Signalling status

How to build belonging in school

Hey 👋

Yesterday was solstice, and so our days now move from getting longer to getting shorter (or vice versa). Undeterred by seasonal shifts, we continue on our theme of belonging with the idea of status

Big idea 🍉

Belonging can be a powerful catalyst for improving behaviour and learning in school. But how can we secure it? ‘Signalling status’ is one approach.

Status is an indicator of our ‘fit’ within a group. The degree to which our membership is acknowledged, our contribution is appreciated, and our preferences are respected. The more our status is secured, the greater our feeling of belonging.

We can signal status for students in our classes (and school) by:

1. Recognising → Demonstrating to our students that we 'see' them, we 'know' them, and we 'value' them—by using their names, referring to their interests, and highlighting their contributions and achievements.

2. Including → Ensuring that everyone is included in activities, discussions, jokes, and celebrations—and where possible, giving key students a 'role' in class or school (such as resource manager or sports leader).

3. Framing → Using the language of ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘you’ and ‘me’, to emphasise the collective nature and shared fate of classroom activity.

How we frame feedback is a particularly sensitive area. Pupils can easily interpret feedback as criticism from the teacher and a sign of rejection. You’ve got this question incorrect can easily become I’m not accepted here.

We can turn this risk into a resource by framing feedback as a defining feature of the group. In this class, we all push each other, because we care about everyone getting better.

Signals of status from teachers are good, but signals of status from peers are even better. This is why it's so important to invest in a positive classroom culture where peer contributions are valued and treated with respect. Even something as simple as 'tracking the speaker' (aka looking at them) sends an implicit signal that they are part of the group.

"Cohesion and trust occur when group members send and receive small, frequently occuring signals of belonging."

— Doug Lemov

In many ways, building belonging is subtle practice—made up of the aggregation of many tiny gestures over time. An affirming glance at the right moment can go a long way.

Finally, belonging doesn't just matter for students—it's also crucial for staff. All of the above applies to teachers as much as students, and is extra important when times are tough.

Challenge → How do you ‘signal status’ to students in your class/school? How might you elevate status even further for those who need it the most?


• Status is an indicator of our ‘fit’ within a group—a signal of belonging.

• We can signal status through recognition, inclusion, and framing.

• The more we can get students (and teachers) signalling status for each other, the better.

Little links 🥕

Hope all the pieces are beginning to fall into place for ya.

Peps 👊