Hope and Northern Rocks.

Northern Rocks

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” Martin Luther King Jr.

It was with slight tredipidation that I boarded the train to Leeds on May 19th, I didn’t really know anyone else attending the Northern Rocks event and whilst I’ve become something of a dyslexia activist, inherent shyness never really leaves you.

It was my first and last Northern Rocks, as this was their last event. It was a beautiful Saturday in Manchester and I felt conflicted about leaving the kids.

The conference came at the end of a difficult week. SATs week had started well, we were certainly very relaxed but when I picked my son up on Wednesday, his maths had gone badly and I was distraught. Why did I feel this way?

I realised later that the thing which keeps me going, moving forward, is hope.

On that Wednesday afternoon, I lost hope for a while. I dislike it when well-meaning people suggest my son could do well in the arts, or something…well…less academic. I know he can learn and deserves a shot at academia¬†just like every other kid. He needs to be taught in the right way though.

Whilst I don’t particularly support the SATs exams, they don’t have to be traumatic for children, they do assess what a child has been taught in 6 years of formal schooling, and they should enable a school to reflect on the efficacy of teaching policy across the school (not just year 6).

In my view, the Primary NC targets: sequential and cumulative, are mostly sound and well thought out, many of the literacy targets I would teach myself.

At the beginning of the school year, my son’s Headteacher told me my son would not pass his SATs because he has SEND. He is dyslexic. Apparently, there is no accountability when it comes to SEND.

I know my son is very bright; can learn and loves to learn. I will keep supporting him to achieve and grow: academically, creatively, emotionally.

  • What did I take away from the conference?

The two workshops that had the biggest impact on me were St Bernard’s Primary School: From empathy to action and Ways to Live Forever: Matthew Millburn and Pupils from Saddleworth School.

I have to admit that they both left me feeling very emotional!

St Bernard’s School presented a vision of learning and connectedness: to each other and the community. In a bold and visionary approach, the school put a cause at the centre of their curriculum. The cause? To save the songbirds. Their community partner? Chester Zoo.

The outcome was beautiful: children speaking with confidence to members of the public, learning about the power of performance, clearly fuelled by a passion for the subject. Agents of change in their local community.

The workshop with Saddleworth School was a difficult subject. In Sally Nicholls’ book ‘Ways to Live Forever’, the main protaganist, Sam, has leukaemia.

I realised afterwards that it was not necessarily the sadness of the story (though it was sad) which had moved me, rather it was the way in which the students were so expertly held by Matthew Millburn: drawn out, respected and listened to.

Both of the workshops gave me a very special takeaway, they gave me hope. To hope, one needs to imagine and now I can imagine what inclusive education looks like; where children have the chance to shine for different reasons, where teaching is delivered and met with love and mutual respect.

“Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our heart” Rumi.

There will be no more Northern Rocks but if you want to continue to hope and imagine a better future join @debrakidd and keep early July 2020 free for a National Teacher Training Day!

“Memory produces hope in the same way that amnesia produces despair,” (Theologist, Walter Brueggeman).



Corbett, S (2017) How to be a craftivist: the gentle art of protest, London: Unbound

Solnit, R (2016) Hope in the dark: Untold histories wild possibilities, NYC: Canongate books.




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