Furrowfield School is a Gold residential special school for young people aged between 11 to 16 years with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs. We took 60 seconds with RRSA Coordinator for Furrowfield, Lea-Anne Palmer to find out more about their success.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a teacher? What do you enjoy most about teaching? How long has your school been involved with Unicef?
I began my life in education as a Teaching Assistant/Cover Supervisor in 2002. I completed my PGCE degree in Religious Education at Durham University and began teaching in 2007. I love all aspects of my very busy role as Nurture teacher, Food Technology teacher and RRSA Coordinator, in a SEMH Secondary School in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear; however I mostly enjoy the strong relationships and family ethos you feel in a small school such as ours. We began our Rights Respecting journey in January 2017.
What led your school to become involved in the Rights Respecting Schools Award?
I was approached by the Head of School as she thought the award would suit my background of R.E. and Nurture. I’m so glad I took on the challenge as the change within school, following our journey to Gold has been exceptional.
Give us an example of an initiative or an activity that your school has done that pushed the working you are doing with RRSA forward?
We recently held a ‘Christmas Coffee Morning’ and invited parents, carers, governors and members of the local clergy along. The pupils had proudly produced cakes and handmade cards and gifts to sell and the proceeds went to our residential school, towards replacing their pool table felt for activities. The morning was a huge success and the feedback from guests was excellent.
What challenges have you faced in putting the Award in place your school and how did you overcome them?
The initial challenge for me was to address the standards of the award without it feeling like added pressure or excessive workload on already very busy staff. However time, patience and perseverance win out in the end.
What has been your proudest achievement in putting children’s rights in to practice in your school?
Watching and listening to our pupils during the Gold Award assessment visit by the Unicef assessors has been my proudest moment so far. The pupils spoke with excitement and confidence about all aspects of the award, our school ethos and the learning environment. To see the pride on their faces and to feel the pride in their conversation about school and all we’ve achieved was amazing and quite emotional.
What advice would you give to other schools working towards Gold?
Keep calm and go for it! Be patient but firm in your resolve. Plan each element of the award far in advance. Give staff lots of time and resources to implement the changes. Consistently convey to the pupils how amazing the impact of the Rights Respecting Schools Award is. Consistently remind staff of the plan/journey. Celebrate each little milestone until you reach Gold. Remember it’s a whole school team effort which makes the magic happen.