Saturday, 2 February 2013

Education Standards in Suffolk - It's up to YOU!

I think its about time we all had a very honest debate about schools in our town and county. It is so easy to blame the politicians but I think their role is a very small proportion of what makes a school's success.

Ipswich Spy has written a very good article today about this and I have made a comment to the writer, copied below;

Time for everyone to get together. As I tweeted last week it is down to Heads, Teachers, parents, the pupils themselves as well as SCC. You can lead a horse to water etc.. With rights comes responsibilities.  You have the right to be educated in this country but you need to turn up!  You need engagement of parents and we need more aspiration from the Heads. The best schools have heads who believe all their pupils can do well, are aspiring and instill discipline, who have great head boys and head girls and where parents get involved and there is a great community around it. Cllr Newman is a capable and knowledgeable man with the right attitude to take this forward. Dont blame him! This is so so much wider. Dare I say it Ipswich is not an aspirational town and can be stuck in it's ways. Lets have a shake up and make sure EVERYONE takes the rap for this……

I know Cllr Graham Newman and he is an intelligent, considerate, calm and knowledgeable politician who I admire greatly. Quite frankly its a load of tosh to put the blame solely on his doorstep. Shame on the rest of you, including the media who hate to run feel good stories about our people, instead choosing to highlight the negative, under the misconception that it will always sell more. Time to show our town in it's most glorious.

With my other hat on - my business hat - I work in a lot of schools and i can tell you that they differ greatly from town to town, area to area. So if it's the politician's job for standards to rise, how can there be this disparity?

My own view is that the head makes the biggest difference. They have the influence over the whole school and show their teachers how they would like to see the school run and how the vulnerable pupils can be helped. If they have the strength to stand up to parents and insist on their involvement with their child, it can make all the difference. I also noticed that the best schools have 'Head boys/girls' who are respected by all the pupils, where their influence is one that makes them proud and not seen as teachers pet. Pupils need mentors, 'buddies' and for all staff to be signed up to the same ethos.

There are times when i am truly flabbergasted at the behaviour of some pupils, where I have had the door literally shut on my face when i am carrying boxes of training equipment etc instead of being held open for me. i have heard the most awful swear words being shouted out in the corridors and not one teacher has pulled them up on their behaviour. I might be old fashioned but that would NEVER have been allowed in my day.  Now I don't want to go back to the old days where pupils were seen and not listened to but there has to be a good way that's somewhere in the middle.

Peer pressure in school is a huge factor with a lack of confidence that is quite rife in Ipswich  that means students pretend not to care or work hard in order to seem 'cool'. There are many ways to combat this with good partnership working and some emotional intelligence training. Life skills are more important than the subjects studied in my book. Confidence is key to success for all of us. My nephew left school with hardly any qualifications and is already a top salesman in his industry because he is such a confident young man who believes he can do anything. And he can!

Good parents will always take time to communicate with their children, instill discipline for homework and check their progress with teacher, backing them up when appropriate in a non-defensive way. We have to work with teachers not against them for a healthy relationship. Children respect their parents more when boundaries are made and kept. Its plain common sense. Setting a good example with hard work, focus and determination will encourage the right attitude in their children. It isn't up to politicians and teachers to do all of this work.

I also think good teachers will always plan their work to the highest capability within the class, not the lowest. This is the only way to see who needs help catching up and who is keeping up. Aspiration and confidence can only grow this way and we can't afford to keep everyone down in the name of ease or equality.

And this is my last point. Equality should be about equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. If a pupil works harder than others then they need to have teachers who ensure they are always challenged. Instead of dumbing down exams, we need to raise the capability and we can only do that if every pupil knows what 'best' looks like, even if they do not quite reach it.

Personal goals should always be challenging and I'd like to see more goal setting in schools. All pupils have a gift to offer the world (and want to do well and make their parents proud). We just need to help them find it... 

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