By Mary Myatt, 2015
‘Values lived, not laminated’
‘Our work changes lives.’ How many settings can say that? A bold claim and light years away from the mostly wishy washy aspirations many settings have for their school communities. When you nail your work to transformation you had better have some evidence to back up your claims.
And the strongest, most robust, most nuanced evidence? It’s what pupils and students say and in this setting they make it clear that they get a great ‘deal’ in terms of the range and quality of subjects they follow, the wider curricular opportunities and in the high expectations that all staff have of what they are capable of achieving. Their eyes shine as they talk about their work, their plans for the future and their teachers.
At heart, everyone craves respect and it appears to be this that is the building block for the rest of the work that Aspire does. Students talked about how they felt respected, listened to and as they in turn respect their teachers and other adults, a virtuous cycle is created. This is on going daily work, not a tick box and they make it clear that they are many of their peers were still working on this. Do these young people believe that Aspire changes their lives? Yes, they do.
So what makes this work possible? How are the conditions created for these young people to thrive? While systems and structures are in place, the heart of the work is a therapeutic approach to staff development and professional growth. However this is not from a deficit model, but from a place of deep understanding about human capacity, the limits of resilience and the importance of nurture. I have not come across anything quite like this before. A deliberate focus on considering ways of ‘being’ the most rounded professional with the capacity to support young people both emotionally and academically. And the capacity to ask terrific questions:
A truly remarkable setting, thank you.