My rights, my say

When pupils feel listened to, respected and included in school life, they’re more likely to do well at school. That’s why we are fortunate that in Scotland all pupils have the right to have their say about what they need to get the most out of their education. And since January 2018, pupils aged 12-15 can now be even more involved, having a direct say in decisions about their support.

Reach, an online resource which helps pupils understand their rights to be supported, included, listened to and involved in decisions at school, has created 3 new animations to help pupils feel more confident about speaking up. They are called:

  • It’s not easy to talk
  • Help to make your voice heard at school
  • Your rights, your say

The films also signpost pupils to ‘My Rights, My Say’, a service which can help children aged 12-15 share their views about the support they need and have a say when decisions about their learning and support are made.

Zain a pupil involved in making the films, believes that “the messages [in the films] for young people are really important if they are struggling, so they know that help is available.”

 To view the films visit Reach at www.reach.scot

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This summer my son starts school

My son can’t write his name. He has no interest in learning which letter comes after which in the alphabet. He struggles with simple instructions and unless he is looking directly at you when you speak he has absolutely no idea what you have said. His long-term memory is astounding recalling details, names and places which have long since left my mind, although he can’t recall me asking him to get a pair of socks five minutes ago! He talks all the time; he asks questions from the moment he rises in the morning until his eyes (finally) close at night.

He has a passion for knowledge and devours documentaries and encyclopaedias on the natural world; insects, plants, sharks, bird-eating spiders in the deepest darkest jungle or colour-changing lizards native to the Sahara. He completed the library summer reading challenge in three days. He taught himself to ride a scooter before he was two and learned to ride a two-wheeler bike with confidence in less than two hours, aged four.

This summer my son starts school.

His father is dyslexic and early indications are that he is too.

Why am I worried?

I know that things have moved on dramatically since his father’s horrendous school experiences which consisted, in no particular order, of late diagnosis, ridicule, missed learning, labelling, name-calling and a whole host of damage to what should have been the best years of his life. The school we have chosen appears to be switched on, engaged, passionate and child-centred. They have a positive approach to dyslexia and a good track record of supporting pupils. So there’s nothing to worry about – right?

I just worry about him. I just do. I am not sure how he will deal with having to do things differently from his peers. I worry about how to support him, when to push and when to take a step back. I worry about how me and my husband will work together to give him a consistent approach to homework when our experiences and starting points are so different.

Having lived in a family affected by dyslexia I understand that it is complicated – for every challenge it presents it also seems to open up new possibilities. But I also know for every Richard Branson who believes that his dyslexia enabled him to build his empire and see opportunities others could not, there is a young adult male in prison whose life has gone off the rails because he was unable to get the support he needed.

How do I build his resilience and confidence so that he can overcome the inevitable challenges ahead?

How do I ensure that the happy, confident young boy entering primary school grows into the happy, confident young man entering the world of work and beyond?

I don’t have the answers yet. We are just at the start of the journey. We will go on this adventure together as a family and will be there as a safety net with open arms whenever he needs us. I know there will be tough times but I am also confident that he will continue to surprise us as he has done almost daily for the past five years. I am optimistic about his future, I think he is going to have a wonderful life, but we know that we have much to learn and this is only the beginning.

Julie McNeill

 

 

What will I do now?

When I left school, I literally had no idea what I was going to do. When I was growing up, I wanted to do everything, be a writer, a singer, an actress, an artist and for a while I wrote poems, but, the longest standing aspiration was a fashion designer.

I began school well, but soon, my difficulties crept in and I went from doing well, to near bottom of the class. I never really understood why and neither, it seemed did my teachers.

Now I am not work shy and I worked my @*£ off to try and be the best that I could be, but, I never got there. Often my reports said …. is a lovely child to have in class, but they always said the same thing, not trying hard enough, could do better etc etc, all I wanted to scream was ‘ I am, I try really hard’

By the time I got to standard grade I had something to prove, I wanted to show everyone that I was trying hard enough, so in my 3rd year mock exams, I studied really hard and actually got reasonable grades. However, by the time it got to my 4th year mocks my grades were shocking and the teachers began to write me off. This made me all the more determined to do well in the actual exams so I got my head down and did not too badly.

I was determined to stay until 6 year at school and attempt to get some highers, I loved art and wanted to go on to study to be a fashion designer but after missing out on higher art due to written work I began to give up on the idea. I tried again in 6th year to get some highers: English and Advanced Higher Art (I was able to take it even although I failed my higher, due to artistic ability). Nevertheless pressure from the school to leave because it would be beneficial to me and still having no support to address my issues I left school with no highers and a conclusion that I was not the academic type!!

I went to work in an office after school, I had no real idea what I wanted to do, but, I thought getting some administration skills under my belt could help. My first job proved fruitful and after a year of working as an office junior I moved up within the organisation to a position that offered career prospects. However, I was never really settled and wanted more.

After working for a while in a few different jobs, I made the decision to try and get back into education; I wanted to do something that I really enjoyed. I applied to college to do a foundation course in fashion design with a view to going on to study fashion Marketing.

Then, I found out I was pregnant and as fashion is a difficult industry to work in with no guarantee of jobs, I knew I needed to do something else. When my little one was 5 months old I applied to college to do a course in communications, I combined all of my passions and all the things I was good at and found something that fitted me really well.

College was like a breath of fresh air and I applied the same work ethic as I had always tried in school, the difference was, I had the support that I needed and the tutors took the time to explain the concepts and ideas in a way that suited your learning style. I found myself helping my classmates to understand, ensuring that no one fell behind and for the first time I was doing well, this was a fantastic feeling.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard; I was studying full time, with my difficulties and a baby to look after, there were tears, late nights and times when I wanted to give up, but I had a clear goal in mind and would do anything to achieve it. After 2 years and 2 good qualifications, I was given an unconditional offer to university.

I honestly thought I would never see the day, me at university…. there must be some mistake! I was so happy.

I went immediately to the learning support when I started, to see what help I could get. I knew that I could do better than I did at school and my grades at college proved that. As college did not require much essay writing and the course was continually assessed with a practical project at the end instead of exams, I knew that University was going to be a whole different ball game.

I was assessed and identified as dyslexic; I was given an education package which listed all the help I was going to get and University, while no walk in the park was a complete eye opener. I loved it and came out at the other side tireder, older and with a slightly different take on the world. However, I had some fantastic experiences; I was much smarter and more socially conscious. I now have a good understanding that I could do anything that I put my mind to and a really good mark in an amazing honours degree to prove it.

I am so glad that I didn’t listen to myself when I thought I was ‘not the academic type’, determination and a willingness to succeed was the most important thing for me, it was not that I couldn’t learn it was that I was not being taught right.

This is what I tell everyone one who needs to hear it. Don’t give up, whether it’s is educational, vocational or just in general the world is your oyster, it’s all about finding the thing that spurs you on.

There is no one size fits all approach to learning and because you don’t excel in one way doesn’t mean you will never get to where you want to be. Even if you don’t get everything you hoped for when you leave school, there are options available to you. It may take you a little longer than your peers to get there, but in the end it is the journey and what you learn along the way that really counts.

Let your inner star shine

Let your inner star shine

What’s your experience? Has your school experience made you think you can’t achieve something?