Parent Voice at The Lion Works School

Parent Voice

The Lion Works School strives to include the parent voice in all aspects of the school's unique and innovative education offer. The Headteacher holds termly parent voice sessions and the school is committed to forming a parent voice council to help share the experience and expertise within the parent body.

During our end of year parent voice session in Summer term we discussed with parents what they felt the aim and purpose of the school curriculum should be, we then collectively tried to sum this up in 3 words.

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The school team will be taking these ideas and then feeding back to show either where we think they are in our curriculum or where we can develop it to include them.

Based on our most recent parent voice session these are the things that the parent body feels are going well:

  • Adapting to situations as they change

  • Offering support to parents

  • Giving my daughter confidence to come back to school after a day off due to difficulties

  • Taking away some of the 'pressures' from us parents

  • Listening really well to my son and us as parents

  • A good range of lessons and off-site lessons

  • Just makes my son feel happy to come in

  • Providing a safe, inclusive environment for an anxious child

  • Encourages independence in a caring, understanding and patient manner

  • Meet and greet each morning helps with daily communication

  • Weekly reports help us to know how our child is getting on

  • Great focus on life skills and encouragement to think about individual skills and self awareness

  • Caring, nurturing, growing, developing, encouraging, kindness

  • Understanding and caring staff, especially around absence

  • AM and PM breaks for sensory/movement

  • 2 week half-term

  • Shorter lessons (45 mins)

  • Outdoor Ed

  • Rewards and Commendations

  • Starting the day with PE

  • 9-3 finish time

  • Weekly reports, but wouldn't mind fortnightly

However, like many places The Lion Works School is a self-reflective work in progress. These are the things our parent body feels we could do better:

  • Look at the weekly 'report', could be more robust. Can feel like a general reporting of the student's 'academic' endeavours!

  • A little more communication on what's next as in Year 9/10 etc

  • A meet with individual teachers to get a sense of our child's current levels and support we may need to provide at home to consolidate learning.

  • More events and get togethers for parents

  • More advance information on what they are going to be doing in upcoming Outdoor Ed sessions

  • More detailed information on school topics of study so we can help with homework

  • More photos (but we appreciate that's tricky with privacy and safeguarding!)

We are always so grateful for feedback and all feedback is truly a gift! We'll work hard on improving those areas in which we could be even better and we'll keep striving to perform well in all those that are currently identified as positives.

How much is too much of a good thing?

During Summer term last year we reviewed our timetable and school day to ensure students had the best possible learning experience. Following feedback from parents we found that at times students were decompressing once leaving school and had lots of things to talk through. This is a good thing, but it raised a question for us as to whether we could help. Attending school, if you find social communication challenging, can be a stressful experience. Although we focus on emotional regulation and mindfulness throughout the day, we asked whether a 15 minute form time to 'debrief' at the end of the day would help students return home feeling even calmer and more settled. This is what our parent community said:

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We asked, parents said, we responded. Our school day now finishes at 3.15 and students are benefitting from a daily debrief and going home feeling calmer and even more settled.

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Previously our school team were known by their titles and surnames (Mr Smith and Miss Smith). This raised an interesting question and two 'schools of thought' (excuse the pun) emerged. Firstly, in favour of using first names; Calling teachers by their first name is a values-driven choice. It helps to build connections, break down barriers, build a sense of belonging and build mutual respect between adults and students. Students develop strong relationships with their teachers and they are less afraid to make mistakes or advocate for themselves because of this. 

 

The anxiety of talking to a “grown-up” is diminished and many students speak of a sense of respect and empowerment. Research shows that students in psychologically safe classroom environments reported greater self-confidence and well-being. This should be the number one priority, as it means removing barriers to participation and learning for neurodivergent students.

 

By fostering positive relationships with each student, they’ll be more likely to speak up. It is a common misconception that calling teachers by their first name may lead to a loss of respect. However this is simply demonstrated to be untrue; the adults earn respect through their actions and not through their titles. It relies on the messages that students receive daily about their behaviour and about treating all people with respect, on the genuine interest that teachers take in students and their ideas and concerns, and on the opportunities students have to make choices and take initiative.

 

It instils a positive culture of mutual respect and high positive regard between students and staff.

However you could also argue: 

Secondly, in favour of using titles and surnames; as our students grow and move forward to the next stages of their lives and learning they will be in situations where communication continues to be asymmetric in nature. This means that sometimes student will be required to speak differently to a lecturer or employer, for example, because they have a different role within a certain situation. Some of us have been fortunate enough to make friends in our workplaces, but yet we still understand there are small subtle differences in how we need to communicate whilst at work. This understanding of the subtle differences comes from our formative childhood experiences where we learn the importance of moderating our language based on explicit markers, such as "Mrs Y" or "Mr X". When we are younger the differences are made more obvious so that we are able to notice the very small differences as easily as possible.

 

Supporting students to use titles and names also gives them cultural capital and comparative experiences with students who attend mainstream settings, where this is a standard expectation. By having comparative experiences students are able to relate their own journey to the presentation they see in films and on TV of students attending school and feel a validation of their journey in relation to the 'typical' images presented within our culture. Many students feel a safety and security in using a title and a name as it is an expectation they have experienced and understand. This gives them the clear feeling of security and safety in the difference between home and school and the relationships they have in each place. It helps students to understand that although they may like a certain teacher, this teacher isn't their friend of course and the relationship they have is safe and close, but marked by a clear difference in expectation which is signalled by the use of a more formal name.

You know your children best, so we did the most appropriate thing, and asked our parent community.

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With two clear and well reasoned points of view and a dead heat from the parent voice a decision was made. Staff would decide individually how they would like to be addressed. This reflects the wider world we are preparing students for and allows staff to connect with students as an authentic and reflective adult.

And from those who know their children best

At the end of the last school year we asked our parent community for feedback on their children's journey with us to date. We were left humbled by their feedback. You can view to of these comments below.

Student A:

You took him in and from the moment he joined he was welcomed with kindness and patience. You supported us as a family through a very difficult time and it literally saved XXXX. When he refused to come to school you helped us, you visited our home and offered support. You even sent a mentor for 2 weeks to help to get him into school, starting his day with outdoor breakfast and laughs. Little by little he was able to access education again, actually access life again. He has always felt listened to and understood, and you helped him to be the best he could be.

Student B:

When my eleven year old son and I arrived at The Lion Works School a year ago, both his self confidence and attitude towards education had hit rock bottom due to previous negative experiences over the years. However during this past year he has absolutely thrived, both in his confidence and academically. He has found a school where he feels he truly belongs. The wonderful staffing team go above and beyond to make sure their lessons are inspiring and motivating and my son knows he is valued and respected as a student. In addition to this, the nurturing ethos that the school encapsulates enables him to feel calm, engaged and receptive to new challenges. I believe The Lion Works holds a metaphorical key and every day they are unlocking a little bit more of my son's full potential. I am excited to be alongside him as he continues to flourish and am thankful every day that he is a part of this truly incredible school. It has been life changing for our family! 

Summer term 21-22 2 newsletter

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