Why we exist
Our problem: The most vulnerable children are excluded from school, from which point they have poor life chances and too often grow up to become complex adults.
Our purpose: To improve the life outcomes of the most vulnerable children by raising the status and expertise of those who educate them.
Our programme: We are creating a new generation of school leaders, specialist in improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children and committed to reducing school exclusion.
What we value
Purpose: Our work is guided and galvanised by our values and beliefs. We are problem-solvers, and do not wait to act. We are inspired by our purpose to improve life-chances of the most vulnerable young people, and to develop new expertise in the teaching workforce.
Collaboration: We build relationships into our work, give to others readily and use others’ strengths alongside our own, to have greater impact in our work. We are inspirers and facilitators of others; able to influence and to advocate. We see the big picture and strive for better collaboration across services.
Bravery: We are independent thinkers, willing to speak out, to challenge others and the status quo, where it is inconsistent with our shared aims and values. We are able to take decisions despite ambiguity, and are resilient and persistent in the face of challenge.
Excellence: We expect the best from people and do not prejudge; we value quality work, tangible results, and feedback to inform continuous improvement.
Pragmatism: We are able to recognise current limitations and strive for improvements within and beyond them. We are flexible in our thinking, willing to be proved wrong, and able to plan for strategic change, prioritised over shorter-term, shallow goals.
Humility: We are able to be challenged and to learn from experiences and interactions. We are aware and respectful of others’ dignity, insight, knowledge and agency.
Do you believe in zero exclusions?
No. The Difference believes that exclusion is sometimes necessary to create boundaries and promote safety of a whole-school cohort. But by putting better interventions in place, earlier, we believe that many exclusions can be prevented. And by investing in the quality and safety of education for excluded pupils, reintegration can be successful.
How do you meet pupils’ individual needs without creating an ‘excuses’ culture?
The Difference believes that high expectations and compassion for pupils are not mutually exclusive. We exist to develop same reflection and evidence-informed practice in supporting pupils’ emotional, social wellbeing and safety as the best schools currently bring to teaching and learning. Our training programmes are a journey for each practitioner to develop their practice and judgement, to create policies which they feel are flexible for learners’ needs but maintain high expectations of all pupils – especially those most vulnerable.
Are you saying schools should replace other services, with teachers becoming more like social workers and mental health specialists?
No. The Difference believes that schools can be powerful conveners of services and champions of pupils. Currently there is no training for teachers in how other services work or how to access them. We believe that by providing this training, we will help create leaders with a ‘wide lens’ on the need of the whole child and a system view of what is needed to support them. We are inspired by current mainstream leaders who push the boundaries of a schools’ traditional role in their local community and are creative in finding solutions where local services aren’t working as they should.