I am using my alarm clock app to fundraise for our village school. If you can help please follow the instructions below and share with all your friends. Thank you.
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
What is the most important thing about this moment for you?
I have finished reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book ‘Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up’
I loved it. I was so taken with the sense of possibility and the examples of how people have made such a difference in schools around the world. The thing that always strikes me when I hear or read these things is that in order for this type inspirational change to occur the situation has often hit the lowest point it can. All other main stream options have not produced the results required so the school (often with a new head) is given the freedom to do things differently or creatively! Then all manner of great things happen.
This is a problem because most of the education system is kind of ‘OK’ in most peoples eyes. We want things to be better but don’t want to rock the boat too much. But these great things would happen in any school in any situation.
Why would you not want to:
-Listen to what the children say
-Have happy staff all working together with a common ethos
-Be surrounded by happy, positive people
-Enjoy being part of the whole community of pupils,staff,parents and those living around the school
-Share in the joy of learning together
The real question should be for all schools – Is what you are doing in this moment from a place of fear or joy?
I say this partly because as I finished the book I read a review from a writer at TES which absolutely slated it.
While everyone is entitled to their opinions what I was left with was my roller coaster of emotions.
I had finished reading Creative Schools and felt great, then I read the review and felt heartbroken and sad. After some thought it seemed to me that my feelings were not about what was said in the review (or the book for that matter) but the feeling I got from the writers.
One was open, positive and almost a celebration of joy and the other a fearful slamming. My interest is in why the review was written in the way it was rather than just the fact it didn’t agree with the book.
I took this thought forward into some music workshops I have been doing at an Academy School. This school is in the middle of a very poor area. There are major behavioural issues with some pupils and I know the school is changing its focus away from being creative to a more ‘traditional’ outlook. This always saddens me because I know how the arts can really speak to those children who seem so lost in school. I started to get a little despondent about the situation and the system and how things could be ‘better’ in my eyes anyway.
It sometimes seems so hard to make people see the whole picture but I realised that you don’t have to. At that moment I had the opportunity to share my joy of what we were doing with the class. My energy came from excitement and joy not fear. While one or two children still seemed to find their situation a struggle a larger proportion willed each other to a level of achievement and enjoyment not felt before. It is only for an hour a week for 8 weeks but each visit has a sense of opportunity, it opens a window of light for those children to have seen only darkness for lots of their life.
Given a blank canvass I would do the workshops in a very different way in a different system. That used to be my frustration but now I see that in every moment I can except what I can not change and show those around me what could be.
At this point every moment is opening someones window a little further and that is ‘my’ most important thing.
It is the collection of everyones ‘moments’ that helps change and it is creating a place to share these joyful experiences I want to focus on now.
Here are the links to Sir Ken Robinson’s book and the TES review. I would be very interested to know your thoughts.
Thanks for now…..
I have been trying very hard not to write this post! I wanted to write something positive, inspiring and helpful. But I realised that in order to do that I must first be honest, put my hand up and admit I am truly frustrated – even angry – with what I am experiencing with the school my daughter is attending.
This is a school just rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.
It is possible that I am over analysing this but the emotion is real and keeps returning. I may be the only person in the world who thinks, feels and believes this but I am going to write it anyway. In doing so it releases me to post part 2 of this blog which will be my thoughts on how schools and education can inspire our children irrespective of an Ofsted grade.
I loved the fact that when it snowed my daughters class were allowed to go out and play. They were so excited by this seemingly amazing gift. They have a NQT who is great and you can tell she still has the ambition of wanting to be in education. This comes across beautifully to the children.
There was another day recently when after weeks of asking “how was your day?” the reply was not “fine” as usual but “epic”. Wow what had happened on this epic day? It transpired that they had spent all morning doing art and all afternoon doing P.E no boring writing! A REWARD for having spent the previous week doing tests.
I loved these 2 days. The children were excited and the rest of the day at home was fun and creative. Hurrah, but shouldn’t this be everyday?
Sadly these are only 2 days out of the norm. So what is the norm? Lots of Literacy and Maths. Lots of sitting and writing just because that’s what is needed. Doing important learning for the future. Created by a system of rules and testing to make all children fit into a preconceived one size fits all way of learning.
For me there is the blind lack of understanding and unfathomable logic. For example we have just had World Book Day. A great song and dance was made and we had to create character related costumes that our children could wear to school. In assembly we were shown slides of each class. I wholly support these kind of days, I think the creative part should be done at school not left to the parents but that’s another story!
But the real story is this. Yes it was a good day. But my daughter is so bored with having to read the school reading scheme that our home school reading is on many occasions a real struggle. I have found it very hard to support her and seemingly support the school in their home school agreement we had to sign at beginning of each year with regards to homework.
The reality of the schools interest in this is that her teacher has listened to her read these school books 4 times this academic year! It is us as her parents who do this work. We are very well placed to know what she is capable of. When she asks why can’t I be a free reader the true answer would not be very supportive of the school system. So we have a fine line to tread. Instead we enjoy reading lots of other books together. We decided to not fight about reading the dreary school books with her and focus on enjoyment. It helps us all. During this time she received a Head Teachers Award for using great words and descriptive writing at school. This was just after she had read a book at home that she loved. You could argue why not read both the school reading scheme and your own books. I would say life is too busy and short to waste time and energy on being uninspired and fighting about something that is bringing everyones energy down at the end of the day just because you are told so! Tell me the purpose beyond ‘it is what we do because of the system’ and I’ll take some interest.
Why take part in a book day to inspire reading but not allow a pupil to grow and thrive in reading books that are interesting, relevant and fun. I want this wave of enthusiasm to be encouraged and supported not drained out by an old ideal of learning.
Red nose day is coming up and the children were told to bring in a £1 donation for a nose. But the school did not buy enough for every child so our experience of this fun charity opportunity was lots of disappointed pupils being told at the office that they didn’t have any left. A very deflating start to the day? Yes more red noses could be bought but why would a school not put the children first and create a system that meant every child had the chance to get what they had been promised. It would hardly be difficult to buy 1 per child and only allow each child to buy 1 nose. The worse case scenario is that nobody buys any noses and therefore the school has given the money to charity, but is that really likely?
A small thing but it constantly demonstrates that it is not the children that are the first thing to be considered when making decisions.
In assembly this morning it was announced that the school had sent a team to a netball tournament. When we were told they came last a member of the senior management said but it’s ok because we only had one practice and we are proud of you.
My thoughts immediately rang out with ARE YOU LISTENING to yourself.
You are actually saying you were not prepared. We didn’t support you with the skills needed to do your best. Sport is not important we have other things that fill up our time.
Why is it ok to spend the best part of a year preparing children for SATS by doing endless past papers but not give them the skills for a sports event?
Are you interested in the children or just the schools ranking on a table? Is it not possible to do both?
The examples are endless and tiring. I feel better for acknowledging my feelings and bewilderment in what I experience.
I think you need a completely different approach, outlook and focus.
I have previously spoken to the school about these and similar situations. I encourage my daughter to express herself to the teachers. But sadly the culture is of fear not growth. Children want to be good and don’t want to be told off, she wants to do the right thing. But it is not her right thing but what she believes is right in the eyes of the school. It is very hard to support your child to be true to themselves when they spend so much of their time in school with a culture that is driven by right and wrong. Getting things right is good making mistakes is bad. Speaking up for yourself is hard when the fear of reprisal is great. Somewhere along the line this is the message that has come across to a seven year old child.
How could this change? A broader curriculum?
This doesn’t just mean doing more arts related subjects (which I would love), it is much more back to basics than that. We need to know what education fundamentally means, why we are doing it and then listen to our children about how they can best receive it.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest Part 2 will be about how it can be different.
This really interested me. With the new term starting it has got my education juices flowing again.
Full blog to follow
Do you feel that your child is inspired and enthused at their school? Do they come bounding out at the end of the day telling you all the wonderful exciting things they have learnt?
Sadly in my experience the opposite is often the case. I started to feel quite upset about this and felt that even if I wished it was different what could I do. The education system is so rigid, schools often feel handcuffed to the latest curriculum. I am not a politician and have no influence, or do I?
I wrote an email to the school asking some questions about how they taught and prioritised different subjects. How national testing fitted into their planning.
I received an email back from the Head Teacher who said my questions were about the ethos of the school and would I like to come in and discuss it?
So I arranged the meeting and asked that the Chair of Governors also be present.
Here are the main questions I asked.
Does the school believe that all children should strive for and be supported to fulfil their potential?
How does the school do this?
Irrespective of how the school is required to follow the curriculum is the quality and high standard of teaching important when delivering all subjects and activities within the school?
I felt these questions were important because it gets to the heart of what education is and how the school delivers it. Governments change as do curriculums. Head Teachers change too but a school that knows what its ethos really is should be able to adapt putting the pupils first.
I received the response I expected. The politically correct every child matters, the pupils come first, all pupils are supported to fulfil their potential, the subjects are taught to the highest standards even thought the focus maybe curriculum led.
This is great because it confirms what the school says it is doing. It does however highlight discrepancies in fact.
For example if sport is taught to the same level as English how can a team representing the school be taken to an inter school competition with a member of staff who does not know the rules of the game. Would it be OK for the same member of staff to teach English without knowing anything about spelling or punctuation?
How can the politically correct response from the Head be true if this situation took place?
Surely it shows that sport on this occasion was not given the same level of teaching that would be required in a SATS examined subject. The children taking part could not be inspired and supported to fulfil their potential. If this event was to be the day that caught the imagination of a pupil who thrives from being active rather than just being in a classroom it was missed.
So my 5 ways to help my child.
1. Find out what is the ethos of the school.
2. Look at all aspects of your and your child’s experience and see if it is being fulfilled.
3. If it is not being fulfilled go to the school and ask why?
4. See if it changes and how. It might just be the spotlight the school requires to look at itself.
5. If you are not happy look for a new school.
If everyone asked these simple questions of their school do you think education would have a very different look?