Introducing one-page profiles in school – a different way of thinking

Written by David Noble, Head of Middle School at Manchester Grammar School

It was because we understand the importance of treating our pupils as individuals and nurturing their individual gifts and talents outside of the standard classes that we embarked on our personalisation journey and made contact with Helen Sanderson Associates.

It was 2012 and after learning about one-page profiles with H S A Consultant Gill Goodwin, we set about introducing the tool to year 9 and year 10 pupils – 360 pupils in total.  A one-page profile is generally considered to be the foundation of personalisation (personalised support tailored to an individual). It is a simple tool that facilitates good conversations with people and draws out information that is then recorded on a single page. It illustrates what people like and admire about another, what is important to them and how best to support them. Its power lies in its simplicity and its ability to communicate well and empower individuals. It can also be used by teachers to better understand a pupil.

The most attractive function that we felt the process could perform for us was encouraging the pupils to think in a slightly different way. One-page profiles are about your hopes and fears, your passions and your dislikes. They encourage the pupils to think and talk about what is important to them and how best to support them in this. These are questions and ideas that many people (and in particular,  teenage boys) don’t get asked and therefore don’t spend much time thinking about.

When first introducing the one-page profiles we used what we believed to be the best, most in-depth (and therefore comprehensive) method of gathering the information; a one- to-one session between the boys and their Tutors. During this time together, pupils completed an appreciation exercise and discussed what was important in their lives. We later changed this approach for a more resilient one realising that it wasn’t sustainable in our school environment (but more on this in future blogs). We quickly understood the power of one-page profiles and their ability to get the boys to reflect in a way that other school activities didn’t. Having been a teenage boy and having worked with them in schools, I’ve observed that on balance little importance is placed on encouraging self-reflection and engaging critically with one’s own character. We wanted to make a point that quality self-reflection is a very important part of a person’s development and future success.

I think the introduction of this ‘way of thinking’ has been the single most successful outcome of the one-page profiles in our school so far.  The process of producing them, the questions that were thought about and the conversations that were had, have taken our pupils into new directions and this is invaluable.

In my next blogs I’ll be talking more about the mechanics of introducing one-page profiles in school, what we have learned along the way and how we refined our approach to something bespoke that suits us. I will also discuss the ways in which we have tried to involve parents in the process.

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