In the age of social media, emojis and increased connectivity - teachers say communication and relationships are key
In recent years, headlines have been dominated with the increased pressure on school pupils – from shifting grades to the increased use of social media.
Now, senior teachers at a top-performing Leeds school have spoken of the importance in building good relationships with pupils to help them cope and succeed.
Carr Manor Community School Executive Principal Simon Flowers believes positive relationships between pupils and staff can impact positively on ‘wellbeing and willingness to engage’.
He says good relationships lead to good effort, ownership and teamwork, which in turn leads to increased attendance and higher achievement.
Senior Manager for Personal Development and Wellbeing Matthew Skinner agrees. He says, “Spending time building relationships means that you have ‘capital’ in the bank when work or relationships get challenging.”
“By building trust through strong relationships, you can challenge pupils to work harder than before, set targets that they believe they can achieve and put demands in place that others cannot.”
Mr Skinner says without strong relationships pupils can view ‘high challenge’ as a negative.
“However, when they know that you understand their needs and are truly their advocate, they will see any challenge as a way of stretching themselves to achieve their best.”
“Feedback, be it marking in books or teaching how to repair a relationship when it has broken down elsewhere, can be delivered effectively.”
He said it takes time and effort for schools to build these relationships and there are ‘no shortcuts’ but it is worth it in the long run.
“Ensure everyone in the organisation understands that relationships and the way they communicate are crucial to working in challenging and complex organisations such as schools,” he says.
“Time needs to be dedicated to talking to one another, colleague to colleague, colleague to pupil and pupil to pupil.”
“Protect this time so that all value it and stress the importance of communicating so that every interaction people have with each other counts.”
Parents or guardians can also play their part to help pupils build strong relationships at school.
“Taking the time to ensure their children understand the importance of talking face to face in order to build secure and trusting relationships is something that will help,” says Mr Skinner.
“In an age where people try and get their messages across with emojis and as few characters as possible, too often communication skills are lost.”
Carr Manor Community School practices what it preaches with a relationship-led approach to learning.
“The Coaching programme at Carr Manor Community School is fundamental to ‘knowing our children well’ and forming the strong relationships that are crucial for our community,” says Mr Skinner.
“Coaching groups consist of approximately eight pupils from different year groups, who meet three times a week to ‘check-in’, discuss weekly achievements and share their plans for the weekend.”
“This unique set-up of pupils from different year groups building relationships with each other and their coach, ensures every pupil has a ‘partner in learning’.”
Mr Flowers explains all pupils are trained in restorative practice, allowing them to support each other and restore relationships.
“We are focused on building, maintaining and repairing relationships so everyone in the community can flourish,” he says.
“Since adopting a restorative approach, stronger relationships have formed between pupils and their peers, pupils and staff and between the school and families, through an increased level of trust and a better way of working together.”
“Pupils often transfer these restorative skills to both home life and the wider community.”
This relationship-led approach to learning has been key to Carr Manor’s success.
“Families often state that the coaching programme is one of the main reasons for choosing Carr Manor Community School as their child’s school,” says Mr Skinner.
“No-one wants to think of their child going to school and getting lost when they need help, feeling isolated or alone.”
“That doesn’t happen at Carr Manor Community School. Relationships are forged through restorative practice and coaching. Pupils often refer to their coaching group as their ‘school family’.”
The most rewarding thing for staff at Carr Manor Community School is seeing pupils begin to feel more confident and trusted, inspiring them to grow, work effectively together and develop not just in their studies, but also as individuals.
“Hearing that pupils have gone outside of the school building and used the skills they have learned in it to impact the relationships within their community and even families is extremely pleasing,” says Mr Skinner.
If you would like to learn more about Carr Manor Community School’s relationship-led approach, there are several upcoming open events to attend.
For pupils looking to join Year 7 in September 2019, there is an open morning from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Saturday, September 29, and an open evening from 5.30pm to 8pm on Wednesday, October 3 with presentations from the Executive Principal at 6pm and 7pm.
For pupils looking to join reception classes in September 2019, there is an open evening from 4pm to 7pm on Thursday, November 22 with presentations from the Vice Principal at 4:30pm and 6:30pm.
More information is available at www.carrmanor.org.uk