Monthly Archives: August 2018

Education Reform in an Unequal

Just as the medical profession manages symptoms through medication, politicians manage the education system by turning a blind (ignorant?) eye to the way education manages its ills. These “solutions” are most easily seen in urban areas.

Politicians, through the power of legislation, expect schools to have all students performing at or above grade level which is what the “average” child is expected to know or do. There are children who can and do, as well as children who can’t and don’t. All schools are NOT equal, never can be, as long as we have the freedoms to choose where we live and what we do with our personal resources. All children are NOT equal, never will be, in experiential readiness, developmental readiness, native ability, talents and skills or interests. When we examine the performance of schools, we must consider many things not entering into formulas for success.

Schools of “right”

In the U.S., by law, children have the right to a free and appropriate public education. Complex social, political and legal changes have created standardized instruction, ostensibly to ensure adequate and equal educational opportunity. The goal is for every child to learn skills to be productive members of the workforce. General education schools are the result. These schools often have an alarmingly poor graduation rate, for many reasons. One reason is that the higher achieving, better performing students attend schools of “entitlement” or “privilege”.

Schools of “entitlement”

In larger or more urban areas, the public school district may have specialized schools for any level of education (elementary, middle, secondary). The high-performing (gifted) students usually attend a middle and/or secondary school. Magnet schools focus arduous or intensive instruction in particular special vocational interest fields (math, science, arts, vocational options, etc.) at middle and/or secondary schools. “Traditional” schools emphasize instructional basics; typically, these are elementary and/or middle schools. Charter schools require direct parental participation and may be elementary, middle or secondary. Typically, all these specialized schools expect parental support and involvement for students regarding their assignments, achievement, and school-appropriate attitudes, behavior and dress.

These are schools of entitlement; students must meet certain criteria or standards to be eligible to attend. Those standards do not assure attendance; not all who apply attend. Quotas determine how many students are in the classes and, when filled, the doors close. Students not meeting the requisite standards for behavior and/or scholarship become ineligible to continue attendance. Schools of “entitlement” have high graduation rates, because there is mental and emotional investment by adults and students.

Another type of school, questionably falling in to the “entitlement” category, is the alternative school: the school for students behaviorally and/or emotionally inappropriate for the “right” school and definitely excluded from schools of “privilege”. Students, removed from their “right” placement school for severe behavioral and/or disciplinary purposes, may or may not return to the general mainstream in the future; typically they have little interest in academic achievement.

Schools of “privilege”

Parents who can afford and value challenging educational opportunities for their children make sure their children benefit. Those with sufficient incomes, usually upper and upper-middle class, send their children to private schools, either day schools or boarding schools. Standards for those teachers and students are high, primarily because parents are committed to their children’s education; they pay for tuition and fees to cover expensive structures, uniforms, books, educational trips, and other experiences to enhance their children’s optimal growth and connections for their future. Those who choose local schools live where the public schools are highly rated and have reputations of excellent teachers, often attracted equally by high salaries and exceptionally achieving students. Housing costs preclude lower income families from attending. When parents, because of employment or other constraints on where they live, cannot afford those exceptional public schools, they may still seek out specialized schools. Many of these schools, affiliated with a religious organization, reinforce the common values of the families in attendance. Graduation rates for schools of “privilege” are high.

What do we really know?

All educators have extensive training; most teachers work hard, long hours, but can’t stop the plethora of influences outside classrooms that prevent student from achieving. Research and statistics, as we currently use them, are NOT appropriate for evaluating education; we cannot statistically evaluate education while aspects of poverty affect children’s learning. Assumptions about people, attitudes, values and beliefs drive policies that don’t work.

Everyone can contribute to solutions; this is a revolutionary approach that could help identify our personal and collective weaknesses and blind spots. Exposing the personal and national attitudes and beliefs that keep us enmeshed in habitual approaches might allow us to begin effective education reform.

How Can An E-Safety Service Better Educate School

We’re all aware that the world is only becoming more digitally orientated, and with the advent of social media, internet-connected mobile phones and portable tablet devices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay safe in a digital world. While most of us like to think that in the real world, we wouldn’t be taken in by a scam or a fraudster is the same true in the digital sphere? It’s a scary world where one click can take you from an entirely innocent search term to a wholly inappropriate website.

And if this is the case for us adults, think of the risks our children face each and every time they use the internet. We cannot keep our little ones from becoming familiar with the internet – it is now an integrated aspect of our lives – but we can, and we must, protect them from the risks of being connected that exist. While it is our job, as parents, to keep an eye on our children’s browsing habits whilst at home, an even bigger risk occurs at school, when all children must now take Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) – or computing.

It is the school’s duty to ensure that our children are kept safe when surfing the web during classes or on school property. Often now expects schools to have a plan in place to make sure that children are kept just as safe online as they are offline – but not all schools know how to do this off the bat. This is where an e-safety service comes into play.

An E-safety online backup for schools means that schools have a plan which will allow children to explore the internet, and all the wonderful things it can show us, without being exposed to things which are inappropriate. From seminars where teachers can discuss their worries and new technologies which may affect children, to planning how to talk to young people about the dangers which can be found online, it seems that E-safety online is a necessity for all schools. Not only will it instruct teachers on how to keep their students safe whilst they are learning, it will mean good internet practise for children, meaning they are less likely to get into trouble at school or at home. Perhaps most valuably, it will also bring a sense of peace of mind to all parents, who can rest safe knowing that even when they’re not at home, their kids are not seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing online.

Create Sensory and Educational School

School play areas should be stimulating, creative and exciting places to play, they should not only capture a child’s imagination but should also provide a safe area which encourages healthy mental and physical development. Too many schools only offer a playing field and a dull concreted area. The Governments’ Play Strategy published in December 2008 goes some way to encouraging better play facilities with £235 million of backed investment which will be used throughout communities and not just within schools. Most school playing areas were designed some years ago by adults who probably didn’t consider all the advantages of outdoor play.

Play sustains the healthy development of children. Whilst playing gross motor skills including walking, jumping and kicking will be strengthened, hand/eye co-ordination can be developed through throwing a ball, whilst kicking a ball will help with balance. By allowing children time to play social skills will be enhanced as they form groups of friends. Whilst all these skills can be formed on that concrete playground or playing field why not fuel development even further by creating an outside space that stands out.

The developments over the years in artificial surfaces allows play areas to become colourful and sensory areas. There are a variety of products available to consider when creating a new play area. One of these products is artificial grass, artificial grass allows for greater use of texture and colour. Synthetic turf provides an excellent alternative to real grass, concrete or bark mulch.

There are so many different varieties of synthetic turf sensory areas can be easily achieved. Not only will the surface be clean, safe and low maintenance, but by using a number of different products you can achieve varying textures and appearances. Products vary from very short quite rough pile turfs to very smooth, soft long turfs. The density of the turfs also differs. Coloured turfs including red, blue and yellow can be used to create exciting pathways and shapes. Artificial grass can be used to achieve critical fall heights under play equipment when installed with rubber impact matting. The grasses also work well when used in conjunction with rubber play tiles again adding another texture to the area. Other elements can be incorporated into the area including flowers, seating, trees, stepping stones and water features. Modern astro turf can be cut to any shape or size so all the other elements can be fitted within or around it.

When designing a new area for the children it can also work well to consider the statutory subjects of the Key Stages. Although the majority of learning will be done in the classroom, on occasion the classroom could be moved outdoors. As examples:

Maths – Why not incorporate numbers and shapes into the design. Numbers could be in the form of rubber play tiles and shapes cut out of the different coloured grasses.
Science – Incorporate flowers and plants into your design to study growth, a vegetable patch to encourage healthy eating, create animal shapes on the flooring and attract wildlife to the area with bird tables and bee boxes. Artificial grass benefits from not requiring any water, pesticides and no need for petrol lawn mowers, the children can consider the impact on the environment.
Art & Design/Design & Technology – If you are considering creating a new play area why not make it a project for the children. Let the children design areas. By giving the children the responsibility it will fuel their imagination for the outdoors. Look at the technology behind the products being used.
PE – Dedicate an area that makes keeping fit exciting and not a chore. Some artificial grasses are made specifically from sports use.

Play areas can be tailored to children throughout Key Stage development. By using surfaces such as those mentioned above children with special educational needs can also benefit hugely.

Learning through play should be an all year round activity and this can be helped along by creating a play area which fuels the imagination when using surfaces such as artificial grass and rubber tiles.