The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is committed to supporting an inclusive Further Education and Training sector. As part of our work, we recently released ‘Small Powerful Everyday Things: conversations of humanity in the SEND system’, a publication that aims to use storytelling to understand, take action and bring about change within the SEND system.
The publication focuses on the experiences of learners with SEND and their families and the professionals who work with them. It aims to help us to better understand the perspective of people affected by the SEND system and how the ETF might support them to create positive change.
Remarkably, the act of collecting stories itself altered the practice of the SEND professionals involved: the process gave those working in the system the time to reflect, listen and be listened to. We had not anticipated that an action as simple as storytelling could change the ways of working, however, as demonstrated in the following excerpt, the project led to significant changes in how these professionals saw themselves and their stories; and how they might tell their story in the future.
Below is Lindsay Harris shares her experience as a SEND professional taking part in our publication. We hope the stories from the publication stir us all into action to do small powerful everyday things that make the changes we want to see within SEND.
It was strange sharing my story within a work capacity.
I spent the last four years ‘getting on with it’ and ‘putting my work act on’. My career and life journey were two very separate thoughts that were stored in different parts of my brain. I knew my story often impacted on me at work but refused to acknowledge it. My thoughts held me back to the point where I felt suffocated and restricted but as I told my tale I noticed that it gave permission for others to breathe and become free of their own barriers.
I began to make connections between the individuals I knew and their behaviours or thoughts. Situations made a lot more sense. I was full of emotion and shock at the thought of what people had been through, how others had been so unkind to them and how people perceived themselves in such a negative way.
Since reading the stories, I have changed both my approach and working practice. I acknowledge staff, learners and their parents or carers personal journeys before anything else especially during our initial meeting. I hear their stories and don’t just listen to the words, I feel their emotion too.
I think this has helped with forming respect and building rapport along with drawing out the best in people as it gives them the space to talk. People have then shared their most vulnerable side and if this is supported, it seems they turn out to be the most resilient. There have been tears during staff interviews, expressions of extreme gratitude from families because someone listened to them and deeper, honest conversations after implementing ‘sharing stories’ as part of our first full staff meeting this year. If this is the result of listening to people then stories should become mandatory practice in our everyday work life.
Lindsay Harris worked in further education and offender learning for 12 years before joining Trinity Specialist College in 2017 and being appointed as Principal in January 2020. She aspires to support staff and learners to find and celebrate their gifts or talents by investigating ways of learning and adapting approaches that meet a diverse range of needs.
The ETF would like to thank to everyone who shared their stories for our publication ‘Small Powerful Everyday Things’. You can read the full publication and discover a range of SEND resources on the ETF website.