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“Why do you take yourself so serious sir?”

‘I smiled “before Easter” and realised I enjoy what I do and it’s a whole lot better with a smile.’

Our guest on the Pivotal Podcast this week Rob Jewell recounts his experience within the Welsh education system, gives a personal perspective on the English system and most importantly gives us a deep insight into his wealth of experience in working with looked after and adopted children. Think of the last time you were feeling a bit down and you were greeted by a friend or loved one with a smile. How did that make you feel?

Rob’s current role is Strategic Leader for Looked-After Children in the GwE consortium covering six boroughs in North Wales. Rob started his teaching career in a Cardiff secondary school where there was a strong community spirit; he reflects on the impact of participation in the Eisteddfod and the benefits that arise from working in a predominantly bilingual system. 28 letters in the Welsh alphabet is another unique aspect of the educational system In Wales!

Rob is somewhat bewildered by the English system which appears to be driven by political whim, whatever party is in office – free schools seeming, in his opinion, to take the education system back to the 18th century. He reflects on his role as Safeguarding Officer for Gwynedd, spending time visiting many schools in his area to ensure there was common practice and consistency – and wonders how this might be possible in the English system. Rob’s primary purpose, as with three other consortia in Wales, is ensuring looked-after children get the best possible opportunities out of their time at school.

Funding covers three key elements:

  1. Training – for staff, carers, adoptive parents and other agencies.
  2. School to school approach to training and support.
  3. Bursaries for individual children according to need.

Having surveyed parents, carers, agencies and the children themselves the key areas for support and development are – equality, behaviour management, wellbeing, mental health and trauma. Attachment friendly is a key ingredient (ref. John Bowlby 1958). At its best adults are “there for the children” akin to a close family setting. In supporting adults dealing with looked-after children Rob’s advice is simple:

  • Remember who is the adult
  • Don’t get drawn into the “fight”- these children are pushing the boundaries
  • Mutual respect – treat these children as you would like your children to be treated.

Although schools come in all sorts of shapes and sizes the best ones provide an environment that is nurturing, supportive, inclusive, encouraging every child to shine in their own way. When you are having a bad day remember how the smile on a friendly face made you feel.

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