Maintaining motivation in students in the run up to exams

Having taught exam years for 8 years now both GCSE and A Levels, I always find these last few weeks before the exams start the toughest. Not only are the students exhausted and sick of hearing about exams but so am I! Speaking to other teacher friends many of them feel the same way so I want to share a few of the ways I handle this tricky period.

Set Clear Goals and Communicate them
Setting goals is essential to motivate students, but it can be overwhelming to think about the larger end-goal, like getting a particular grade. Therefore, breaking the goals down into smaller, more achievable targets can help students to stay motivated. For instance, encourage students to set daily, weekly or monthly targets and track their progress. This way, they can feel a sense of achievement with each goal met. I do this with lessons too for example highlighting that we have 4 weeks to go so I will be going over X Y and Z in each of the weeks so they have some certainty about what is to come. Often these areas are what the students themselves have asked me to go over.

Celebrate Achievements
In the last 3 weeks I start praising like hell! Any progress is celebrated. I especially take the time to highlight to students how their essays have changed for the better to build confidence. Teaching A Level those little celebratory thingsI used to do with my GCSE classes tend not to be used as much but in the last four weeks those techniques come back in force. Mini whiteboards come out. tally for the most answered questions and then chocolate prizes. Whatever it takes.

Verbal personalised feedback
This starts to take over in the last few weeks as time is short. This isn’t just on written work but exam techniques also individual advice to students about how to overcome their nerves.

Encourage Collaboration and Peer Support
Encouraging students to work together and collaborate can help maintain motivation. Students who work in groups can offer each other support and motivation, share study techniques, and test each other’s knowledge. Many of my students come in after school to borrow a board marker and plan an essay on the board. I then go in and check it after 20 mins and mark it up on the board, they then take a photo of it on their phones and go home. Working with subject friends makes revision more bearable.

Promote Healthy Habits
Encouraging healthy habits like good sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and breaks from studying can help students stay motivated. I’ve had to, each year, take some students aside or get parents involved because it’s obvious they are not getting enough sleep. And even though you might sound like a broken record, they need reminding.

Go over grade boundaries.
Sometimes this can take the pressure off. I like reminding my students that they can lose 1/4 of the marks on each of their three papers and still get an A*. They need less than 50% to get a C. These things just help put everything into perspective.


3 ways to ensure parents evening is effective

I ran a recent poll on Twitter asking people how they felt about Parents Evnings. of the 134 that voted only 31% said they were effective. Considering teachers spend a considerable amount of time to them I wanted to write this post on how to make the most of them. These are some tried and tested strategies I’ve used a teacher, Head of Department and Senior Leader.

  1. This shouldn’t be the first contact you’ve had with parents

We don’t have a lot of time on Parents Evening and I often feel a considerable amount of it is sometimes taken up with generic questions like ‘How’s [student] doing?’ When actually, especially for exam years the conversation needs to be more in depth. Therefore communication with the parents needs to be more than just parents evening. This may in some schools be through data snapshots but as Head of Department I would always do an assessment 2 months before parents evening for exam years in particular and then send an email/letter to parents with results and 3 things the student could improve and how. Then I would remind them when parents evening was and that I would let them know then if this had happened. It led to more informed conversations and much more focused.

2. Have a handout.

Parents are often coming from a lot of different starting points. Some want to know what they can do to support their young people, some want to know what they should see their child doing at home to improve, some are not concerned with either and quite disengaged. Despite this our role is to help them and keep them informed. Have a little A6 piece of card printed with things the student can do to improve and how the parent can support them. Any key websites that can be used or other resources. In the case when parents don’t know what to say I can talk them through this and ensure we have a constructive conversation.

3. Ensure the student is present.

Where possible ensure the student is present. There is no point talking about progress unless they have bought into it. On occasions that this has not been possible I’ve asked students in the lesson to write 2 things they think they need to improve on and discussed these with the parent so they have felt involved. Made notes on their paper and returned it to the parent and student.

I’m sure there are a dozen other ways to make the most of parents evening but these are three that have worked for the best for me and I hope they help you too.


What does success look like?

This is a question I have pondered for a long time. For myself. My students. The school I teach in. All of it. It’s fair to say it has often sent me into a stream of internal thought that gets cut short by real life. But I wanted to unpick this on this blog, because over the past week I’ve spoken to several colleagues who are asking themselves this very Q.

I’ve spoken to Senior Leaders who think they want to go back into teaching, another has reached his idea of success at a fairly young age and isn’t sure where he goes from here. I’ve spoken to students who have been gearing up for A- Level success and are struggling to imagine themselves beyond that point, even though UCAS deadlines and the reality of life is asking them to think further.

I believe many of them are speaking to me about this because just under two years ago I walked away from what I thought was my own ideas of success (becoming a headteacher) in pursuit of goals much riskier (starting my own business and writing and publishing a book). I dealt with many puzzled faces when making this decision at a time when I was pretty confused myself. But I knew at that time headship was not success for me. Not to say it never would be, just not right then.

My realisation is that for a long time I’d been asking myself the wrong question. For a long time, like many people in the profession I had asked myself ‘What does success LOOK like?’ What this means is I had focused on the external tick lists of achievement. Working my way up the career ladder first in Marketing and Sales and later in Education. This left me hollow inside. The better question I believe is ‘What does a successful life require me to be and do each day?’

‘What does a successful life require me to be and do each day?’

A better question

This gave me a completely different set of answers. Not ones that were tied to salary or job title but ones tied to where I was putting my time, what I was learning and what I was sharing. My experiences became more important.

It’s some of the most valuable advice I can give to my students or colleagues when picking a career or deciding whether to change roles. How do you want to spend your day? Where do you want to exert your time and energy? What problem do you want to solve? In a bid to ensure they really think about where they are heading.

A colleague of mine spoke about how when they looked at their to do list it didn’t have one item that they were excited about, so either they needed to change that or change their role. To feel success on the inside rather than the outside.

Similarly for whole schools, success can mean so many things. I know we are all held to account by OFSTED but we do need to take into account our successes on how the school functions on a daily basis. A previous Head that I worked for would always walked the corridors during the last period on a Friday. Because she’d realised that her real measure of success was walking around and seeing students learning no matter how many emails sat in her inbox or whatever external measures of success were being put on her.

So I ask you as you start the week this week.

What does a successful week require you to do and be this week?

I don’t think success is a list of meetings but the person you are when you are at them. Or a pile of books marked but the teacher you become after you have an understanding of where your students are at having looked at their books.

It’s scary to have alternative measures of success when the world can put the common achievements expected regularly in front of you and ask you to race towards them. But ignoring other people’s measures of success, isn’t that a beautiful thing.

A message to new teachers

Well done to all trainees who have made it through their first term. 

I was going to release this blog at the start of the year but when I casted my mind back to all the information I received at the beginning of the year as a trainee teacher I thought better of it. I’ve always felt the best CPD is practical and clear to implement. So looking back 9 years to when I started here’s what I’d tell my trainee self.

  1. You are not here to mimic but to blossom into the best teacher you can be

It’s easy to be in awe of teachers we admire. It’s easy to assume that that is who we should become. Here’s the thing, your students can see straight through it when you are uncomfortably trying to be someone you are not. They want you to be the best version of you, so they can be the best version of themselves. Whilst in leadership I have had the pleasure of observing countless lessons. I have seen dynamic extroverted teaches capture the attention of students by owning the entire classroom and pacing around it with a bellowing voice. I’ve also seen students lean in to listen with interest to a quieter teacher who is more of an introvert but whom they equally admire. You can be you in the classroom, and offer so much. Don’t lose who you are, the students need you to show up as yourself so they can do the same.

2. Transparency with your students will take you a long way. 

I’m being specific here. Transparency, around the curriculum, teaching practices, what is and isn’t working. Feel free to say things such as:

  • I’ve not tried this [insert strategy] before so can we all give it a go and if it works we can adopt it long term?
  • I’m worried we are falling behind and won’t have enough time for [X] lets pick up the pace so that doesn’t happen for you
  • I really want to try [teaching strategy] but I’m worried you won’t react well/make the most of it, so I’m going to give it a go for 10 minutes and then decide whether we continue.

Also feel free to ask them Questions about your teaching. I often ask my students at the end of each term

-Is there anything I did this term that really helped you and you want meet to do more of?

-Would you like me to go and watch another teacher teach if you really like an activity they do?

-Do you have any ideas on how I can help you learn better?

I am always surprised by the mature responses I get to the above questions. It also demonstrates I’m in it for them and not precious about teaching my way. It who’s us that we’re all in it together. 

3. Show and share your passion

Geek out. Tell them what books you’re reading about the subject. A topic in the curriculum that you really love. One you’ve found hard and had to read around. Passion breeds passion. Trust me. 

4. Group dynamics matter – teach your students how to be good classmates

Every year I tell my Year 13s my best performing groups have also been the groups that are most caring about each other. Then I break down for them what this means. These classes work well in group situations, co-planning essays in lessons and really digging deep into each others understanding. Students share examples with the group. If one person cannot grasp a topic, they don’t mind stopping and explaining it in lots of different ways with me, until they get it. At times I will stop the lesson and will literally say – “a high performing group would be doing {X, Y, Z]” so they can act it out. 

The simplest way for me to explain the power of this to my students is the below. I often tell them:

‘Look you have your thoughts and ideas. But in order to be able to get the highest grades you need to be able to entertain ideas that are not similar to your own. The easiest way to do this is share opinions in the classroom and how you’ve come to some conclusions. If you can do that your evaluation marks will go through the roof.’ And then I pray they go on that journey with me.

5. Keep reminders of your successes for the tough days

My niece recently started her second year of teacher training. She is incredibly passionate about teaching English. She was telling me about emails she had received from parents with compliments. I have told her to print these out and keep them in a booklet or envelope. Because there will be days she will want to quit. When she will be tired and frustrated in the profession, thinking she’s making no difference. But those success reminder will always get her through. I have colleagues who do this in another way. One who always makes a positive call home before leaving on Friday for instance. Whatever it takes. Keep the good in easy grasp because this profession will test your will.

If you’re starting in the profession let me tell you it can start off tough but it is joyful. I can’t imagine anything more powerful that shaping the thoughts of young people through discussion and explorations of knowledge. Welcome. I wish you all the best.

7 mistakes to avoid as a new manager

Trying to do too much  – Of course you want to make a good impression and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be apprehensive to say no to anything. But here’s the thing about working in schools. There will always be more to do than is physically possible. My advice to you; pick the two or three initiatives/projects you want to hang your hat on and be known for, and go all in. That doesn’t mean you don’t do anything else, that’s not realistic but these 2-3 things are what you’ll always come back to, what you want to become known for and an expert in. If asked to do more than you can handle you can go back to your line manager and explain how it will effect your priorities and because by then you’ll be the go to person for those areas, they won’t want to pull you from them.

Action before observation – Yes you want to hit the ground running and the academic year just seems too short to get everything done but I have seen a lot of managers storm in and start initiatives before ever observing what the current state of affairs is. So here’s my argument for not acting straight away:

a) It allows you to see how things are working and whether something needs a tweak or an overhaul

b) You doń’t come across as a power hungry authoritarian who wants to make their mark

c) When you do want to make a change you are suggesting it from a place of knowing, of what isn’t working as well as it should and can refer to instances you have witnessed.

Hanging on to to the past – Here’s the thing. No on wants to hear about how your previous school/dept etc.. did things better. Do not compare people. They don’t like it. Instead look forward and say how what you are suggesting may help the school/dept move forward.

Quick fixes over processes – This often happens when managers act too fast. They put a plaster on a wound that has cut an artery and really needs stitches. Take the time to get to the root of the problem. You may have a quick fix and you can use it. But you won’t be under the illusion it will solve it forever and can put processes in place to make a bigger change for the better. 

Blanket conversations – Just like in the classroom how blanket punishments don’t work neither do blanket conversations. Yes introduce initiatives to the whole dept but then don’t forget to speak to individuals or small groups about how it effects them.

Lack of clarity of goals in communication – I am amazed at how often things are introduced yet the person introducing them doesn’t know why. Like really. Why. Be honest with your colleagues and make sure you know the why and it’s an emotive reason. Simon Sinek has spoken about this to great length so check out his Ted talk if you haven’t already.

Misalignment of goals – make sure you and your line manager know where you are heading and that you are going in a similar direction. When I took over a poor performing dept I made it very clear I wasn’t going to be able to turn around 2 key stages in one year. I would do one key stage a year. Managed expectations meant they knew what they were getting but also allowed me to steadily introduce changes to the staff and make changes in a manageable way. 

What I’ve learnt from speaking to approximately 1000 young people about money.

Over the past 3 months I’ve been speaking in schools to young people about Money in a broad sense and more specifically about Personal Finance, The Economy and Recruitment on the back of a book I recently published called ‘What Young People Need to Know about Money.’

Why? Because over the past 10 years whilst I have taught Business and Economics and found that whilst the focus is on how money has an impact on organisations, little is discussed about the impact on individuals. In addition I have felt for a while now that our young people are entering a world that is very different from the one that teachers experienced, with credit more readily available through schemes such as Klarna and the ability to spend via more channels that were previously an option. Thus, making them more economically active that previous generations.

Having done 10 talks now here is what I have found.

Young people are aware of graduate salaries but confused as to how salaries in later life work

When I have asked young people how much they expect to get paid, many are aware of graduate salary averages. Where confusion often sets in, is around the expectations of pay increases throughout their career making it more challenging for them to understand how much they could be earning by 30 for example. 

The BBC recently conducted a survey and found that teenagers expected to be earning £70,000 by the time they were 30. In reality, the average is between £32,000 – £35,000. This, as you can imagine, can have a large impact on their expectations and mental health as they get older. What they consider to be success is likely to be largely influenced by these unrealistic expectations as well as the life they expect to lead vs the one they can afford.

Although aware of the gender pay gap many feel there is not much that can be done and don’t realise how quickly it takes effect.

Many of our young people have seen the media attention around the gender pay gap and are aware of it. However it’s something they often imagine will not effect them for at least 10 years, and to be more specific, many girls felt it wouldn’t affect them until they have children. Research by HESA found that 18 months after graduating they already identified a 10% difference in the salary of men and women. So the gender pay gap starts pretty early and we owe it to our young girls to make them aware of this and ensure they feel comfortable discussing finances in work and at home.

Although digitally advanced there are few discussions on how to use technology to counteract inequality in society

Rightly so, schools are warning young people of the dangers of technology through lessons on digital safety. This is necessary and should be the case. However, something that is discussed less often is how technology can allow young people to prosper in the face of adversity. How young women with children no longer need to have a 3 year gap on their CV if they decide to stay at home with their children because they can trade and develop their expertise online. Using this experience to demand a respectable salary should they wish to join the traditional work force. 

How people are using technology to supplement their income and lifestyle is something that needs to be explored with our young people so they can see technology as a tool as opposed to something done to them.

The cost of having a family remains unknown

I recently did a lesson with my economics group where we looked at the supply of labour. We discussed the difficult decision that many mothers face when deciding whether or not to return to the workforce. The conversation naturally turned towards the costs of childcare. It occurred to me that the young people in front of me had no idea how much this was, why would they? (the average guess was approx £100 a month). Upon informing the average costs in different cities one of the boys highlighted that this information should be included when delivering sex education as it’s likely to be a bigger deterrent for early unplanned pregnancies.

The multipotentialite is a reality that they do not expect, but should

When asking what young people expect to be doing in their career I have found that many of them still imagine their working life to be fairly static. 

However, data shows that our young people can expect to have multiple careers, not just jobs in the future. Their ability to transfer skills from one industry to another will be critical to their success in the workplace. 

They know social media isn’t real!

They get it. Influencers can lie. Everyone is presenting their best self. Blah blah blah. But just like with adults, that doesn’t mean they don’t want the stuff they see. What they want to know is how does it work behind the scenes. E.g. product for posts deals where the influencer gets the product for a post and will often post the product back to the brand rather than keep it. Or the tax cuts they get when being an influencer is a full time job so the items work out cheaper for them. I think if we share the details we lose the romanticism of it and can then present it like any other job. For instance explaining that a lot of the time fashion influencers spend time out in the cold getting changed in often dirty public toilets to get the perfect shot to then send a dress back, sounds a lot less appealing than it looks on instagram.

Recruitment is changing and we need to prepare our young people for the changes

The traditional recruitment route looked something like this when a firm realised it needed to fill a post

Traditional recruitment route 

  1. Company realises they have a vacant post 
  2. Draw up Job Description (JD) and Person Specification (PS), which highlights what the person needs to do and any required qualifications 
  3. Advertise post internally and/or externally 
  4. Person looking for work sees the job advertised and applies if suitable for them 
  5. The company checks applicants against JD and PS and shortlists those they want to interview 
  6. Interview process takes place to select a candidate for the job 
  7. The job is offered to the suitable candidate if there is one 
  8. If the candidate accepts, they are trained to do well in the company throughout their time there

Of course we know there was always word of mouth and social circles that would help some people a role. However the nature of recruitment is changing. It can now look more like this:

  1. A company could realise it has a post available or always look out for talented individuals with a particular skill set (e.g., lawyers to join a firm or engineers). 
  2. Look for individuals with those skills through networks, colleagues, or online through recruitment sites, personal blogs, and online portfolios. 
  3. Ask suitable individuals to come in for a chat about their experience and speak to them about projects the company is currently undertaking and likely to be working on in the future. 
  4. Discuss how the individual could contribute to the business. 
  5. Decide whether to create/offer the individual a position.

Further changes to the process of recruitment have sped up during the pandemic. We are all aware that interviews can now take place online via Zoom or Teams for instance which poses the obvious problems of how a person comes across via technology vs in person and also the fact that many employees may not even see their place of work before signing a contract.

But others changes are also afoot. There now exist recruitment chatbots. These are particularly used for companies who mass hire in junior positions for graduate programmes for instance. These companies pose a series of Questions online through a chat bot which seems very human like and looks out for certain key words/phrases before deciding whether you go through to the next level of the recruitment process. Another way companies do this is by scanning CVs through software to identify key words/phrases they expect to see such as qualifications and experience.

Other recruitment methods might see our young people judged solely on their online presence through work they have done online and portfolios they have made available online.

What does this mean for schools?

This poses some key challenges for school particularly secondary and 6th form/higher education institutions that are preparing young people for the workplace.

  1. Vocabulary is key – particularly industry specific vocabulary – If a computer programme will determine whether you go through to the next round they our young people need to have a vocabulary that does them justice. Therefore the pressure on this higher level qualifications to insure the academic information delivered has industry specific vocabulary becomes every important.
  2. Our young people’s online presence needs to be positive – Schools have worked hard to teach their young people about security and safety online but do we need to do more on showing young people how to set up a LinkedIn Page, and online portfolio, a blog or even a Pinterest board of their creations? This may be the first point of call for future recruiters.
  3. Self monitoring their online presence – young people are likely to have strong opinions. Whereas before these may have been restricted to their friends, family, classroom or playground they are now often online for all to see. What this means is learning is happening out loud. As their thoughts develop it is worth encouraging young people to check their online presence for dated views, negative things they may have said and learn from them and correct their stance.

Further details of how the world of work is changing can be found in my book ‘What young people need to know about money’ which can be found here https://tinyurl.com/327nc36c 

Why did money become a dirty word?

Money is a touchy subject for many, the source of deep emotions, conflicts and anxieties.

I would argue that the taboo around money has kept students ignorant of better habits, practices and perspectives.

Why am I waxing lyrical about money? Because discussing it with our young people could be the key to a better future.

The money taboo can keep women and minorities at the low-end of the pay gap, since it makes it harder to learn the true value of their labour. Discuss it and some of that is gone. We can at least begin to hope for a more equal society. The taboo could worsen class conflict by increasing envy and resentment of the rich. We see this divide playing out with recent votes for Brexit and calls to stop immigration. A simple understanding of supply and demand of labour would show that actually as a country we rely on immigration to fill our jobs.

So why don’t we talk about this in schools? Why is information like this limited to the classrooms of business and economics or politics perhaps? Well, traditionally this information has been passed down from parent to child. It’s been an area for the home to cover. You can bet your bottom dollar the parents of the kids at Eton are giving their kids a financial education, whether by discussing investments, demonstrating an entrepreneurial mindset or watching their parents make calculated financial decisions. But here’s the thing. In a recent article by the Financial Times recent research found that 68% of adults lacked basic money management skills which had driven them into debt. We can’t rely on parents to educate young people about money because the topic is heavily emotional and tainted by their parents/carers experiences.

Morgan Housel in his book The Psychology of Money, starts his book off with a chapter called ‘No one’s crazy’ highlighting that people aren’t good or bad with money as such. But more conditioned by their experiences. If bought up in poverty, they fear a lack of money and therefore are likely to make decisions that constrict their chances of making more (risking it in entrepreneurial ventures or even investing it for instance). I grew up as a child of immigrant parents, they knew the only way for them to do well financially (as their qualifications were not recognised in the UK) was to start their own business. Every purchase we made as kids was equated to the number of items we would have to sell in the factory, to cover the cost. Therefore, I grew up around an entrepreneurial mindset. In fact the first Question my father asked me when I qualified as a teacher was when I was going to start my own school! Think about the mindset your parents had around money and how this influenced you.

More importantly how is this influencing our young people? Is it surprising that our poorest young people stay in poverty. Yes a good education will help them to an extent, but an education about money will at least level the playing field a bit for when they enter the world. How can we continue to ignore this?

One of the reasons we haven’t spoken about money is because it’s been a way of attributing peoples value in society, which rightly so has made people uncomfortable. But I would argue this is changing. I recently asked my business class what success meant to them. They didn’t mention a Rolex a Lambhorgini or a big house. Instead they said freedom. The conversation around money is changing. Young people want financial freedom. And we have a responsible to give them the basic knowledge and skills to one day attain it.

My book, ‘ What young people need to know about Money’ is out on Amazon on 13th February. Targeted at 14-25 year olds it can be used by young people themselves or parents/carers can use it with them. Short chapters and lots of activities mean it is something young people can dip in and out of and stay engaged with.

Genius resides within you.

I love teaching I really do. It’s the reason I gave up my role as a Vice Principal this academic year, because I missed being in the classroom. Missed the rush delivering lesson after lesson. I might sound mad but I’m telling the truth. But I think we can all relate to how exhausting it can be.

I recently watched Elizabeth Gilberts Ted talk ‘Your elusive creative genius’ for the 10th time over the last couple of years. What I love about this talk is she argues that there is enormous pressure on artists to be geniuses. She describes how after the success of her first book she was frightened that nothing she wrote would live up to that ever again. She promotes a different perspective. That rather than ‘being’ a genius, artists ‘have’ genius within them. That they separate themselves from that genius in a healthy way. Ask for it to show up but don’t tie their identity to it.

Yes I am comparing teachers to artists, because in all my years of watching these magicians at work I really do believe holding the attention of 30 individuals and transferring knowledge is an art form. But when we become the job we have a problem. You see as teachers we believe we ARE the job not that we DO the job. I’ve heard people say it over and over again, teaching is a vocation, but I think this comes at a terrible price, one where our self esteem hangs by a thread on people’s perception of us.

But what if rather than being an excellent teacher we all believed that we hold excellence inside of us. That we must nurture it. And embrace that it comes in volumes. In a 6 or 7 period day it may come loudly in P3 and then go for a short rest in Period 4. Do you think we’d be kinder to ourselves in that way?

So how will you nurture your genius this week? With a hot chocolate on the way home one evening? By going easy on yourself if you don’t stick to the lesson plan? By taking the time to have lunch sat down. Whatever it is, recognise that it resides in you.

Representation, Inclusion and our new Podcast ‘School meets world’

4 years old was when I asked my teacher for a ‘kenchi’ (scissors) at nursery unable to think of what the English word was. I ran home at the end of the school day to ask my older brother and cried with embrassment.

6, is how old I was when I moved to a school in a predominantly white neighbourhood and realised I was different.

12, was the first time I heard someone hurl racist abuse at my mum and dad and watched them put their head down and walk away quickly to avoid confrontation.

14, is when I scribbled on the back of my history book, ‘where are all the women and brown people?’ I don’t think anyone ever saw it.

16, is how old I was when a man shouted in my face saying, that he didn’t want to be served by a p**i in the jewellery store I was working in.

18, is when I realised my background gave me a significant handicap in the degree I had chosen and I had to do something about it.

20, is how old I was when I watched a mainstream British movie that had a cast that looked like me and my family.

28, was the first time I saw a successful Indian woman in academia and was able to begin to imagine what my life could look like.

29, is when I started seeing my ethnicity as my superpower. My background and culture gave me a unique understanding of the world around me and I was grateful for that.

30, when I realised that without knowing it I was setting an example for young Indian girls in the schools I was teaching. 

This month on our podcast, School Meets World, Karl C Pupe talk about Race, Representation and Inclusion. So as you can imagine it got me thinking about the role these things have played in my life. 

Honestly speaking for much of my younger life I just wanted to be white and for life to be smoother. But now in my 30s I believe my ethnicity and background of having immigrant parents who settled in the UK, is my superpower. It’s this background that made me make the most of my education because my mum didn’t get to step foot in a school because of her gender. It’s this background that has permanently planted a little voice in my head every time I doubt myself that says ‘Come on Roma you’re parents came here with nothing and built a life for themselves you can publish a podcast/write a book’ or whatever other task I am talking myself out of!  It’s the quiet knowledge of knowing everything I do needs to move the needle forward for anyone who comes after me, whether that be my nieces, students or anyone else for that matter.

I didn’t understand the value of representation until I met a woman who was a complete Powerhouse and my manager in a job I was doing to tie me over until I started my PGCE. Looking back she was the first strong Indian woman I had seen absolutely smash expectations in her job and have a great family life. She helped me visualise a future I didn’t even know I was looking for. It’s funny because at the time I didn’t realise it and it’s only in hindsight that I see she had broadened my parameters. And that’s what representation does. It broadens the way people see themselves, what their future could look like. 

In this episode we talk about the value of representation in school and what we need to do in order to be more inclusive and allow our staff to feel more comfortable to speak up and feel counted. We have the privilege of being joined by Adrian McLean who eloquently demonstrates that if we want our young people to feel counted, confident and heard we have to start with our staff. He encourages us to check our biases be self reflective and honest. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you take some time to reflect and I hope you carry forward its message in the new academic year.

You can find our Podcast on Apple podcasts and Spotify or here