Kim Johnson, former President of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) has joined Coram Life Education as our Chairman of Trustees. We asked him how he heard about Coram Life Education and why his career as a school and academy leader has made him want to advocate for better PSHE and wellbeing education for children.
What drew you to the role at Coram Life Education? Were you aware of its work during your career in education?
During my time as National President of NAHT I became increasingly involved in trying to influence the Government & DfE in improving the expectations, opportunities and outcomes for children and young adults of all abilities. Through this work I met the staff team at Coram and Coram Life Education, became aware of their innovative and high-quality resources, and instantly realised that they were badly needed in schools and academies. I wanted to be part of an organisation with such ambition and potential – in short I was ‘caught by Coram!’
What are your views on the importance of PSHE and wellbeing education for primary-aged children?
Research has shown how important it is that children and young adults are properly prepared to live their lives fully and prosper as healthy individuals — both physically and mentally. It is also recognised that they want their teachers to be well trained, qualified, knowledgeable and well-resourced in order to deliver quality PSHE, RSE and wellbeing lessons. In turn, teachers in schools and academies want access to good CPD and teaching resources so they can deliver a quality curriculum to meet the needs of their pupils. It’s crystal clear to me that PSHE and wellbeing education are both highly relevant and increasingly important to prepare children and young adults to become the safe, caring, achieving, resilient and friendly citizens of the future.
How do you think your experience can help Coram Life Education in a context where it’s widely acknowledged that PSHE and wellbeing education is needed but it’s still not mandatory?
I’ve been in the teaching profession for 39 years, 22 of which I’ve spent as an academy or school leader. My mantra has always been that a holistic academic and pastoral curriculum should ensure each and every child or young adult:
• Reaches their full academic potential through quality teaching and by learning with an ever-developing enquiring mind and a desire to enjoy the discovery of new knowledge;
• Develops the social and emotional skills and attributes to be a caring, supportive, honest, resilient, open-minded and kind member of our learning community;
• Is given the opportunity and encouragement to practice and ultimately fully transfer those skills, qualities and attributes to everyday life beyond the school gates.
The words of one pupil to me on his last day captured for me the benefits that such an education can bring — “Thank you... you and this school have helped make me who I am today!”
Do you think it’s important for schools to adopt a whole-school approach to behaviour, safety and learning? Why?
I have had the pleasure to both work with and listen to some incredible practitioners in schools, academies, alternative provision, conferences and specialist groups. Time and time again, the key phrase I have come across is ‘consistency of practice is central to achieving the best outcomes’. I have said it, heard it and I believe it.
I think that whole school or academy approaches are key to making this approach work. Where there is difference in practice and delivery then it’s likely that this ambiguity is confusing to pupils and staff alike. Where schools or academies establish behaviour and safety as a learning need to be taught then success is more likely to follow — as long as the staff practice and model the same.
This is a principle captured by Paul Dix in his book ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour’
What are your hopes for the future of Coram Life Education and organisations like it?
Every day Coram Life Education and their Delivery Partners across England and Scotland provide a wealth of resources which enhance educational provision, resulting in better outcomes and an improved sense of wellbeing for so many children. SCARF is a jewel in the bank of resources available to schools and academies and we need to ensure it shines brightly. My ambition is that it benefits more and more children and the brilliant teachers working both with and for them, each and every year. As I follow in the inspiring footsteps of Lord Simon Russell of Liverpool and look to the future as Chairman of Coram Life Education’s Trustees, I reflect that our enthusiasm is fuelled by the same wish to improve outcomes for children that drove our founder Thomas Coram. This makes me determined to assist Coram Life Education to help even more children get a better start in life.
Kim Johnson: Coram Life Education's new Chairman of Trustees on how quality PSHE, RSE and wellbeing lessons prepare children for life