If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Narrowing the Gap

I have been thinking about this quote all week. I am sure that everyone agrees with it yet we do not seem to live by it. Since comparison testing whether it be local, county or country we generalise our children all the time. Expecting them to not only want to study subjects decided for them but also achieve in the same way.  I have read so many education articles this week, Theresa May wants police commissioners to set up free schools for troubled children, an article written by a student on why art subjects are so important and one by a teacher explaining why schools are not to blame for the lack of social mobility.
Our education system is so very good at expecting our children to all be the same. It tests them all in the same way and now those that fail those tests (phonics in KS1, year 6 tests and GCSE maths and English) they have to retake again and again.  To my way of thinking that is surely setting some of our children up to be failures often before they are 7 years old. In a country diverse in class, race and culture, a country that is open to EU citizens, a country that is offering to take in 3000 unaccompanied refugee children, how on earth can we expect all our children to be the same. How can we expect them to start in the same place, move through school together doing the same and then finish completing the same or similar exams, when they so obviously don't.

I live in one of the most poorly funded county councils in the country and our education system is letting down many of our children. On Monday I attended governor training about narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children, that is children on free school meals and pupil premium children, and children not classed as disadvantaged.This course was aimed at encouraging governors to dig deep into the data available in schools, to ask lots of questions about how much progress and what type of progress all our children are making, especially our disadvantaged ones. The reason for the course was because our county is failing disadvantaged children, in fact the gap gets terrifyingly bigger the older the children get.

The course was fascinating and gave a really good insight into figures provided by a system called Raise On Line (this data system is however now extinct as the government has removed SAT testing) we were able to look at all types of different groups of children, male, female, traveller, English as an additional language and so on and we could see the academic progress that they had made. But and a big but was the lack of discussion about what could be actually done to support the children who are not making the grade. There is talk of intervention, more pupil planning, more reviewing and at the same time I know that speech therapy and occupational therapy funding is being cut.

The lack of understanding about pupil premium children is compounding the problem. These children tended to be generalised and lumped together, there doesn't seem to be a recognition that all of them have different stories, so their needs are different. It was suggested that pupil premium money could be spent creatively giving schools more choice but then they generalised by suggesting it covered PPA time or reviewing time. I don't have a problem with the money being used for teacher preparation time per se so long as it means that the preparation is to ensure that the lesson plans are suitable for pupil premium children. In our case for example if it meant that lessons were aimed at outdoor learning and forest school that would be perfect for our child 4, however I am very aware that this is not the best use of the money for all children. It is imperative that pupil premium money is handled on a case by case basis and not one that is necessarily about academic achievements. Pupil premium children have to be happy, safe and secure before they can make academic progress. There will be no narrowing of any gaps if our education leaders do not recognise this.

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