This “college” idea, which has been going for a few years now, aims to offer opportunities to students to which many of them would not normally have access because of their economic background. At the same time it encourages staff, both teaching and non-teaching, to make use of skills they already possess and which they want to share with pupils. Occasionally, you find a member of staff developing their career further as a consequence of having taught at our college. Because this “college” takes place only once per week in the afternoon, the atmosphere is more relaxed when you walk around the school. It was this idea of alternative, fun, teaching that led me to join in this year.
Before I carry on, though, a disclaimer. I am writing in a personal capacity and this post in no way reflects my employer’s opinions.
What I have found out in my first two weeks with this group of students is that some of them have already internalised other people’s perceptions of them and allowed these people to place limitations on their learning. I don’t know whether this comes from home via their parents or carers, or if it is their teachers labelling them, or if, perhaps, their classmates have a role to play in this situation. What is real is that these are very young children, between 8 and 11 years old, with a low opinion of themselves. To make matters worse, a new consultation led by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and David Laws, schools minister, won’t help these kids.
|Tarring and feathering: do we want the same for our children?|
... and cue horror and panic. Because, you would, wouldn’t you? You would panic if someone told you that your little Johnny or little Jenny is not up to the level s/he should be. Basically, what these tests will be telling is that s/he’s thick. Clegg’s argument, that this new proposal will raise standards, is nonsense. You don’t raise standards by labelling children, especially at that young age. You raise standards by going out of your way to make sure that children get an all-round education.
An all-round education for me is not just knowing what a metaphor is, but how certain situations are metaphors for how we relate to people in life. An all-round education is developing ways in which children learn how to choose a friend, the qualities that make a good friendship and how important it is to think of your other half as your friend. An all-round educations aims to raise awareness of the cycle of life, making it clear to children that wrinkles, loss of hearing and poor eyesight are natural processes and that some people go through these stages and others don’t. Above all, an all-round education is one where students are not passive recipients but active agents. Agents for the acquisition of knowledge and the reasoning of it. Having a critical mind is fundamental to understanding the world in which we live.
We know that there are children who lag behind. They don’t need a tag, they need support. They need education to come to them sideways, since maybe the full frontal approach doesn’t work. The last thing they need is a sign hung around their necks that reads, “not secondary school ready”.
I look at the ten pupils whom I teach every week, their hands up in the air wanting to answer a question in German or about a German-speaking country and I wonder: which one will succeed? Which one will fail? And what do “succeed” and “fail” mean in this context? Maybe one of them will end up working in a bakery, waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning to make the dough, earning a pittance but happy because s/he has a partner who is supportive, their own place and a cat. Who knows? And the place where the scene above will take place: Austria. Or Switzerland. Or Luxembourg. In that case they’ll realise that the German they learnt for those five or six weeks was worth their time and effort.
Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 25th September at 11:59pm (GMT)