

David Church portrait

Written by David Church

David is an LGBTQ+ education consultant and former Deputy Head Teacher. He has over 10 years experience in education and is passionate about supporting schools to develop an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture and curriculum. Outside of education, David is a Regional Ambassador for It Gets Better UK.

Attending the #DiverseEd Conference in Bristol on Saturday felt perfectly timed. The backdrop of recent developments from the UK government regarding the trans community weighed heavily on my mind as I prepared for the day ahead. It seemed as if the trans community was under siege from multiple angles: teachers potentially being allowed to discriminate against trans young people in schools (https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/09/23/ehrc-guidance-trans-misgendering-pupils-schools/) and the proposed ban on trans women from women’s wards (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/oct/03/trans-hospital-patients-in-england-to-be-banned-from-female–and-male-only-wards). 

As a cisgender gay man who had previously faced adversity under the infamous Section 28 (and the legacy since), I felt a deep empathy for the trans community, witnessing their increasing vulnerability and the reported surge in hate crimes against them (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/hate-crime-england-and-wales-2022-to-2023/hate-crime-england-and-wales-2022-to-2023).

As an LGBTQ+ education consultant, I was acutely aware that action was needed to ensure the safety of trans+ children, young people, and staff in schools. Fortunately, the conference offered a range of sessions on just this, highlighting the need for greater trans inclusion & diversity.

Every session I attended resonated with me on both a personal and professional level, but my mind was consumed with the urgent need to address the ongoing challenges faced by the trans community. 

The first workshop I attended was led by Sarah Bonnell School, focusing on social justice in schools and empowering students to enact change within their communities. Their discussion of “cold anger” as a catalyst for change struck a chord with me (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/brave-talk/202109/4-types-anger-everyone-should-know-about). This anger, when harnessed, could drive the transformation needed to combat the prevailing discourse around trans inclusion.

Equally, Shaun Dellenty’s keynote, highlighted the importance of challenging the narrative of fear and division, emphasising that we are stronger together, whether or not we identify as trans. The theme that stuck in my mind: How do we channel this anger and negative energy into positive action?

Similarly, in Bennie Kara’s keynote, the power of stories to reshape narratives was explored. She discussed how we need to move beyond viewing the trans community as victims or dangerous (a perception which has continuously been fed by media and entertainment). The history of LGBTQ+ rights is full of unsung heroes such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who spearheaded the original Stonewall uprising. Yet, their stories are often overlooked in the narrative of our school curricula.

It is imperative that we teach about these individuals to reframe the narrative and challenge prejudices and biases. This will foster a more respectful society, one that goes beyond mere tolerance to genuine acceptance of every individual, regardless of their identity.

Jo Brassington, in their session on trans and non-binary inclusion in schools, passionately reminded us that silence and indifference regarding trans+ inclusion make us complicit. It reminded me of the words of David Morrison, Chief of Army in the Australian Army, which echo this sentiment: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

This is not about understanding what it means to be trans but about having compassion and acceptance for every trans person; knowing them as individuals and hearing their story. Stories have been central to human culture since time began, and it is now time to reshape these stories in the public eye. As agents of change, we must stand with the trans community, working towards a compassionate view that acknowledges them as individuals.

The #DiverseEd Conference offered a glimpse into the power of collective action, empathy, and storytelling to take back the narrative, ensuring that the voices and experiences of the trans community are heard, respected, and valued. We, as educators, have a unique opportunity to lead this transformation, shaping a more inclusive and compassionate society by ensuring our curriculum fosters a positive narrative of a range of trans people; from the books we read, to the significant role models we explore and the policies we have in place. Taking back the narrative is not just a goal; it’s a collective responsibility that we must all be conscious about in our schools.