The past two and a half weeks have been quite something. Although perhaps I didn’t realise, until afterwards. Following Ella, and following our instinct with how to share our story and message, has been a journey of trusting in something bigger. As my Mum always says
‘Do something and something happens’.
I’m truly grateful for the outpouring of support and the generosity of human kindness and spirit shown. People are good and wonderful, and often we forget that about one another.
Joining the PRUs and AP Annual Conference on Flipping the Narrative was a superb day and testament to the strength of the professionals in this area of education. There were over 200 Agents of Change in that room in Birmingham on the 5th July and every one of them inspiring in their work to make lives better for children and young people. Edward Timpson had highlighted the week prior, the importance of those working in alternative provision, their roles and what they do daily and that it needed to be the gold standard in education.
I reflected a lot on our own situation and the ‘why’ we had become part of the alternative provision field in many ways. When your child can’t fit the mould as such, and needs something more individual, or essentially human, to be able to be themselves and show their true potential – you can find yourself in territory unknown. It was comforting to talk with educators who have similar approaches to finding a way through for their students and the way they spoke about their work and colleagues and the young people was truly uplifting. It was an honour to connect with so many on the day and be a part of the will to #flipthenarrative around our children and young people.
There was a shared view that children need much more than linear education lines – that their life experience(s) to date need to be encompassed and framed within the whole, that there is more to a person than our perception of their presentation. It sounds simple but we often forget that, and we lose the time or patience to look further. Often we ourselves are pressured by demands, out of our control, and that can transfer to who we support.
Sarah Dove, Sharon Wilson, Jo Lawrence, Matt Morris and many others had worked so hard to create such an enlightened education space. The day was full of equality and acceptance, a truly open place with the sense of possibility threaded throughout. There’s something to be said about the flattened hierarchy that everyone seemed to be an integral part of – they were equals with a common aim, to ensure their students got the best education regardless of their needs – there would be a way to help everyone. There’s a lot to be said for being sometimes viewed as the ‘end of the line’ or where ‘people end up’ if they can’t fit the current narrowly defined education space. It gives rise to more creativity and the ability to do something different because you are no longer under the often piercing lens of the mainstream.
For people like my daughter and indeed many, this is a preferred place to be – outwith the mainstream as such. Because we work and live in a parallel human space that actually has positivity flowing through it. There’s bags of creativity because solutions require that, along with diversity of thinking, and the people working with our children have much more agency – so they can be wholly part of the human interaction that enables growth of understanding and learning for everyone. It’s a win win for all.
But living on the edges isn’t where we really wish to remain – it is preferential at times right now, but what would be even better would be the reboot around our idea of mainstream – indeed the ‘whole’ view and what that actually means so all children and young people, and indeed adults can be part of their world as much as others are. It’s about sharing the space and doing it in a way that we can accommodate everyone. I may be naive but I believe very much that it is possible. The discourse is moving, the narratives are changing.