How Can The Walls & Signs in Your School Promote Inclusion?
A school can work towards including its most vulnerable students through the physical environment, language and leadership. We must make sure that we communicate inclusivity in all of our communication as a school. Even something as simple as a sign can send a message.
On the Walls of School A:
I walked up the pathway to a school and the first sign I saw said:
‘Violent and aggressive behaviour by visitors will not be tolerated and they will be removed.’
Let me tell you what this made me feel:
😕This school has known and expects violence.
😱We are assuming that you may well be one of the violence-makers and therefore you need to be fully warned.
😲We are fully braced for your violence.
😠It is YOU versus US.
On the Walls of School B:
Before I had even walked into the reception, I saw a big colourful sign that said:
‘We warmly and proudly welcome you to our school.’
I signed in at reception and spotted this sign by the door:
‘You are the reason we teachers come here every day. We are your servants and we will do our very best to support you with all our hearts.’
And then, there was this one on the door of the very first classroom I came across:
‘WHEN YOU ENTER THIS CLASSROOM
you are scientists and authors
you are explorers and thinkers
you are loved and cared for
you are important and unique
you are the only reason I am here’
Wow! 😍Positivity and warmth were overflowing in this setting. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the net result of these positive and encouraging signs. Although this school’s cohort that was far more challenging than the average, no student had ever been permanently excluded.
Don’t think this is as simple and easy as putting up a sign – but what you see around you in a school environment and what happens to the most vulnerable students can often correlate. Think about the impact that visible messages have on your staﬀ and on your more challenging parents.
And it’s not just signs that matter: letters home, the school website and even pictures in the hall contribute key messages that can inspire positive or negative behaviours.
So, my challenge to you today:
Stand outside your school gates and start walking into your school:
1. Write down the first ten signs or notices you encounter.
2. What tone and feelings are evoked by the language used?
3. What does the language imply about your school and its priorities?
…and let me know what you do with your findings!