Saturday, 18 August 2012

When Schooling Becomes Parenting…

Dorothy Lepkowska (no 'Guardian' bio) describes a rather unusual class:
The pupils file in quietly class by class, the school hall lit from the front with five candles on a table.
Oooh! ‘elf n’ safety!
Soft music plays in the background and images of the pupils taken at various times of the year appear as a slideshow. It is the last assembly of the academic year at Tower Hill primary in Witney, Oxfordshire, and an opportunity for staff and children to reflect on the last 12 months.
And what …ummm, ‘reflections’ they are:
Brandon comes forward and tells the school how he learned to curb his anger. He now counts to 10 if someone has made him cross.
Annie says pupils tend not to tell lies any more or try to "get out of" something they have done wrong.
Alana says she is proud of the moment she persevered with a difficult task in class when it might have been easier just to give up.
It’s easy to mock. Very easy.
This school is located in the heart of David Cameron's Witney constituency in west Oxfordshire, but its philosophy is some way removed from the culture of change and competition brought to the system by Cameron's government via its education secretary.
"Michael Gove would consider our approach far too ephemeral and touchy-feely," says Tracey Smith, the headteacher. "But we would like him to visit us, and will be extending an invitation, so he can see what we're achieving here in a stable, happy environment. It might do his public image a lot of good if he did not appear so rigid in his thinking."
This is, of course, the latest fad: ‘values-based education’.

A very different sort of primary school, this one. No more simply babysitting little Shaneece and hoping she won’t eat too much fingerpaint mix before Krystelle picks her up, not cramming young Eustace full of facts before the nanny comes to pick him up.

Now, the school is ‘teaching’…well, frankly, the sort of things they should have already learned at home:
The ethos embraces qualities such as respect, courage, honesty, compassion and integrity among the school community, underpinned by high expectations. Its proponents believe that this ethical vocabulary, which is used and understood even by the youngest children, creates the ideal environment for learning by promoting a peaceful and calm atmosphere.
And this isn’t just a fad that we can pass off as affecting the Islington set, either:
Nobody would describe Witney as a disadvantaged area but this school does not mainly serve the affluent "Chipping Norton set" or their like. In this school more than 30% of children are entitled to free school meals, against a national average of 19.3% in primary schools and an Oxfordshire average of 9.8%. A third of pupils here have special needs.
This is…rather sad:
At lunchtimes a family scenario is created in the dining hall with pupils and teachers sitting in groups and serving each other. No one eats before everyone has their food.
"It teaches them manners and creates an environment that some may not get at home," Smith says.
So now schools are becoming families, as increasingly, families no longer bother.

How long before we move straight to the State Podding Hutches?

6 comments:

ranter said...

A damn shame that schools have to do this at all - but in a way SOMEONE has to other wise the future for us all looks very bleak. I'm sure that the majority of readers will endure anti-social noise from 'neighbours' during this hot summer weekend - ill mannered chavvy oiks who have no concept of consideration, manners or neighbourliness.

Tatty said...

Beats me why these appalling levels of social and emotional development are not regarded as a form of child abuse and linked in the straight line it should be...right to the criminal offending of at least Some of the parents.

The "teaching" offered in these schools would serve society better as part of Social Services intervention programs and Justice System Rehabilitation programs...for the breeders.

Ideals of what "Education" should consist of are becoming ever more perverse as a direct result of the failure of Adults to effectively to deal with the negative effects on us all of the behaviour of other adults.

Like...it's ok let the adults do whatever they like 'cos we'll get to the kids instead.

There's something very badly wrong there.

Dr Cromarty said...

What's the betting they play the execrable Lennon dirge 'Imagine' during their candlelit assemblies?

JuliaM said...

"...but in a way SOMEONE has to other wise the future for us all looks very bleak."

I think it looks bleak no matter what we do now.

"Ideals of what "Education" should consist of are becoming ever more perverse as a direct result of the failure of Adults to effectively to deal with the negative effects on us all of the behaviour of other adults."

I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that long for an improvement!

"What's the betting they play the execrable Lennon dirge 'Imagine' during their candlelit assemblies?"

Ugh! Probably ... :/

Tatty said...

I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that long for an improvement!

Indeed ! AT this rate...assuming the target age is (on average) 5 years old...it will take at least 13 years before any real benefits to the children and the rest of society are measureable in any way.

Mind you, that also assumes this approach is consistent for all children in the class and will continue...intense and unabated... until they leave school.

That this is only one school in one town pretty much means that whatever "benefit" to the rest of society is extremely limited.

It also does not take into account the variation and intensity of external pressures of family and friends throughout the entire period to "conform" to other...negative... "social norms".

Now, I'm no academic...I'm just yer bog-half-decent mum with a couple of kids on the right side of the law...yet even I can see this little social experiment is doomed to fail and the outcome for the children involved isn't really looking that great.

Still, someone somewhere is patting themselves on the back for managing to get their personal fantasy made real as yet another social experiment funded by the rest of us.

If only we were all were as "clever" :/

Tatty said...

haha...bit of a typo there...

I meant to say "I'm just yer bog-standard half-decent mum"