Exploring the NEC Podcast – Postbag: Insights and Discussion Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Welcome to our fifth podcast! In this episode, Esther Chesterman, CEO of NEC and Samreen Shah take a trip down memory lane to the nostalgic radio postbag format, where we discuss the thoughts  and questions sent in by our listeners. Covering four main topics, we dive into the engaging  conversations we’ve had with our guests and share valuable insights. Join us as we explore the  highlights of the NEC Podcast. To listen to the episode, you can use the player above or download it from our Podbean page.

Access to Education: Fostering Inclusive Environments 

We start by revisiting the topic that initially brought us together: access to education. With 75% of  exam officers expressing concerns about the availability of competent exam officers, it’s crucial to  address the challenges surrounding access arrangements. We share a heartwarming story from a listener named Don, who praises their child’s school for understanding and supporting their access  arrangements. This anecdote emphasises the emotional impact of access arrangements and the  importance of fostering a supportive environment for all students. 

A listener named Jess raises an essential question about the future of access arrangements,  considering the difficulties schools and colleges face in implementing them. We discuss the potential role of local authorities in ensuring suitable exam venues for all students, while acknowledging the current tension between traditional exam settings and technological advancements like artificial intelligence (AI). The conversation opens an intriguing avenue to explore in future episodes and invites the listeners to contemplate the impact of AI on the examination system. 

School Refusal: Supporting Children and Parents 

In our second topic, we delve into the issue of school refusal, recognising that the term itself can be  negative and laden with blame. We highlight the prevalence of anxiety-related absences, with  140,000 severely absent children in the UK. Drawing on our guest expert’s insights, we offered guidance to a listener named May, who sought support and advice for their child’s school refusal.  Our discussion emphasises the need for parents to feel supported and acknowledges the importance  of reframing school refusal as an issue rooted in anxiety, removing blame and embracing patience. 

Mindfulness in Education: Cultivating Emotional Wellbeing 

Our third topic reflects on our conversation with Dr Helen Maffini, an advocate for mindfulness in  education. We express our enthusiasm for the insightful discussion and the passion Helen displayed. Mindfulness practices provide valuable tools for students and educators to cultivate emotional wellbeing and promote a positive learning environment. We highlight the importance of incorporating mindfulness techniques into educational settings to nurture students’ mental and emotional health. 

ADHD in the Classroom 

In our most recent podcast, we had Karyn Nash, NEC’s Pastoral Care Officer join us, and Karyn was really inspiring. We both felt that talking about her own journey through discovery and a late diagnosis of ADHD, and how her childhood was shaped through education, was a powerful focus for our discussion. 

We discussed the challenges she faced and the moment when it became particularly difficult for her  to move forward. However, she also shared how opening up a new area of her life, once she had  strategies in place to manage her diagnosis, allowed her to pursue a degree, transition into teaching,  and now into pastoral support. 

After the episode, we received a message from a listener named Tia, who shared how Karyn’s story  inspired her to talk to her manager about her own diagnosis. As managers ourselves, this message  made us reflect on the importance of creating a safe space for our team members and considering  the adaptations necessary to support them. 

The phrase you used, “understand the whole person,” really resonated with me. It reminds us that  everyone has their own unique story, and it’s important to take the time to listen and understand. I  think back to the first time we met and how we shared bits of our stories with each other. It was a  beautiful way to connect and learn about each other’s beliefs and values. 


As we conclude this post bag episode, we express our gratitude to our listeners for their engagement  and participation. We reflect on the significant topics covered, from access to education and the  future of access arrangements to school refusal and mindfulness in education and ADHD in the  classroom. We encourage our audience to continue sharing their thoughts, questions, and  experiences, as their engagement is instrumental in shaping future podcast episodes. Stay tuned for  more captivating conversations and valuable insights on the NEC Podcast.

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