The school where I will be doing my first placement is situated in a disadvantaged community with high numbers of lone parents and pupils in receipt of Free School Meals. I am worried that I won't have very many opportunities to learn about how to stretch really able pupils as I have been told that most of the pupils aren't interested in learning and that there isn't much support from home either.
1. Addressing the issue raised in the scenario:
It is not uncommon for there to be significant differences in the socio-economic composition of schools. However, every school will have pupils from a range of different backgrounds and of different abilities. There is some evidence to suggest that schools in more disadvantaged areas are actually better at getting good progress from ‘disadvantaged' pupils and you will perhaps have more opportunities at your placement school to learn about how this can be done
National data does suggest that pupils in receipt of Free School Meals are a particularly low attaining group. However, this doesn't mean that you won't encounter pupils who have the potential to be very successful academically. Indeed, all schools should be trying to ensure that pupils from all socio-economic backgrounds are included in their ‘Gifted and Talented' programmes. As you are particularly interested in higher attaining pupils, this might be something to look into during your school placement. The expectations that teachers have of pupils are really important as low expectations can set limits on the opportunities that pupils have to learn. It can also be difficult to identify ability and underachievement accurately, making it vital that pupils who enter school with lower levels of prior attainment are not disadvantaged by the way that this data gets used.
It is important to consider what parents can and should do to support their children at school. Pupils who do not have a parent with positive or extensive educational experiences on which to draw are clearly disadvantaged by this. This has been recognised at policy level by the additional measures that have been introduced to improve the educational achievement of Looked after Children for instance. When forming your expectations of parents it is important to be aware of differences in their circumstances as this will help you to view them empathetically. Expectations and aspirations are shaped by factors such as social class, ethnic background, gender and life experiences, often at an unconscious level, and it is therefore important to think critically about how these contribute to the outcomes experienced by pupils in all schools.
2. Finding out about rights and responsibilities:
In recent years the UK government has produced a number of reports that explore the relationship between educational attainment and socio-economic background. See for instance Deprivation and Education - The Evidence on Pupils in England: Foundation Stage to Key Stage 4 (DCSF, 2009)
The Multiverse website also includes links to the following reports:
1. BREAKING THE LINK between disadvantage and low attainment EVERYONE'S BUSINESS (DCSF, 2009). This focuses on the importance of doing more within schools to improve the attainment of pupils from the lowest performing groups. These include pupils: in receipt of Free School Meals; with an identified Special Educational Need; from Gypsy Roma and Traveller backgrounds and Looked After Children.
2. Aspiration and attainment amongst young people in deprived communities (The Cabinet Office, 2008). This focuses on the link between aspirations, educational attainment and poverty. It suggests that teacher expectations are a critical factor because they shape pupils' perceptions of themselves.
QTS Standards that are particularly relevant to professional expectations
Q1 - This Standard links pupils achieving their full potential to high professional expectations and to the quality of teacher/pupil relationships.
Q5 - This Standard is about valuing the contribution made by parents and carers and is therefore also about professional expectations
Q13 - This Standard is about knowing how to use statistical information to monitor progress. Attainment data shapes professional expectations and may be used to determine pupil groupings. Pupils with missing or low prior attainment data are at particular risk of low expectations and underachievement.
Find out more:
3. Using relevant Multiverse resources:
There are a number of items in the Multiverse glossary that you will find of interest. These include:
Other Multiverse resources and links that are likely to be of interest include:
2 skint 4 school Time to end the classroom divide. Briefing document published by the Child Poverty Action Group that argues that poverty is a form of exclusion in schools and should be covered in all ITE courses.
Addressing working class underachievement. Powerpoint presentation, research report and other resources that focus on the underachievement of working class pupils. Draws on the viewpoints of teacher trainees, teachers and Year 9 pupils.
An introduction to social class and educational (dis)advantage. Resource that considers the different approaches taken to measuring social class and how differences in educational outcomes are linked to social class.
Primed for success? The characteristics and practices of state schools with good track records of entry into prestigious UK universities. Curtis, A., Power S., Whitty. G., Exley, S. and Sasia, A.- Sutton Trust (2008)
The impact of poverty on young children's experience of school. Research report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that compares the school experiences of Primary age pupils according to the level of disadvantage in the school. It concludes that pupils are more conscious of the impact of disadvantage in more advantaged schools.