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Children and education.

(28 Posts)
jangly Fri 22-Jul-11 09:24:11

On the Today programme this morning there was a report that highlighted the differences in children's achievements in school. They had the head teacher from the highest achieving school and the head from an under achieving one. I think Brentwood and Birmingham respectively.

The argument from the Birmingham one was the same old, same old, - children coming from deprived areas, no books at home, uninterested parents.

Well, considering schools have the children from the age of three, and for six hours of each weeekday, don't you think they should be able to turn this around by now? I know they don't have a level playing field to start from, but it seems a lame argument. They have plenty of time with the children.

The underachieving school head said they were trying to "widen up the world" by paying for and taking them on a trip to France in year 9. I would hope they would have done a lot more in the way of imaginative lessons and field trips before then!

Am I being unfair?

Baggy Fri 22-Jul-11 09:52:30

I think you are being a bit unfair, jangly. Talk to any 'educationist' (is that a word) and they'll tell you that what makes more difference than anything else in a child's education success is parental attitude. If parents are well educated themselves or if they are not very well educated (depending on your definition; maybe it should be "open-minded about education") but are positive about the benefits of education and always encourage their kids to work hard at school and don't denigrate education — you see where I'm going? — then children will do well. Too many parents don't see the point of academic success, or they don't feel confident about helping their kids, or they just have the telly on all day long so nobody gets a chance to sit down quietly and read a book .....

Parental attitude makes all the difference! So kids from deprived backgrounds, where education is perhaps not held in such high esteem, or where it is held in high esteem but opportunities to further it are not common, are at a disadvantage.

People used to blether on about how well a certain comprehensive school in north Oxford had such good results "for a state school". Of course it bloody did! Half the kids had parents with jobs at the university. If those kids couldn't do well, who could?

In short, home background makes a HUGE difference.

jangly Fri 22-Jul-11 10:29:55

I agree it makes some difference. But its too easy a peg for teachers to hang the blame on.

I wonder if they have to settle for poor teachers in deprived areas because the best teachers can get jobs in the more affluent areas.

Baggy Fri 22-Jul-11 10:40:08

I don't think there's any blame involved. I think it's just an acceptance of reality. That doesn't mean we should stop trying to change outcomes in deprived areas though, or even that we should stop trying to eliminate deprived areas.

jangly Fri 22-Jul-11 10:48:55

I've just thunked a bit more about it. Why haven't they got any improvement in the parents' generation yet? Education reforms were going on when my children were at school in the early seventies. How long do they need? How long are they going to keep using this excuse.

I'm not dissing all teachers. I've got two in the family.

I really wasn't gonna come on here today. blush grin

Baggy Fri 22-Jul-11 10:54:36

Maybe there isn't an easy answer. I think we tend to want easy answers to complicated issues too often.

Some people pull themselves out of uneducated ruts so it is possible in the current system, not that there is a current system for long before politicians start tinkering with it again.

Mamie Fri 22-Jul-11 10:56:39

I think you are right Baggy; poverty and lack of parental aspiration are two of the biggest factors in educational under-achievement. Sadly, to these factors you can often add poor diet, late nights, chaotic home lives etc and these things are very hard to overcome. In my experience you often find some of the most gifted and effective teachers in the most challenging schools, but this is not to say that there isn't also often a problem with recruitment and retention, especially of senior staff. So yes, Jangly, I think you are being unfair. Of course, there are schools who do better than others in overcoming under-achievement and there is still lots of work to do to help schools improve, but there are no easy solutions.

Charlotta Fri 22-Jul-11 11:35:55

I expect that some parents think - if they think at all- that if their children become educated they will leave home sooner than later and the parents will lose contact with them. We see that all the time. When grandparents boast to me about how bright their grandkids are I always secretly think that those children, if they are so bright, definitely won't be satisfied to remain living 2 streets away but will be off to places where they can have better careers.

Already at 3 months there is a difference between a baby who is stimulated with walks in the pram, conversation, eye contact and little games and the other poor things who are stuck in front of the telly. We don't even know whether the human eye can even make sense out of the screen at this age.

I am not against taking deprived students to France, there is a lot of money wasted in the educational system, that bit won't make much difference.

crimson Fri 22-Jul-11 11:52:28

It's amazing how important a good headteacher is to a school; I've seen under achieving schools be turned round completely by having a new head and go down the pan for the same reason. Putting my boring head on again, perhaps it's not just parents stimulating their children at home that's important but teaching them respect for the school and it's teachers. I know what you mean, Charlotta..I always knew that my kids were 'on loan' to me for 17 years and then they would be gone..perhaps that made me enjoy every minute of their company during that time. Strangely enough they're both living close by as adults; I can't believe how lucky I am in that respect [although the Australia word has been mentioned shock from time to time.

borstalgran Fri 22-Jul-11 17:18:31

Agree re headxteacher: vital and many are not as good as one might wish: the best are born, not made, and I speak as an ex teacher and school improver.
Education is vital in the early years. if a child arrives at school with no experience of stories, rhymes and family discussion, it will be really hard for them to catch up. Sadly, if you're poor or trying to deal with issues of any kind of deprivation, you lack energy and brain space to read/chat/sing with your children. The best intervention is as early as possible, even in the cradle. Sure Start was a great development under the last government, but cuts have meant councils cannot provide as they did.
Not convinced by the French trip either, may do more harm than good. May be better to provide more opportunties to work in teams, debate and raise self esteem through small steps.
Complex issue, no easy solution, I'm afraid. Differences are made through hard work on the part of teachers and family liaison. That's hard and costs money.

jangly Fri 22-Jul-11 18:08:24

Baggy, the best way to get rid of deprived areas, I would think, is to educate the children.

My daughter teaches in an affluent area secondary school, and believe me in the majority of cases there is little or no input from parents. They are too busy wallowing in their affluence. The parents expect the teachers to drag their little darlings successfully through the exams without any help from them.

Middle class parents are by and large no better at providing a decent home background than the less well off ones.

Education is largely down to schools and teachers. Behaviour should be down to parents. Of course you want the two to overlap and its good when they do. But teachers have got to do their job well in whatever circumstances or area they teach.

But that's in an ideal world.

goldengirl Sat 23-Jul-11 10:47:51

Bring back proper discipline and the 3R's!

grannyactivist Sat 23-Jul-11 13:31:46

I declare an interest here. I started to read when I was only three apparently (I can't remember myself). My father was an avid reader and so I suppose there must have been books in the house that were accessible to me. By the time I was six years old however, life had changed dramatically and I had what would now be described as a dysfunctional home life. We were poor, I was the third of eight children, there was no interest in education from my mother (by then a single parent) and the usual graduation ceremony on our estate was from borstal to prison.

I was very bright (not boasting, honest), at junior school I became Head Girl and had a future filled with promise, but school life was hellish after the age of eleven. Babies ate my schoolbooks, I had to shop and help cook meals, babysit etc. I had lots of time off school to help out at home and got so behind with homework etc. that I didn't WANT to go to school. I was so different from my peers that they mostly ignored me or occasionally made life grim.

My teachers were actually some of the brightest and best of their generation I believe, but against the backdrop I've just described there was no way they could prevail. I left school at the age of fifteen with no qualifications. So, from my own childhood experiences and in my opinion as a teacher I believe parental involvement makes a HUGE difference to a child's educational achievements.

(Happily that is not the end of my story and I did go on to make up for lost time at a later stage and was the first in my extended family to attend university.)

jangly Sat 23-Jul-11 13:38:04

Yeah. I know.

They were talking about this on the today programme this morning. Apparently Surestart can make a big difference (when there is one available). Can't say much more about it cos I only woke up half way through the item. Must get it on listen again.

I just worry that teachers give up too easily on the poorer kids.

Charlotta Sat 23-Jul-11 15:35:54

A teacher told me that a father complained that his son had no manners and this father was sitting slumped in a chair at a parents evening still wearing a cap and chewing gum.

FlicketyB Sat 23-Jul-11 22:51:59

I read of two pieces of research recently. One said that parental support accounted for 60 % of a childs success in education and another, from America, that said if a house contained 20 books then the children had an 80% chance of graduating from High School, our equivalent of getting A levels, regardless of the level of deprivation in the family. It didnt matter what the books were about but I suppose it means the family is literate and reads.

Listening to the interview with the two schools, both were from relatively deprived areas but it was the attitude of the two heads that was so interesting, one was all about the positives he could offer his children to help them and the other was full of excuses about why they failed.

Joan Sun 24-Jul-11 09:01:01

I don't think poverty is an issue in children's education, it is parental attitudes. Children are much better off with poor parents who care, than rich parents who leave them to their own devices. How much does it cost to read to child, make sure it has some peace and quiet, and ensure it has enough sleep? Nothing.

Yes, the head teacher does make a huge difference to a school: I've seen the changes when a good one leaves and an indifferent one takes over.

Baggy Sun 24-Jul-11 10:04:16

joan, exactly! My grandfather was a coal miner who was determined that his son would not "guh down 't pit". My father became a university head of department. Similar story in my mother's family. I learned my attitude to learning from my parents, my kids learned theirs from me (and hubby), and my GS is learning his from his parents. As I said before, parental attitude makes all the difference. Good teachers and good headteachers make a world of difference to a child's school experience, but the attitude to learning, and most of the success of learning, is learned at home before a child ever goes to school or even nursery.

jangly Sun 24-Jul-11 10:52:17

FlicketyB - that's what I thought. It was the excuses he was trotting out that got my back up.

artygran Fri 29-Jul-11 08:24:43

I grew up in a poor home in what could be described as a deprived area, but my father believed in education even though he had had little himself. He was an avid reader, read to me, told me stories and took me to the library (we did not have many books in the house) when I was old enough. In the early to mid fifties, educationalists were respected and even poor parents had aspirations for their children. The boy who lived next door to me in our two up two down terraces with no indoor facilities went to university; my cousin now lectures in a university in Ireland. Career wise, we all did better than our labouring class parents - back then, that's what it was all about. Poverty need not hold one back. One of the problems in this country is that many children come from homes where very little English is spoken and parents are unable to help their children with school work as they do not have the language skills. And I don't buy into the "no books at home" thing - we still have libraries full of good childrens books and reference material. Whenever I go to the library with my GS there are always children booking time on the computers, too, so no excuses there. I fail to understand how, in a country that brought education to some of the most deprived areas in the world, we now struggle to educate many of our own young to a decent standard. It's shaming.

carboncareful Fri 29-Jul-11 15:09:00

If children come to school tired and hungry (or stuffed with unhealthy food) and unhappy then how can they be expected to participate fully in the classroom. Miserable unhealthy children are obviously not going to do as well as bright and healthy children. The same goes for their parents surely. Poverty is a massive problem and the root of a lot of evil too.

crimson Fri 29-Jul-11 16:06:10

They need carrots held in front of them. Mine was to escape the poverty I was brought up in. Can children grow up aspiring to a university education now? Possibly not. Can they look forward to suitable employment? Probably not. What does the future hold for our grandchildren? Hoping to get on Britains Got Talent or win the lottery.....

Joan Fri 29-Jul-11 23:45:40

carboncareful said:
If children come to school tired and hungry (or stuffed with unhealthy food) and unhappy then how can they be expected to participate fully in the classroom. Miserable unhealthy children are obviously not going to do as well as bright and healthy children. The same goes for their parents surely. Poverty is a massive problem and the root of a lot of evil too.

They had this problem in Australian Aboriginal areas, along with the problem of children simply not being sent to school at all. Some schools started supplying meals, especially breakfast, and in some cases welfare payments depended on children attending school. This helped a great many children.

Here in Australia though, it is often the immigrant children, those with a different language at home, who do really well at school. My DiL-to-be is an example:ethically Cantonese, she was born here and speaks Cantonese at home. She did well at school, and went on to get a good science degree.

Baggy Sat 30-Jul-11 06:34:59

While ever it pays more to be a sleb than an educated nobody, many kids will aspire to be slebs and stuff education. Learning the intrinsic value of education comes from home. It isn't just about job prospects either. Lots of philosophers were poor materially, but you'd be hard pressed to get them to exchange their ability to think with riches and gormlessness.

Baggy Sat 30-Jul-11 06:39:27

Poets and artists ditto, just replace (although some of them could think too, no doubt wink) 'ability to think' with a phrase like 'their artistic talent'.

BTW, I distinguish between an ability to think critically and what might be called an everyday ability to think.