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The negative effects of poor environmental factors on development (Smith 1995, cited in Fisher, 2002, pg.3) have been argued by many. Pringle (1986) and Lindon (1993, pg11,12) identified the basic needs for successful education as being: physical needs, love and security, safety and emotional wellbeing.
However, the biggest influence on current beliefs, in terms of meeting the holistic needs of individuals, is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Furthermore, Maslow was a significant influence in the drafting of the "Every Child Matters (ECM): Change for Children (DfES, 2003)" document. ECM focuses on meeting the holistic needs of children and it has shaped the way schools operate to meet children's needs in England. Today, schools recognise the close link between the well-being of a child and his/her performance at school and are therefore taking a more holistic approach to education as a result.
St Benoit Primary School (SBS) mission statement reads as follows: "Promote the physical, mental and moral development of the children." This statement suggests that the school is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment that delivers all round development for its pupils. This work will mainly focus on whether the mission statement has been transferred to real life and specifically how the school works towards meeting the holistic needs of the children in terms of ECM aspects; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. All names in this work have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
Meeting the needs of children
With a cohort of 77 pupils (33% on FSM), SBS is a small school in a deprived area. SBS embraces all five outcomes of the ECM agenda and adopts a whole school approach in order to meet the holistic needs of its children.
Up until two years ago, SBS had issues with pupil attendance; "The biggest challenge was to get the parents on board. Many children were kept at home regularly as their parents didn't believe in education", explains the Head Teacher. In an attempt to turn things around, the school has undergone a major restructuring. The circumstances of the community created the need to offer more than "just education" for its pupils, but also Extended Services (ES) for the rest of the community.
DfES defines ES as the high quality extra-curricular activities and wider services, provided before and after school hours that aim to improve pupil engagement and the ability to intervene early when children are at risk. Cheminiais (2006, pg.7), too, states that the extended school provides a range of services such as childcare, adult and family learning, sports, ICT and activities to help the needs of its pupils, their families and the wider community.
Initially, by providing breakfast/after-school clubs, the school met the basic needs of its children and provided childcare for the families. SBS also encourages children through pupil focused and inclusive activities where they learn to keep healthy and develop active lifestyles through physical and extra-curricular activities. At present the school hosts a wide range of ES from sports to cooking and science to ICT to meet the needs of children and their families. ES target individuals and groups to ensure that the skills are improved and transferred into the classroom environment. The impact of the effective extended services provided by the school is visible throughout the school.
Emilia is in KS2. She has CAF for her behaviour and low self-esteem issues. Emilia attends cookery club and football afterschool. She feels that she has developed skills in team work and in adjusting her behaviour accordingly with the rules. Her teacher agrees that her behaviour in school and her attitude towards herself has improved. She believes that the extra-curricular activities and peer support have helped her self-esteem and she is more willing to participate rather than misbehaving.
It is understood that the coalition government give emphasis to behavioural issues in schools in the subsequent Schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, (DfES 2010). The guidance suggested in the White Paper stresses how head teachers and teachers should restore discipline and allow more independence, which in my opinion is a much needed improvement. However, it shies away from investigating the real cause of the mis-behaviour and from aiming to discover how to correct it through a holistic approach, which I believe would be more beneficial for both school and pupil as is shown in Emila's case.
The National framework (2007) for change which is pinned by the Children Act 2004, emphasises the importance of listening to children, young people and their families when assessing and planning service provision as well as face-to-face delivery.
It is important that pupils are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and support their own learning. There are three criteria should be met in order to identify a pupil voice system as successful; its importance to the pupils and staff, it has to be pupil led and finally it has to be seen as effective by pupils (Cotton et al.2003, p.49,50).
In addition, Leadbeater (2005,p.8,9) also supports the involvement of children and their families in education under the light of personalised learning. He suggests that personalised learning is "learner led learning, within a framework of standards" where the goal is to motivate children and parents to become active investors in their own education. Furthermore, the school is much more interactive, collaborating with other schools, families, community and other public agencies as recommended on ECM.
At SBS pupils are given chance to audit, select and take ownership of extra-curricular activities as well as contributing to the planning, delivery and evaluation of after-school clubs every term. Children feel that their opinion is important and this is felt throughout the school. They have become more involved in activities during and outside of school hours. Pupils run active play leader groups every lunch time.
The School Eco Council works closely with the management team to ensure that if children raise any concerns then they are taken into account. Pupils also take an active part in sporting competitions, which promote healthy living opportunities. There are clear boundaries, rewards and sanctions understood by all pupils and the school pays further attention to celebrate pupils' achievements in whole school assemblies.
All of the above points developed a sense of belonging amongst pupils. This positive atmosphere in the school was also addressed in the latest OFSTED inspection in May 2012;
"The range of enrichment activities is outstanding; pupils appreciate being heavily involved in many aspects of the school's development."
Children must be involved in the creation of knowledge through problem solving and experiment (Dewey, pg.77-80). This point of view has found support throughout the history of education. Hadow Report (1931) and Plowden Report (1967), both provided recommendations for cross-curricular and child centred approaches.
The Head Teacher explains that the aim at SBS is to provide a wide range of experiences that allow children to "do" things that are not usually available in their immediate social environment. Therefore the school also focuses on activities such as Arts, Science and Cultural week as well as regular educational visits that meet cross curricular objectives which were derived by discussions with pupils. Moreover, positive attitudes towards learning are observable amongst the children. The Deputy Head explains that the change to a more creative curriculum along with personalised learning arrangements and the progressive effects of the extended school activities have all had a very positive impact on attitudes of children towards the school and learning.
The introduction of the National Curriculum focused the attention of teachers closely on the concept of differentiation (Burton, 2003, pg.49). The White Paper (2001), was also emphasising on the importance of personal learning.
The whole school approach is supported throughout the school and children are encouraged to work at their own level. Teachers are keen supporters of personalised learning and are implementing it across the different ability groups. Not only low achievers but also high achievers are supported via individualised "learning ladders" through which they can work towards their own personal targets. Effective group and 1:1 tuition is tailored to the needs of individuals.
Mia is 11 years old. She has SEN and is also a selective mute. She is able to speak at home but uses visual prompts to communicate with others in school. In the past the school attempted to communicate with Mia through sign language and a TA was trained to use Makaton. But Mia refused to use the sign language. In the classroom there are pictures to inform others about Mia's condition, she also has a visual timetable to prepare her for classroom routines. Currently she only replies to questions by nodding or shaking her head. Mia is working below appropriate age level as a result of her disability. Although she is in year 6 she is not able to work at the same level as the rest of the class. The teacher adapts her work to match Mia's needs and abilities according to her IEP. She also receives support from a TA when necessary.
The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) criticises the previous government for not paying enough attention to the cultural and communal significance of primary schools
and their pupils. It suggests that schools can be a wonderful source of social cohesion and recommends that they should aim to establish themselves as a thriving cultural and community site.
In SBS' example, the variety of activities delivered outside school hours has attracted the attention of the whole community. Currently, SBS is beginning to act as a hub in the community and works closely with outside agencies, other schools in the area and the local council. Through the local Sure Start provider, parents and carers are given the opportunity to develop literacy and numeracy skills and also participate in parenting classes. The school has close links with another school where the majority of pupils are from ethnic minorities. They celebrate one anothers' festivals, such as Eid and Easter together.
SBS adopted an "Open Door" policy wherein the parents are encouraged to take part in school activities and celebration ceremonies and are regularly sent texts and newsletters to share information.
Sylvia has two daughters who attend SBS, she is unemployed. Previously she refused to be involved in school activities as she did not believe that school could change their lives. Her daughter is a high achiever in her class and was encouraged to take a grammar school entrance exam for a scholarship. SBS management regularly invited Sylvia into the school to see what education could offer to her and her family. She attended parenting classes where she recognised the value that school was adding to the lives of her children. Today, Sylvia volunteers as a parent helper and is a regular face in the school. Some parents are also actively involved in raising money in aid of a local charity and are planning to run a 26 mile marathon along with the head teacher.
Although the number of parent volunteers has increased and some parents are involved in social projects in partnership with the school, as well as the fact that the majority of parents believe that their children's attainment has increased, there are still some parents who feel distant towards the school. As a result we cannot confidently say that SBS has fully integrated into the community as yet, nor can we say that SBS has a very close relationship with all of the parents. However, the improvements in the past couple of years are impressive and promising for the future.
In spite of the difficulties encountered throughout its journey it is fair to say that SBS has overcome many barriers between pupils and learning. Pupil well-being is paramount in this school and staff are committed to identifying the needs of pupils and passionate about tailoring to those needs once they have been identified.
SBS provides a wide range of extended curricular activities that aim to engage children physically, mentally and morally. The whole school approach by the staff and the well guided leadership both contribute to the success the school has had in ensuring that pupils are given the chance to become balanced and well- developed individuals.
The commitment of the school in building relationships with the children and the community has been one of the key factors in its success. Children appreciate their views being taken into account and as a result feel they belong to the school family. Likewise community cohesion is improving as a result of the services available to families and other members of the community.
Through observing and analysing the practice of SBS, I have come to the conclusion that meeting the basic needs of children should be the priority of my practice, as well as having a sound understanding of the holistic needs of children. I must ensure that I work in partnership with parents as they are key contributors to a child's overall development. Furthermore, I must ensure that I am aware of the differences of each child and set appropriately challenging tasks suitable to their abilities.
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