Listening Circles

What are Listening Circles?

Our Non-Executive Director, Kathryn Sullivan writes our latest blog post here to explain in a bit more detail exactly what are these “listening circles” that we promote all the time!

A cross between a focus group and a peer support network, Listening Circles are designed to give every participant a chance to share their experiences with no other goal than to have those perspectives heard. Although we often theme our Listening Circles; there is no requirement for participants to respond to specific questions and we rarely know where the conversations will take us. This makes them super interesting places to be; and many of our parents have told us how much better they have felt just by being in that space. 

What have parents said so far?

So much! There have been such rich conversations, it feels almost too removed to try and summarise; but we’ll give it a go! 

  • Feeling alone is the worst part. Where parents have found great support networks; their experiences are infinitely better – and their children are on a better pathway – than those who feel isolated. Unfortunately, too many parents are going solo on this – and we are going to focus future work on how to find the right support for your situation.
  • There’s no one right way to do this. We all know our children are unique, but with the education system so structured, we sometimes forget that because of their individual nature, our children deserve a bespoke approach. What works for some families often won’t work for others – which is frustrating for educators, parents *and* the children themselves as there might not be a quick out of the box fix. Actually Education aims to provide a range of resources that allow the biggest breadth of strategies. 
  • A child’s experience is very much dependent on those around them. Educators, family members, peers – they all play a major role in ensuring our children have the best possible experience. The lack of overarching education and understanding in these groups can lead to completely disparate experiences for parents and their children. Actually Education is developing resources to help bring people up to speed with the basics; allowing parents and children to develop their own narratives but based on evidence and good practice.
  • There’s a lot still to do. The feeling of overwhelm gets us all sometimes – and at Actually Education, we have recognised that sometimes it’s about doing the little things that brighten our day. We will continue with the Listening Circles for as long as they are valuable, and are looking into other support forums which might help. We know there are lots of organisations out there trying to make a difference in their corner; we want to work in collaboration with as many of these as possible to make the most impact. 
  • Our children are amazing. Not one parent questioned their child’s unique place in this world – bogged down by the system is not the same as being bogged down by our family. It was wonderful to hear stories of love, respect and admiration across the Listening Circle programme and we will do our best to support them, through parents and carers, to have the best start in life possible. 

For more information about our Listening Circles and the work we do, please visit the dedicated page here.