Overcoming Barriers to Learning:
How a Culture of Care in Schools
Helps Troubled Pupils to Learn
By Sheila Mulvenney


Publication Date: January 2017
Paperback
ISBN: 9781903269275
RRP: £19.99


There are a great many children and young people in our classrooms struggling with a range of social and emotional problems across what teacher and interim Virtual Head Sheila Mulvenney describes as 'the spectrum of trouble'. At one end, the pupil may have experienced severe difficulties, such as neglect, trauma and abuse, the death or imprisonment of a parent; at the other, the pupil may have experienced parental or sibling ill health, separation through parents being posted overseas, having financial difficulties. Such 'troubles' may be long or short term, but coming into school, these pupils are unlikely to be in a state of readiness for learning. Their distress may not only prevent them from being curious, engaged and open, but expressed in challenging behaviour, can quickly disrupt others learning too.

Mulvenny shows how relationships with staff in school are critical to enabling pupils and students to feel secure; how essential a 'culture of care' of both staff and pupils is to creating the right environment for concentration and good learning, and how it can be improved; how staff managing their own emotional experience can both reduce the likelihood 'collisions in the classroom' and also provide modelling for pupils and students on how to mitigate the worse effects of the distress they are experiencing. She also addresses how language used in school can be modified to challenge the 'scripts' our pupils carry with them in more constructive direction. In short, a blue print to overcome barriers to learning.

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The Author
After initially training and working as a nurse, then as a Health Visitor and completing a degree with the Open University, Sheila Mulvenney first started to teach mature students on child care and Care Management courses at undergraduate, HNC/D or National Diploma level. She became aware that many mature students still had obstacles to overcome from their background or previous learning experiences, and a number struggled with literacy. It has been very pleasing for her to meet and work with social workers who had completed their initial training on courses she managed and delivered. After completing a PGCE, Sheila went on to work in a number of different settings with younger students, often with those who experienced social, emotional or behavioural difficulties, had other special educational needs or were looked after. Her roles included being a SENCo in a specialist provision and Head Teacher of a small school for students who were all in care and resident within the organisation. These roles led to work in local authorities focussing on behaviour or inclusion and then with children in care as head of a Virtual School. In addition, Sheila is a qualified Sounds-Write trainer, regularly running phonics courses for teachers in schools. She is also qualified as a teacher of English as a foreign language having taught English to, and hosted, a large number of students from other countries. Her interest in meeting the emotional needs of children in care led her to train as a therapist in Emotional Freedom Technique, and she now runs her own company offering training, tuition, therapy and consultancy to individuals, schools and other organisations and undertakes various interim appointments within local authorities.

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