UKEdMag: You have THE POWER… by @carlawhelan

You have THE POWER…

Taking hold of teaching and learning

By Carla Whelan – This article originally appeared in Issue 48 of the UKEd Magazine. Click here to view.


In education today, many voices out there hold powerful words, motivational statements and belief for the future of primary education. There are many respected key speakers saying what needs to be said, however, how does it then filter back to mean something for children and headteachers in schools around the country?

It is a huge question for us all. What do today’s children need? Is it endless amounts of assessment reports saying if they have made ‘xyz’ progress, over the year? Are they on track? Are they making expected progress?

I recently watched a recording from the World Economic Forum on the importance of ‘soft skills’ and teaching children team work, values, respect, communication and perseverance and asked myself the question ‘Will computers be able to be empathetic, compassionate and social in 2025, or will we rely on the next generation to continue with these unique skills that make us human?

It is a huge debate at present for me for what is valued as worthwhile learning in today’s classrooms.

Yet, indeed, they still require progress in reading, writing and numeracy. We do have a huge obligation to ensure a child can function in today’s society, read, write and add etc. I also argue if taught correctly the national curriculum achieves these. So progress is important, but charting it in league tables and ranking schools is not. It is possible to teach a child, get progress, give them an education that is based on life skills and still come out on top in the ‘results’ war. It all depends on what we value and rank in our education today. What is not right is building a school culture that focuses on a scaled score. We do so much more than that.

Therefore, as I head into the depths of 2018 my resolutions were:

  1. Reminding myself that basic skills are important and that these full heartedly includes life skills, talking, teamwork, emotional resilience, honesty and integrity. Know this, live this and breathe this for our school, so that all my teachers can feel they are creatively enhancing the wider skills of our children and giving so much more than scores.
  2. Making sure that we remember in our school, we have no unequals… every person matters. Each play their part in the success, and all contribute fully (now… this wasn’t always the way, but it surely is now!) and when we celebrate, we do so together. If we fail we learn together. Therefore, we are risk takers, adventurous in our approach while respectful of the basics we need to teach.
  3. The sole purpose of us being there is for our children to flourish, grow and be their best. Not academic robots, but individuals who sing, dance, debate, read, write, play, and all the things that make life so valuable.

This year be brave, say your piece, do not accept what is given unless you believe in it and if you do not believe, find a place where you can, because belief is everything.


Carla Whelan @carlawhelan is headteacher at Oakmeadow CE Primary. She is also a School Improvement Partner and leadership coach.

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