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Teaching and learning in any school can have both benefits and problems. Those advantages and issues tend to be magnified in the inner city school environment. However, staff members including the head teacher, teachers and teaching assistants can have an impact upon a child's learning in all schools, especially those in the inner city. If staff members are competent and capable of teaching effectively, the challenges of an inner city school environment can be overcome to allow pupils to flourish and achieve, and exceed, their potential.
A number of problems, with a variety of solutions, affect inner city schools; a number of which are discussed below:
Immigration increase in inner cities has increased the number of children in school with English as a second language. "The steep rise of immigration into Britain has been demonstrated by new figures that show more than 1,500 schools are dominated by pupils who speak English as a second language." (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1265342/Immigration-rise-means-1-500-schools-dominated-pupils-speak-English-second-language.html)
As language forms the basis for the teaching of any subject, these children begin their education at a disadvantage and have to dedicate their effort in first understanding instructions, then undertaking those tasks.
Transient pupil populations cause issues for those pupils because they are always moving home and schools. This affects their education as different classes will be at different stages in the curriculum; causing the child to miss out on huge sections of the curriculum or repetition of the same content. Furthermore, each teacher will have their own teaching styles meaning that the transient pupil will have to become adaptive to different ways of being taught and different methods of learning. This becomes especially problematic as the teacher cannot instantly and effectively assess the learning style of the pupil to provide teaching which suits their individual needs. Whilst this variety for the pupil encourages adaptability, it can be stressful for the pupil to be under constant change.
By virtue of their location, inner city schools are often greatly affected by poverty which often contributes to underachievement. Poverty can also lead to poor nutrition which has been shown to negatively affect attainment (Haddad, 2002). Furthermore, with poverty it becomes more difficult to provide quiet space to facilitate effective home learning as free space is minimal. Children from poor families often do not have access to learning resources either.
Poverty is a particular problem in the UK as noted below;
"The UK has a higher proportion of its children living in workless households than any other EU country. It is almost twice that of both the EU average and that in France and Germany."
Parents' working patterns (eg casual or shift work) mean that parents are not always present to help with home-work, often the children are looked after by a number of other carers, and as mentioned above family meals are irregular leading to poor diet in children from those families. This can affect the child's health and sleep which influence concentration and learning. In some families with these problems older children often have to help with younger siblings which means that their learning outside of school e.g. homework tasks will not always be completed/receive full attention.
Some families may assign a low priority to education; this is normally due to parental influence and is cyclical. In inner city schools there is often a low turnout at parents' evening or parents' consultations meaning that teachers and parents cannot work in a close partnership to improve the educational chances for the pupil.
Teaching staff in failing schools are often not as stable as staff in outstanding schools. This can cause the same problem as the transient population of pupils e.g. issues of teaching styles, working relationships with pupils etc.
Many of the above factors generate a lack of confidence among pupils, negatively influencing attainment and motivation. This cycle can be exacerbated by inconsistent teaching and continues, especially if the child feels a lack of support. The problem may also begin to affect other pupils when the un-motivated pupil begins to distract others. This cycle will continue until the affected pupil is assisted, for which resources must be available.
Possession of good behaviour management skills is essential to be able to deal with any classroom. Inner city classrooms can have additional challenges which act as barriers to learning such as language and special needs. A good behaviour management technique will help free up time to concentrate on learning rather than dealing with behavioural issues.
As noted above, school staff evidently play a vital role in ensuring that pupils achieve their potential, especially if parent and pupil share this aim. I believe that most success for a teacher comes from being able to engage well with children, keeping their interest in the subject and as such give them the gift of wanting to learn more.
Commitment of a teacher to an inner city teaching position can be a real advantage for pupils' education and potential to achieve. However, poor quality teachers staying in post can be just as bad as good teachers changing every term. The Conservative party believes that giving schools more power to pay good inner city teachers extra will aid the retention of staff. I think this could help but if the teachers feels supported, see areas for promotion, see the pupils increasing in confidence and doing well I believe these factors are just as important.
Any school needs financial support; the government has been providing money for improving schools, here are some examples;
The 'Specialist-schools' programme provides government funding for schools which choose a specialist subject and achieve the targets set to raise standards. These schools aim to develop areas of curriculum excellence, helping improve the standards for all students. Ian Turner, Director of Strategy, Programmes and Networks, at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), which finds sponsorship for specialist primaries said: "[Specialist status] provides schools with a strong focus, an individual identity, [and] the opportunity to build links with business and the local community." . (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article1975188.ece)
'Golden-hellos' are part of a government initiative to encourage more people to teach, by offering a payment of between £2,500 and £5,000 after the first year as a teacher. However, it is only available to teachers of certain core secondary subjects.
Ed Balls announced in 2009 that the LA and schools will be getting extra measures to improve primary schools as a means to ensure that every schools and child can succeed. Ed Balls is writing to every LA and has asked them to show how they are going to improve schools to be the best primary schools in the world. He is also going to write to the LA with the schools that are receiving the worse scores and ask them to improve and quickly.
Charity funding which assist schools in invaluable also. The Fischer family trust is an independent non profit charity which provides this kind of support; the trust provides assistance for projects aimed at the development of education in the UK. These are some of the literacy programmes that they have available:
'Wave 3', is a programme where KS1 children who are reading or writing at a low level are provided with extra help to raise their attainment level.
'Hi-Five', has similar aims for Year 5 students (and upwards) who are working at Level 2c in reading and writing.
'Write Away Together', is aimed at expanding year 1 to 6 writing skills through discussion of their independent writing.
The trust also operates a new literacy training programme for supply teachers and tutors who don't normally work with KS2 or have low English subject knowledge.
They also provide information to LAs and schools to allow them to make better decisions regarding future targets with the use of the pupil performance data.
Every Child Matters is another government initiative that aims to implement five key outcomes for co-operation between all children's services, following a report published by the government in 2003 (following the tragic death of Victoria Climbié). Every Child Matters is an advanced approach to the well-being of children and young people until they are 19 years of age. The governments' 5 aims for Every Child Matters are applicable for every child, wherever they come from. These are to allow access to the support needed to;
enjoy and achieve,
make a positive contribution, and
achieve economic well-being.
The aim of 'be healthy' has been implemented by schemes such as breakfast clubs so the children gets correct nutrition at the start of the day to be able to be productive, free fruit is provided for children to try help them get some of their five a day, plus making sure that the snacks and meals given by schools are healthier.
"Healthier children do better in learning and in life. By enabling children and young people to make positive changes to their behaviour regarding health and well-being, schools can help them reach their full potential in terms of achievement and fulfilment."
Similarly, providing free schools meals is beneficial for pupil and parent as some parents cannot afford to give their children a healthy lunch. Also, the education of children into the dangers of smoking has lead to a decrease in 11 to 16 year old children that smoke.
Extending schooling and services offers other possibilities to effectively deliver Every Child Matters aims. By offering a large range of different activities, such as after school clubs, health, well-being and stimulation can be obtained. By making targeted and specialist services accessible such as adult and family learning, ICT and sports facilities, it is possible to raise both parental and pupil attainment. This is particularly effective as parents can assist schools in the home-education of the child. It is important for the school to work with the local community to provide the correct services according to demand and need.
The stay safe initiative focuses upon preventing and/or providing solutions to any experience which makes a child feel unsafe. Obviously, prevention is better than cure and as such schools may select to teach programmes regarding behavioural, bullying and/or discrimination issues. By providing a safe environment, a child can feel confident and secure allowing them to learn more effectively. Therefore it is critical for school staff to continue educating young people of the benefits of co-operation in creating a safe environment during schooling and adulthood. Educational staff must possess good interpersonal skills and be sensitive to the child's needs and confidentiality to successfully ensure safety and welfare.
A child who does not enjoy their schooling is likely to under-achieve and may develop a more slowly than their peers, causing these children further problems. As such it is essential for teachers to deliver the curriculum in a stimulating manner, in a stimulating environment, to increase the appetite to attend school and be open to new learning. By ensuring that the child enjoys school, it is possible to ensure that they achieve to their full potential in terms of attainment. If this is successful in the Early Years setting with support of parents/carers it is likely to continue through adolescent years and positively impact adulthood, and generations to come.
As highlighted above, children should be encouraged to behave in ways which have a positive impact on themselves and, more importantly, others around them both in and out of school. This is most likely to happen when the child is stimulated and entertained by an effective pedagogy. Encouraging opinion/debate, problem solving and positive attitudes and therefore social skills in the Early Years, allows the child to adopt confidence and make a positive contribution throughout their lives. This impacts positively upon the community.
Furthermore, maximising attainment increases employment, earnings potential and life prospects in adulthood. If childhood experience is effective, the young adult will be ready for employment and further training, allowing them to obtain and improve their earnings. Subsequently this allows them to reside in good accommodation and raise a family without the negative effects of poverty. It is clearly important for educational institutions to increase this focus for children from low-income families to break the poverty cycle.
As demonstrated above, implementing every child matters strategies in schools has been successful in ways but as with most issues, needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to modify, or find new ways of, delivering the aims to best benefit children. It is important that education also focuses on supporting families and carers (who are the most influential factor on a child's development) and if necessary provide remedial action the child reaches crisis point. This requires educational institutions to have a level of accountability and responsibility to ensure the needs of their pupils are met, and exceeded. This can be facilitated by ensuring that the people who work with children are valued, rewarded and trained. The head-teacher, school management and - most especially - teachers can be influential here, supporting children to maximise their potential.