Britain is often seen as a country of extremes when it comes to social class. Which social class you are in drastically affects your outcomes in life. A major reason for this is education. While young people in high-attaining schools get every conceivable advantage, those in the worst comprehensives get less out of their education. But why does this happen?
I recently worked in a 50% SEND academy next to a somewhat infamous housing estate (SEND means children with special needs or behavioural issues). The school was reasonably well funded, it had new classrooms and digital projectors in many rooms. The staff, on the whole, cared a great deal about the education of the children and took a lot of abuse with a look of understanding resignation.
The children took part in base building activities in the forest, had the opportunity to study diverse subjects, such as Health and Beauty, soldering microchips, programming, and had teaching assistants, in the extreme cases, to make sure they understood the work.
I would have to say, in many cases it did not. The fantastic facilities were vandalised every day as the despairing groundsman watched on camera. Whole lessons had to be abandoned because one or two children would decide to cause a scene. They would swear, slam doors, throw objects, knock books on the floor, vandalise the property, you name it. Once I saw a boy running in and out of a classroom throwing glue and toilet water on the walls, and all as the teacher looked on, powerless.
The teachers could normally get these students out of the classroom (after a wait with the whole class in silence.) The student would invariably walk back in 10 minutes later, having run away from the person who removed them and the game would continue.
In short, it was not an environment in which it was easy for the teacher to get through to the students, or for them to focus.
So, it wasn’t the money- there was enough for good facilities and teachers who cared about the wellbeing of the students. The problem was culture. This is one of the most insidious issues within any human community. Once there is a culture of underachievement, or misbehaviour, it is very hard to change. The school tried all kinds of incentive projects, punishments and warnings, but with limited success.
One of the children once said to me, when he found out I got good A-levels and went to a redbrick university, “what are you doing here with us?”. That really said it all. When people don’t value themselves, there is very little throwing money and resources at them will achieve. A lot of how we value ourselves comes down to the type of community we are in, and the emotional support we get within that community.
I will discuss possible solutions for this and making changes in educational cultures in Part 2, Tackling toxic cultures in schools.
Hi, my name's Phil. I am a Content Writer and Producer. My background is a mixture of education, social media and management. I've spent a lot of my career working in Latin America and Spain, and I have a love for languages and education. I also have my own blogsite: http://www.philwestern.blog/