The acceptance of high heels!
Although I like to convince myself I am at least three inches taller than I actually am, the fact of the matter remains that I am actually 5’ 5”!
This effectively means that by the time a significant majority of the children and young people I have ever taught or who have attended schools I have led reach about Year 8 (if not sooner) they are taller than me and continue to grow. In addition, in my daily life outside of education my height can be a barrier - I often have to ask taller people to help me reach things from top shelves in the supermarket and my children find it hilarious to pat me on the head when I am cooking dinner as they tower over me by the side of the stove (I actually quite like that bit of time with my now 20 something boys).
So, in light of the above context you will understand why for the last 25 years I have worn at least three inch heels for work, everyday and for every activity. I have stood in my heels to welcome young people through the school gates at 8.30am and been in those same shoes to supervise their lunch break and then see them depart with a smile and a chat at the end of the day. I have stood on the sidelines of football pitches cheering on our teams in my heels (and then swiftly cleaned them with the kit I always had in the office drawer). In fact my heels have and continue to be a constant source of fascination with ‘how on earth do you manage in those all day’ comments from staff and colleagues being a frequent part of my professional life. Indeed, when I wear flat shoes for work because of a back injury some years ago, I am actually in pain when I return home wearily to remove my shoes in favour of my slippers or dog walking boots.
My heels are my reasonable adjustment! A little crass perhaps but let me explain…
High heels are available in abundance in every shoe shop and store that sells footwear, they are not limited by postcode and they are not seen to make someone who wears them inferior to the next person.
Nobody tells me I can’t wear high heels because it might make me taller than someone else or because they are not worn by everyone else in the workplace.
Outside of the odd enquiry about my stamina in the footwear, no one criticises me or makes me feel bad for wearing them - in fact I often receive positive comments about my choice of shoes.
When I arrive at work no one tells me I have to remove my shoes because not everyone else has high heels on.
In fact high heels are common place and accepted across the globe, they are not special at all!
There are other similarities between this and the SEND agenda in our education sector. For example, the sale of high heels are expected to increase to 3% of market share in 2024 almost equivalent to the proportion of children in mainstream school with an Education Health Care Plan (4.0% in 2022 and rising)
Equity for children and young people with SEND is a moral focus for all of us who hold leadership positions within education. Despite my rather poor attempt to make the point, we must look to ensure that reasonable adjustments are seen as common place and accepted in our settings, ensuring that learners are starting from as level a playing field as possible to access the range of opportunities we work hard in the sector to provide. Sometimes, that means admitting that we can’t meet the needs of an individual learner and other times it means we look through a lens at the culture within our settings to provide for and accept those young people who need something a little bit different or extra. By doing so we will combat the deficit model of SEND that has for many years purveyed our mainstream education system and, rather than focussing on the difference and what children and young people with SEND can’t do; lets focus on what we need to provide for them to maximise what they can do and celebrate their successes with them.
Join us for our FREE Breakfast Briefing on the changing landscape and leadership challenges of SEND to receive legal and practical guidance. The session is aimed at Leaders, SENDCos or leaders of SEND and those with responsibility for SEND in our governance teams. Thursday 16 November 8.30 – 10.0am at Rollits Hull.
Sarah Young, Young+