The new academic year is nearly upon us, which will be my 13th year of teaching. Hopefully not an unlucky one!
Last year was highly enjoyable, as much as it was challenging. Through my work at the Pendlebury Centre over the past year I feel my eyes have been opened to an aspect of additional needs in schools that had previous existed on the fringes of my awareness and understanding - specifically, mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders alongside social issues such as child sexual exploitation, childhood bereavement and traumatic family breakdown. I have also gained a greater insight into the potentially disastrous ramifications for young people with autism who do not receive identification and recognition until their final years of schooling.
Of course, all these issues exist outside of a specialist educational environment - as we have seen with Robin Williams, these conditions occur across human life (see the quote below for one of the best responses to his tragic passing). However, a year on at the Pendlebury Centre, I have deepened my understanding greatly of how to spot such issues and how to try help the young person begin to unpick them in conjunction with families and external agencies (whilst continuing to recognise the limits of my role as an educational professional rather than therapist or psychiatrist).
As my second year at the Pendlebury Centre beckons, I will see my teaching timetable change quite radically all over again - gone will be subjects like Forest Schools and Food Tech, coming my way are GCSE English and KS3 Humanities. As much as I enjoyed delivering these practical subjects, seeing students learn in a different way and in a different context, I welcome a return to teaching subjects which are my strongest.
I will continue as Assistant Deputy Headteacher, relinquishing control of the PPR project (an early intervention initiative that will move to a neighbouring PRU), but being able to focus more in-depth on SEN and assessing / tracking progress (being the 'data bod' within the centre).
As a centre, we are also gradually expanding our outreach programme, delivering CPD sessions to colleagues from a variety of settings. This, I feel, is vitally important if we are to help our partners in mainstream schools identify and act on issues that might in turn prevent students having the upheaval etc. of being transferred to a Pupil Referral Unit. The Pendlebury Centre has a new website and we plan to put some of our CPD resources on there.
On top of that I have also bought a house this past year and now have the added pleasure (sometimes pain!) of bringing it up to scratch. This is in addition to an increasing role in a local church community - mainly as a Christian Aid coordinator.
So, as I have switched off this summer and had some extended time to reflect, one of the questions I have asked myself is where does this leave this website? I will continue to upload resources and let followers know via my Twitter feed when I do so, but I also think it's time to declare an indefinite hiatus in my blog posts - or perhaps more accurately, openly accept that for all my best intentions it's just not hitting the priority list and hasn't been for a while.
I had intended to finish blogging with a reflection on working in a Pupil Referral Unit but it turns out there's already a good article on this out there - an interview with Tony Meehan, headteacher at the Latimer Alternative Provision Academy - which says more or less the kind of things I was planning to say.
All that's left is to say thank you again to all those readers who took the time and effort to get in touch. I will still be contactable - just a little less talkative!