Can we take a different approach in education?

Can we take a different approach in education?

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I hear many times from educators that they are constrained by the government targets and drives these days. I can see that in how they feel they have to run their schools. But my question today is – do they HAVE to run them like that? Are we really so constrained that we can’t take a different approach? I know this will be a controversial post for some but I’m convinced the statement needs to be challenged – do we just say “we have no choose in how we run our schools” or in fact can we and should we be looking at things differently? Maybe challenging the status quo, the government pressures and forging a different path?

I have been with a group of Heads this morning from an Academy that has schools both primary and secondary across the country. All run differently of course but with a common goal to unlock the potential in all their students. After a conversation with some the thought has been running around my head – of course I don’t run a school or know the actual daily pressures Heads face. We are told though aren’t we, as parents, about the targets and pressures to achieve as a school and I know some of us parents are guilty of piling on more pressure in order to get the best education we can for our children.

However – I wonder whether the comment about having no choice is actually true. Fundamentally we all have a choice in our lives of how we decide to run our lives – some things we may feel we have no choice but some we most definitely do. Are the decisions Heads and Principles make actually in the interest of the pupils or the government? Are they mutually exclusive? I’m particularly more concerned about our secondary school environments and cultures. The feeling of aloofness sometimes from senior management to the complex needs of the children and finding ways to meet those needs. As I’m writing this I know there are many senior leaders who are trying desperately to meet those needs, it’s not for want of trying, but we must take a different approach across our education systems if we are to produce emotionally resilient children who can contribute to our society and can effect change.

When working with vulnerable children, actually any children for that matter, the mentality we have many times in primary schools could be well served in secondary. Why does the Head in a primary school very often have that nurtured, fun and approachable style and then once the children get to secondary school they are faced with a serious, business focused, unapproachable Head? What is it about secondary school that seems to suck out the fun and life from people. My children, two of whom are now in secondary cannot work this out in their minds. Their primary school Head was like a cuddly grandmother – their Head teacher now is more like a very stern taskmaster that you only get to meet if you are in real trouble. I understand that my ramblings will evoke many reactions and it is only my observations not just of my children’s experiences but of many primary and secondary schools. The culture and environment changes so much when children move up and I really don’t understand why that has to be!

We are all so different – in our backgrounds and experiences, in our personalities and abilities and in our strength and resilience to cope in different environments. For my children, and again many others I know – not just adopted children, the culture and atmosphere in our secondary schools is appalling. The fact that they have to deal with being picked on, sworn out, humiliated and degraded by their peers and older students saddens me every day. Just because a child may be different in some way it seems ok in our schools to make their life a misery for six hours a day. I just don’t understand it! And whilst I know most schools take a very serious stance on bullying and will deal with it after the event – the fact that it happens in the first place seems like something “we have no control over”. I can understand why many adoptive parents are looking to alternatives like home schooling. Why would you want your child who may have already experienced violence and humiliation in the home, to have to endure it every day at school too?!

So I guess my post today is about difference. Can we take a different approach to education? I am desperately looking up and down the country for different ways of doing things to encourage others to look at those ways too. Also within our schools and what we are teaching our own children – difference is good. The fact that someone sees life through different eyes should be valued and esteemed – it is when we’re adults why not when we’re children?

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