I’m against school cuts but is your school making the most of free opportunities?

I have had many detailed chats with the headteacher of my daughter’s school about education and I have previously fallen for the rhetoric I heard. Last summer I supported them by offering half a day of music for 10 weeks. At the end of the term I asked on multiple occasions for a time to discuss and assess what had been achieved. They were too busy to fit this in – well the school is expanding with new building work going on. However new buildings don’t make a school, people do and this is very clearly put by Janice Mardell in my podcast episode 003 which you can listen to here.

What is heartbreaking is that I offered this help because a visitor to the school had previously said that the school obviously wasn’t very musical. This was so sad because when I was first involved with the school, music was at it’s heart. But headteachers have come and gone and staff have changed. As a result there is no orchestra or ensemble for my daughter to perform in. Her horn lessons have no immediate focus in school, in fact all of her skills and abilities are given to her by clubs and opportunities we pay for outside of the curriculum!

The meeting I was proposing last summer was going to result in me offering my services as a professional musician and educator for one day a week for a year – free of charge – to support music and the creative curriculum. I wanted to do this for my daughter and her friends using the skills I have.

However without a meeting I couldn’t offer my help and arranged my work diary to fit my other obligations that I did know about.

The real sadness for me is that the opportunity was there. During the 10 weeks last summer the pupils got to know me, I was stopped in the street by them to say hello. One of the children of an assistant headteacher was in my class and I was told how much her son had enjoyed it.

Until now I have not used social media to express my feeling about this particular situation, but I wonder if seeing it in a blog will be seen as supportive or negative? Feedback is important to schools and this is a way I can deliver it that will be seen and heard by all.

 

While I want Education on Fire to be positive I also want you to know I understand the frustrations that you can encounter as a teacher or educator. My frustration was both as a parent and educator. My daughter’s school weren’t listening to me and as a result I couldn’t offer my help and support.

What do you do in that situation? Do what you can. I have devoted even more time working on Education on Fire and finding examples of great things that are going on in schools to set your imaginations racing!

You can listen to all my podcasts at www.educationonfire.com/episodes/

 

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Helpful or Ego

Below is a letter I have written but NOT sent to my child’s Head Teacher. It is in response to an email about a question I had regarding the incorrect wording of a letter from the school that contradicted a school policy. It was admitted that the letter was wrong but maybe a quick chat to a member of staff would be better than my original email asking the question. However I feel that the issues are a bit more far reaching and need more serious thought by the school.

I have thought long and hard about what is best for me and the school as you will see below.

I can not decide whether my response is from my ego or self. Is it supportive of me and the school or is my ego calling the shots. I would love to know your thoughts!

 

Dear Head Teacher

I have thought long and hard about what is best for the school and I keep coming back to the same belief. I am sending this email as positive constructive feedback which I hope will enable you to create the school which we have talked about at length!
I whole heartily support what you are trying to achieve at the school. I believe creativity and inspiration are the key not just to your success but for the future understanding and development of the world in which our children will be living.
I have personally committed 10 afternoons of my time to help re-launch music back into the school as part of what I believe is your vision of what RPS can offer it’s pupils with all the attributes and benefits related to it.
As an example this step sets you on a positive path that I hope supports all other ideas that can enhance the learning in the school. This is all brilliant. As it grows the school can be a truly great place to learn, work and live.
We have talked about community and communication before. It is here that an ‘untrue’ picture of what you are trying to create starts to emerge. Sadly these positive steps forward are not what I hear in the RPS playground. More of a concern is that it is not what I hear at outside clubs when parents from different schools are chatting about their experiences of the different schools.
For me the problem is that it is hard to adjust this picture. Yes I promote that I support the school to these parents. I say I am giving my time for free to help create your vision, show the future is bright and on an upward path.
However the battle is against history and real experiences. You will be aware of the great talking abilities of previous (unnamed) heads! Lots of rhetoric with smoke and mirrors. It didn’t help the progress of school.
So even when I am singing the schools praises and showing a bright future it is hard to combat negativity when based in fact not just ideal gossip and moaning hearsay.
I don’t have answers to these questions when I am asked them but knowing this may help you to help me combat them in future.
– My children say they are bored by all the Maths and English. I know it’s important and often dictated by the government but why does the school – the very people teaching my children – not demonstrate what they are saying is important to my children?
Letters are often sent out with incorrect information or spelling mistakes why? It shows the document has not been given due care and attention or checked through. Does this mean the school doesn’t believe in what it is teaching? Can the staff do the job? It’s seen as just a silly mistake that doesn’t matter? But it does seem to matter to my children when they are in class?
– Does the ethos and values of the school only apply to the children not all those involved in the school? Shouldn’t the school lead by example?
– Maybe they are so stretched and it is not possible to check everything. How is that going to work when the school is double the size as planned for the near future.? If they don’t even have time to read things properly I’m not sure about the safety of my child when the school is a building site.
– I don’t like the amount of time or structure of the homework. It is a real battle at home sometimes. What really gets my goat though is that after going through all that, the homework isn’t marked properly of even correctly. I just don’t care now it’s not worth the effort!
– My child got inspired by something in school and came home and did a whole load of extra work just because they wanted to. They took it into the teacher but they didn’t really pay any attention to it. I felt so sad.
– Why do the school not see the whole picture? Going on a trip before school means there is no club? But I have paid for this club already and there is no mention of it? Do I get my money back? If I do then the club loses their money that doesn’t seem right, can’t these things be organised more in advance? How is this making the school part of a community.
– I’ve asked the same questions to my child’s teacher about something but nothing changes, they don’t get it. I’ve stopped trying. The school is fine much like all the other local schools. Not like x school they are doing x they really know what they are doing it is like a different world!
– I think the new Head Teacher is great and the children really like him. The school could be really good but some of the staff are so stuck in their ways how is it really going to change? Are we going to have to wait for them to leave or retire? My child will be long gone by then.
There are many more but you will see the bigger picture and is not the picture that we have talked about. Yes you can say that you will always have people complaining but if the complaint has any amount of truth or reality in it then it has much more fuel.
As I said I am sending this out of concern. It can feel like every step forward then results in two back. To take a rugby analogy it looks good sometimes but they keep dropping the ball and can’t move over the game line.
I’m sure some of this may be possible to change now, some will take time and some things just need shouting about in a louder voice.
Anything you can do to help me answer these types of questions so I can continue to help support the school would be very helpful.
Kind regards
Mark