I often look at the discussions on the ‘Schoolgate’ part of the Timesonline website by Sarah Ebner. Recently there have been emotive debates on a piece by teacher Kevin Rooney who was talking about banning private schools and the huge imbalance in opportunities for children in education.
Kevin made an essential point in his articles which so many people who responded, plus many parents, politicians, even some teachers, fail to acknowledge; that every child despite their circumstances should be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
It’s hugely rewarding that Kevin heralds the fact that kids have some potential to start with as sadly I’ve come across quite a few teachers who don’t! But I think that this is because of the pressure put upon teachers and schools to force a mass of children to attain pre-set targets regardless what that potential may be. For when teaching prescribed curriculum en masse most individual potential is lost. And so many children become less than successful simply because of that.
The success of education is a balancing act. It lies within finding the balance between meeting the demands of government policies, managing the financial needs of the schools, and fulfilling the needs of the individual. I fear that in most cases the individual is last in line.
And the success of each school depends entirely on the balance of people in it and how they manage that juggling act.
It depends on having a collection of staff who are inventive in the way they balance those political, social and financial demands with the needs of the children in their care. And of course this also depends on those individuals themselves; the proportion of children who want to be there, want to learn and come from a background where they are supported, and the numbers of those who couldn’t care less and who come from climate where neither the child nor education is respected or cared for. These children, who have had no quality of care demonstrated to them, are unlikely to be able to have respect for the other students’ desire to learn or have a desire to learn themselves.
Many, many children have to learn in a climate of disruption and disrespect – a mounting problem in state schools that creates inequality, before anything else comes into the equation.
So many factors need balancing. But it’s almost as if political and financial issues are constantly drawing our attention away from what schools were there for in the first place. For the kids! For the betterment of our kids. For the development of our kids’ potential.
At the moment, in too many instances, they are instead the death of our kids’ potential. And until we find radical solutions to enable us to treat children as individuals then education will never realise individual potential and will remain as it always was – unequal.