Primary education: listening and observing
Primary education: listening and observing

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Primary education: listening and observing

2 Meet a primary school headteacher

Mark Millinson is the headteacher at a primary school in Cambridgeshire. He’s been a teacher since 1987, and a headteacher since 1996. He says that if you want to support children’s learning, first of all, you must be a good listener – and even be a bit of a ‘detective’. In the following video, he explains what he looks for.

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MARK MILLINSON
When a volunteer comes to me to ask what they should be and the characteristics that they might have in order to be somebody who a school will be interested in, within that role-- Immediately, I'm looking at their body language and their enthusiasm for what they're asking about. We need people in primary schools who are inspirational-- need people who are enthusiastic, bubbly. If I was to think of a literacy character, I might think a little bit of Tigger, without being overbearing. Because children have got to be interested in these people. They've got to be, more than anything else, probably approachable. And when I meet somebody who wants to come to be a volunteer, it's so important that I get that impression that children are actually going to be-- to enjoy their company and to learn something from them. It's a very important role within school, even as a volunteer because you bring something else. Every adult that comes into school brings something for these children. And it's a great opportunity for the school to bring a wide variety of experience to the children because we need that, the children need that. And it's good fun, too. To really support a child in school, fundamentally you've got to be a really good listener. And you've got to be very approachable. So it's very important that we move children on from where they're at, rather than where, perhaps, they should be, or expected to be, or presumed to be. And there's only one way to find that out. And that's to look very carefully at the child and to listen to the clues that they give us. Yes, we have a curriculum. We have a national curriculum in England. And that directs us as to what could be taught, should be taught, at various ages and stages. However, that does not mean that it's a one-size-fits-all. Because children are very different. We're all unique. And those children are sitting next to a unique person, in a unique class, in a unique school. Every place is different. So, actually, I think in terms of finding the next steps for every child's learning. And by finding what those are, well, to do that, you need to know where they're at now. So being a really good listener, and in that, and working at being a detective. Are there any barriers that are preventing this child from learning? Are there any misconceptions that could have occurred? And that doesn't mean telling the child what it is. That means listening to what the child is telling you and working the clues out for yourself. And then, perhaps, gently directing them in a different way to the one they originally started on.
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You’ll hear from Mark again throughout this course.

Next, you’ll listen to part of a lecture by a professor of Childhood Studies.

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