What is your background in the education sector?

I have worked in selective schools, state schools and pupil referral units. However, I left the education sector after four years because I felt that is was failing certain students.

What is your understanding of our work?

The work that Say It With Your Chest does is so important because you not only work with young people to stop them from being the next statistic on the school to prison pipeline but you also work with pupils to help them grow their self-esteem and resilience. These are things that will benefit them long after they have left the education system. These skills will help them in their friendships, setting life goals etc. Whenever they experience a setback, they will be able to draw on the skills taught to them by Say It With Your Chest, and they will pick themselves up and keep going. 

When you were a teacher, did you see exclusions disproportionately impacting certain students, if so who?

Exclusions disproportionately impact certain students, and these are black students. Because of the racial biases that some teachers have, these students are not given the same chances that their white counterparts are given when they make mistakes. They are stereotyped and judged heavily. It’s as if they are not seen as children, but as ‘future criminals’.

Why do you think exclusions disproportionately impact certain students?

Exclusions disproportionately impact certain students, black students in particular, because they are seen as a threat even before they are excluded. This is because of racial biases. Then, once a student is excluded, their threat status is solidified. Because of racial bias, some teachers treat black students differently. This alienates the students and pushes them further down a road of wanting to rebel. 

What impact do exclusions have on students morale and attainment ?

The impact is detrimental. In terms of morale, exclusions isolate students from their peers, and while some of their peers may deem their exclusion as being ‘cool’, most peers will use the exclusion to demonise them. Either way, the excluded student will be tarred with the brush of being a problem, by both their peers and teachers. Excluded students then start to think that their lives are not worth much, and that they are only ever going to be known as ‘the one who got excluded’. It’s difficult for them to shake off that reputation, and so to make it easier for themselves, excluded students usually just live up to the reputation. Exclusions also cause a massive drop in the attainment levels of students because they are not able to attend lessons, and sometimes exams. If they’re not there to learn, how are they supposed to do well?

What benefits do you think the Switch Ambassador Programme  provides for students?

It give students who are at risk of exclusion time to reflect on their behaviour. Often, when a student is on the road to being excluded, they have already given up on themselves, and this presents itself as ‘bad behaviour’. It’s difficult for these students to stop and think about the choices that they are making. The Switch Ambassador Programme provides a welcome time-out, so that pupils can learn how to express and manage their emotions in a healthy way. It also gives students an opportunity to work on their self-esteem, resilience and goals for the future. It’s important for students to have goals for the future because it gives them something to work towards, and this is part of what motivates them to do better.

As a former teacher, what do you think are the benefits of our training programme?

It will provide teachers with a fresh perspective and new strategies to support students. This is important because teachers sometimes label certain students as ‘trouble’ and this label limits students. It stops them from trying to do anything and/or trying to be anything. If their teachers don’t believe in them, how are they supposed to believe in themselves? Students look up to teachers, even to the ones they don’t necessarily get along with. They see them as adults who can potentially inspire them. Teachers need to be mindful of and careful with this responsibility.

What changes would you like to see in the education system?

The changes I would like to see in the education system are:

  • I want a more patient education system, where children who ‘misbehave’ are given a chance to correct their behaviours. 
  • I also want an anti-racist education system, where black students are not consistently demoralised, demonised and mistreated. It’s not enough for the education system to just not be racist, it has to be anti-racist. In that, a concerted effort has to be made to identify and tackle the racial biases that some of the people who enter the teaching profession have.

Find out more about both of the programmes that have been mentioned in this blog post

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