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A child is a small person, not a sub-person
I have been at a Head teachers’ conference this week focussing on putting the child at the centre of everything we do. You could argue that this is a bit of a ‘no-brainer’, for what are schools about if not children? However, traditionally schools were often places where children had ‘education’ done to them. Systems were in place about which they had no say and they made no contributions at all to their daily experiences. They were passive learners with didactic teachers in rigid and inflexible institutions. At the conference we heard from a number of inspirational speakers, including the Children’s Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson. Her job is to promote the voice of the 12 million 0-18 year olds in the UK. What a responsibility?! http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/
However, on a smaller scale all head teachers have a responsibility to listen to the voice of the children in their school and be their advocates and representatives.
Dr Atkinson talked about mutuality and the need for education to be around the child and not just done to the child. This reflects the thinking of Professor David Hargreaves who talks about co-construction and the child being involved in his/her learning journey. He advocates student voice as one of the key elements of deep learning (including formative assessment practices and pupils knowing learning strategies). He refers to the 19th century imaginary of education where rote learning occurs, where children are merely vessels for knowledge and schools are run for the benefit of the institution and its staff and not for the children; so all pupils have the same lessons according to age group and the same expectations are set, irrespective of ability and there is only one goal – to achieve the top grade in all examinations and anything less than that is a failure. Learning involves huge feats of memory and little application of knowledge or skills. In the 21st century imaginary schools are run for the benefit of children, they seek (although still within the necessary economic constraints) to offer a variety of programmes and pathways for different pupils according to ability and interest (including differentiating the type of work and activities set within a lesson according to individual need) they involve the pupils in key decisions about their environment, their learning, including teaching styles and curriculum and seek to promote a rounded individual who develops skills, empathy, teamwork, emotional intelligence and finally achieves the best grades possible for him/her in the areas that interest him/her in readiness for next steps. All schools are constrained by financial limitations, even in the independent sector and cannot offer one to one lessons or totally individual curricula programmes. However, we can listen to our pupils, develop courses and extracurricular activities with which they will engage and find interesting and help them to understand their own learning styles and preferences and ameliorate them.
At Teesside High School we are striving to develop our pupil voice. For many years pupils have had student councils and have discussed issues such as school lunches, the toilets and designs of common rooms. These are all very important in children’s daily lives and their contribution to these topics is vital. However, I am interested in taking this a stage further. I want to have their input into teacher recruitment and now all recruitment panels have a pupil panel and their feedback is valued and listened to. We are conducting a survey in school over the next few weeks about how children learn and what their preferred classroom activities are. We can then use this information to develop our teaching practices and hone them more carefully to the needs of the pupils. Our Head Boy and Girl attend governors meetings and senior team meetings from time to time to give us feedback and enter into dialogue with the adults who are making decisions about their school.
Now some traditionalists may and do argue that children are ‘taking over’ but this is not the case. The most important thing that will make a success of pupil voice is that they are educated and supported in knowing how to use this opportunity and they learn how to listen to the views of adults and realise that egocentricity will not prevail here and that mutuality is the key. They must develop skills in negotiation and persuasion and become more eloquent in the process. Their ability to use language to help them to express their views and needs also develops their literacy. So if child-centred learning makes you panic and think of the 1970s when children learned no grammar in English and anything went, where there were no rules or discipline in some schools then think again. Our children are very used to being asked their opinion in a commercial sense. They are savvy customers and we ignore that at our peril. They have the right to an excellent education under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 but also the Human Rights Act. They also have a right to a childhood; this includes playing, having fun, mixing with their peers and forming relationships and learning from their mistakes and failures to grow stronger and more resilient. I am not proposing that we ask them to be early adults or skip the developmental stages. Sometimes they lack experience and need the adults to guide them carefully into the right choices, decision and actions, so we are not defunct, thank goodness. To treat them as sub-persons is not morally defensible and this will never happen on my watch at Teesside High School.
“Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today. They are entitled to be taken seriously. They have a right to be treated by adults with tenderness and respect, as equals.” – Janusz Korczak.
The UN Convention on the rights of the child says that every child has:
The right to a childhood (including protection from harm)
The right to be educated (including all girls and boys completing primary school)
The right to be healthy (including having clean water, nutritious food and medical care)
The right to be treated fairly (including changing laws and practices that are unfair on children)
The right to be heard (including considering children’s views)
March 6, 2014
Under 14 Indoor Hockey
The U14 boys indoor hockey team had a fantastic match against Red House this week, winning 4-1. Player of the match: Alex Connor and Jack Corlett
Under 12 Indoor Hockey
The U12 indoor hockey team also played against Red House this week, they had a very close match which unfortunately ended in a loss.
Under 13 Football
The U13 football team played Polam Hall on Monday night. It was a brilliant game, with the boys winning 3-o. Special mention goes to Owen Fielding who played brilliantly as goal keeper.
Under 15 Football
On Wednesday Teesside High played host to Argyle House. The boys played a competitive match and the final result was 3-1 to Argyle House. The Under 15 team was made up of 3 Year 10 and a mixture of Year 8 and 9 boys. Well done!
Under 16 Hockey
The girls have also had a fantastic week of results. The Under 16 hockey team played Richmond this week, winning 6-0. Player of the match: Esmé Cassini
Year 8 District Indoor Hockey Tournament
The year 8 girls competed in the District Indoor Hockey Tournament, they played well in some competitive matches and there was brilliant hockey skills displayed. Player of the match: Katherine Gaskin.
Under 15 Hockey
Well done to the Under 15 Hockey team - they had a fantastic game against Durham High on Thursday night, it was end to end play. THS were down 1-0 at half time, but after a brilliant second half they worked really hard and fought back to take a 2-1 win. Player of the match: Elle Bell
Well done also to all the pupils who have all been selected for the Under 12 District Hockey Squad – Lucy Corlett, Lucy Branch, Catherine Hewitt, Elena Bausor, Jasmine Donaldson, Katie Bainbridge and Victoria Bainbridge! Well done girls!
March 4, 2014
February 28, 2014
February 19, 2014
On Tuesday 18 February, a group of Year 12 English Language students travelled to Huddersfield University. They had a tour of the campus and facilities and then spent time in workshops which were tailored towards the English Language A level course.
Huddersfield University became the Times Higher Education University of the Year in November 2013.
February 17, 2014
February 14, 2014
Following on from last week’s blog when I bemoaned the winter months and this continued dreadful British weather, I want to talk about being positive this week. This is something that the people living in the south and west of the UK will be finding a challenge at the present time with the ongoing flooding situation. However, we have seen some true British grit with people supporting and helping each other in a time of crisis and putting a brave face on.
The theme of the week here at Teesside High School has been human rights. In assembly on Monday I talked to the pupils about the 30 articles of the universal charter for human rights, in particular article 26 which states that everyone has a right to an education. I was able to remind them how very fortunate they are to live in a country where education is available to all children aged 5-18. Of course when they have just been given a stack of homework and are facing the perfect tense or simultaneous equations on a friday afternoon, they may not feel that way. However, I frequently carry out learning walks around the school and when I visit lessons I see pupils who are having fun learning; they may be on their ipads making an animated film in classics, or using a science app to explore the digestive system, or perhaps they are transported into the past with a hotseat lesson where the teacher has taken the role of a second world war soldier and is being interviewed by the pupils as journalists from local or national papers. Our pupils have opportunities to develop their skills including their creativity, their problem solving and evaluation skills. They get plenty of exercise with our full PE programme and enjoy competitive sport and the opportunity to perform in music concerts, our upcoming production of Oliver or Talent Night. Our pupils have the added benefit of wonderful facilities, including a stimulating forest school, all weather pitches and a state of the art bespoke sixth form building.
I showed the pupils video clips of children in Arusha in rural Eastern Tanzania going to a school with no new technologies, nothing on the walls and no glass in the windows. However, even here the children were engaged in their learning because they knew the value of education and that it was their ticket to knowledge, the prospect of a career and a better way of life. The positive news is that the number of children worldwide who now get no education at all has reduced from 110 million worldwide in 2002 to 57 million in 2014. This is partly a result of countries coming together to set some millenium goals, one of which was a target worded as follows;
Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
However, there is still a long way to go and we must be collectively determined to achieve universal global education for all children.
Positivity in education is very important. It is vital that teachers have high expectations for their pupils. Research by Rosenthal and Jacobson in 1968 involved a group of primary teachers being told that certain of their pupils had been identified in a test as likely to make marked gains academically in the coming school year when in reality they had merely been chosen randomly by the researchers. Subsequently these pupils made better academic progress than their peers and Rosenthal and Jacobson interpreted this as evidence that positive teacher attitudes influenced their behaviour towards their pupils and produced learning outcomes. The educational academic Chris Kyriacou also talks about high teacher expectations being of paramount importance in order to stretch all abilities of pupils to achieve the best attainment possible.
Having a glass half full mentality can fill those around you with a sense of hope and happiness. Henry Ford said ;
‘If you think you can, or if you think you can’t’ you’re right.
He also said;
‘Don’t find fault, find remedy; anybody can complain’.
Henry Ford was one of the most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs of the twentieth century and that was largely down to his optimism. I would have loved to have met him as I imagine that after just half an hour in his presence, you would go out into the world feeling fired up and enthusiastic about anything you had to face. There are certain people who can drain the energy from a room with their negative attitude, moaning and ability to see a problem around every corner and a plethora of reasons not to do something. Henry Ford would have been the opposite sort of person. Nowadays he would be your first choice to ‘friend’ on Facebook or to follow on Twitter!
The ideas and views that you hold can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of my favourite childhood books was ‘Pollyanna’ by Eleanor H. Porter written in 1913. The main character in the novel, a young girl refuses to be negative about anything. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. Even when faced with people who are grumpy and sometimes even rude, Pollyanna is determined to see the best in people and have a rosy attitude about all aspects of life. She infects everyone around her with her sunny disposition. It is only when she has a serious accident and breaks her back that she loses that outlook. It is at the moment that the people she has been kind to rally around to cheer her up and pull her through the bad times.
It is also important for pupils to have a positive approach to their studies. If they come to lessons with the notion that they will not understand and it is too difficult, progress will be limited and success will be diminished. An open mind and positive mental attitude will help children overcome many barriers and difficulties. Of course this should be accompanied by excellent teaching, staff who are prepared to spend the time explaining things clearly and facilitating learning. But learning is truly a two way process and the positivity of both teacher and learner combination is a potent cocktail.
Our pupils have shown a great amount of positive mental attitude this week with their ‘have a heart’ campaign. They have taken the issue of teenage cancer very seriously and have organised a plethora of activities to raise money during the week including a book and DVD exchange, sponge the teacher, a valentine’s card service and many other innovative ideas all designed to help others and to take positive action rather than being defeated by some of the serious challenges thrown at us in life. Overall they have raised nearly £900 and I am so very proud of their tenacity and positive determination to make a difference.
So this week I have resolved to be positive and to ensure that this positivity rubs off on those around me. I want to have a Pollyanna effect on the staff and pupils! The art of ‘mindfulness’ is the new fashion. Sportsmen and women and business experts swear that it can change your life and at a conference I attended before Christmas it became apparent that many schools are beginning to use these techniques to help their staff be more focused and less stressed and to help pupils learn more effectively and develop the skills of perseverance and persistence. This is definitely something for us to explore further at THS as we are always open to new ideas and innovative approaches to achieving success for our pupils.
February 10, 2014
On 6 February Teesside High School held its annual Careers Convention. The event is designed to enable pupils from Years 9 to 12 to explore a range of university courses as well as a myriad of different career options. Talking directly to recent graduates and Professionals ranging from Cardio-Vascular and Veterinary Surgeons to Lawyers and Accountants gave students an invaluable insight into the qualifications and experience required to achieve their chosen careers.
Many local and national businesses attended including Lister Architects, Siemens PLC, Burgess Hyder Dental Group, ABB Engineering Services, Bousfield Gaskin, Caterpillar, Integrity Search, James Cook University Hospital, Stanhope Park Vets and South Tees NHS. There were also representatives from the Police Force, British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Delegates from universities from across the country, including Teesside, Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, York, Leeds, Bradford and York St John also joined the event.
Kristin Atkinson of Integrity Search said ‘We were delighted to be given the opportunity to exhibit and discuss the fantastic career opportunities there are within the ever growing digital marketing and e-commerce sector, from web design and development to creative journalism with the pupils and parents of Teesside High’
Head teacher Deborah Duncan said ‘The evening was a real success and it was great to see our pupils thinking about their futures and considering the exciting career prospects they have in store’.
Teesside High is the region's leading Diamond School
Click here to read the latest news from our Prep School.
A child is a small person, not a sub-person I have been at a Head teachers’ conference this week focussing on putting the child at the centre of everything we do. You…
Under 14 Indoor Hockey The U14 boys indoor hockey team had a fantastic match against Red House this week, winning 4-1. Player of the match: Alex Connor and Jack Corlett Under 12…