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    Relationships are more influential than intervention

    Thinking of another intervention in school to improve progress?  Then consider a whole school approach to developing relationships. It costs nothing other than time, is sustainable and something which will have a positive impact on all abilities.

    This is nothing new! The relationship you have with your pupils is fundamental to engaging them in lessons, making good progress and good behaviour management. This is true for us too isn’t it. We are more likely to take constructive feedback, be generous with our time and resources or tolerate a range of behaviours because we have a good trusting relationship with the other person.

    The facts about good relationships

    At the Search Institute, they are finding that pupils who have stronger relationships with teachers do significantly better on numerous measures of motivation and executive function that are essential for academic success. This includes self-regulation, mastery motivation, academic confidence, and openness to challenge.

    When adults take time to talk with pupils about their talents, interests and goals it strengthens the relationship between them and has a massive motivational impact. In fact, pupils whose interests and talents are nurtured are 68 % more likely to want to master what they’re learning at school, and 50 % more likely to give their best effort at school (Search Institute; May 2015).

    Young Minds advocate that ‘holding a child in mind’ is fundamental for pupil’s growth, particularly for your most vulnerable pupils, and their life chances are better. ‘Time and time again we see a bond with one caring adult as being very important… to communicate caring support and high expectations to the young person’. (Angie Hart).

    Build relationships – make a start

    So here are some top tips from the Search Institute and Young Minds about how to strengthen those relationships to maximise pupil’s motivation, resilience and progress:

    • Take time to foster their interests and talk about their talents
    • Provide support; help pupils complete tasks and achieve goals and help map out a sense of hope and aspiration for them
    • Share power; build pupils confidence to take charge of their life and place limits that keep them on track.
    • Expand possibilities; connect pupils with people and places that broaden their experiences and world. Introduce them to more people who can help them develop and thrive
    • Express care; show pupils that they matter to you
    • Challenge growth; push pupils to keep getting better and help them learn from mistakes and setbacks

    Which of these do you do well and what could you do more of? Are aspirations linked to the school’s sense of hope and aspiration, or the pupils?

    How engaged are you with building relationships with pupils? I am not suggesting it becomes awkward or trite; your natural daily interactions are crucial. However, I have completed pupil conferencing sessions where I have fed back to the school that pupils want and value more positive feedback face to face, not just in books.

    Nurture independence

    Expressing care and showing pupils matter doesn’t always mean stepping in to solve every problem for pupils. Help them to explore a solution for themselves talking through the options available to them. In this way, you will be sharing power with them and building confidence, resilience and resourcefulness to help them take charge of their life.

    To improve the aspirations of pupils, there are plenty of biographies of both celebrities and ordinary people changing lives and fulfilling their potential. They can be included in assemblies and literacy lessons. Some great examples that will engage pupils are Stephen Sutton, Scott Baxter (charity Abaana) or Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE (Black British female scientist). Ordinary people doing extra ordinary things!

    Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration!

    Invite into school local heroes, parents or even members of staff who have successfully overcome adversity and what it took for them to achieve it. Share their story, foster the relationships and create a sense of connection, aspiration and confidence in the pupils.

    This will not impact on pupil progress and motivation however if it is ad-hoc and thrown together or just limited to one year group. Plan carefully – start with an INSET for staff and work outwards, planning elements into your curriculum and developing a commitment to the approach.

    I would love to hear your success stories.  Share with me on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

    Here are the links if you want to explore more.

    Or get in touch if your school would like to develop this approach further through a training session or support.