Learning in the inner city

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Economic deprivation within a family and/or community has been identified as having a profound impact on the social and educational outcome of an individual's young and adult life; an issue currently being radically addressed through various initiatives including, 'Every Child Matters: Change for Children' (ECM), 'Breaking the Link Between Disadvantage and Low Attainment- Everyone's Business', 'The Extra Mile: Achieving Success with Pupils from Deprived Communities' and 'Deprivation and Education- The Evidence on Pupils in England: Foundation Stage to Key Stage 4'.

Although the UK has a good track record of improving the overall standards of schools in the most deprived areas, using Free School Meal (FSM) and INCOME Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) data as a means of identifying those children most affected by deprivation, 'large gaps remain' X mile p2.

Statistically pupils from low income families, ethnic minorities (excluding Chinese and Indian) and pupils with SEN are disproportionately eligible for FSM. In terms of achievement for pupils eligible for FSM compared to non eligible pupils, the non eligible students have over three times the odds of achieving five or more A*- C grade GCSEs and FSM eligible students are three times more likely to have unauthorised absences from school.

'High attaining FSM pupils are more likely to fall back, whilst low attaining FSM pupils are less likely to improve than non-SM pupils' (Deprivation and Education p?)

The role of teaching is a challenging role but none more so than in urban schools in economically deprived areas where teachers often face a range of challenges peculiar only to the inner city school environment, and as the traditional role. A teacher in the inner city teacher evolves into that of 'social worker, nurturer, appeaser, councillor as well as academic teacher' http://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/articles/cullensinc.html as their cohort becomes more diverse, the more the multiple challenges faced by inner-city teachers must be addressed.

These main challenges faced can be identified as:-

Material and generational poverty and the 'cultural barrier of low aspirations and scepticism about education'. extra mile p 2

Cultural diversity/ high immigrant and refugee population. A multitude of languages/high population of students where English is not their first language.

High turn over of student population - less pupils have a meaningful input into the school.

Lack of attendance coupled with low self-esteem and low aspirations. Students with

'baggage', high emotional needs and stress levels.

Lack of parental support/ dysfunctional family background/wide variety of parenting approaches.

Alcohol and substance abuse. Safety; bullying, violence in the family or local area, t teen suicide, teen pregnancy.

Under investment/lack of Local Authority (LA) support; lack of resources, buildings in disrepair.

Classroom management; shouting, swearing, bullying and fighting. High rates of pupils with special needs.

Alongside the challenges faced by teachers, the children themselves have many issues and barriers to their learning; material deprivation and family perpetuated lack of aspiration seeming to me to be the most influential.

The main barriers can be identified as: - rita p 44

Economical influences:-

Material deprivation through low income; reducing the number of educational resources families can provide and adversely affecting home environment.

Family, home and neighbourhood influences:-

A cultural and generational barrier of low aspirations leading to a development of an 'anti-education culture'. Extra Mile p 3

Low levels of parental education and parental support in their children's education.

Lack of stimulating home learning environment and access to stimulating activities and learning environment.

Experiencing family break-down or bereavement. Being from a one parent family. Being child of teenage parents, caring for siblings or parents.

Being homeless or in care. Being a traveller, asylum seeker or refugee

Health and safety issues:-

Ill health and family stress; low income can affect the well-being of the child's parents which can lead to problems with a child's educational and emotional development.

Risk of low birth weight; influencing cognitive and physical development.

Using or being exposed to substance abuse or misuse within the family or neighbourhood.

Using or being exposed to violence/domestic violence, crime or physical abuse within the family or neighbourhood.

Having mental health issues, (or having parents/carers with mental health issues), for example, depression.

Behavioural issues:-

Using aggressive or challenging behaviour.

Being bullied or being a bully.

Physical, educational and social issues:-

Lack of social connections offering inspiration and opportunities coupled with a lack of common ground between the child's background and the school curriculum- possibly leading to the child becoming 'disaffected'.

Being disadvantaged by race, gender or physical disability.

Belonging to a minority or ethnic faith.

Having English as a second language (ESL) which can lead to falling behind in literacy from an early age which has a detrimental effect across their education.

Having special educational needs (SEN).

Missing crucial developmental targets.

The exhaustive and quite shocking list above, lays bare the mountain many children from deprived areas must climb before they can start to get anywhere near reaching their full potential and, despite the many government initiatives, it is not surprising that many children still fail to reach their full potential.

With heightened challenges comes a heightened awareness of the qualities needed by inner-city school teachers, which best enable them to value their pupils and allow them to reach their full potential by over-coming the barriers that are prevalent in inner-city life.

Good and thorough preparation for this role is critical and posts particular challenges in terms of training.

It is worth considering these qualities in relation to the professional standards a teacher must exhibit full understanding of. Teachers must be:-

Respectful of students.

Believe their students have a right to learn and not compromise high expectations, using a 'can do' and 'will do' approach. Once a teacher has a child's trust and engagement, he or she is ready to learn.

Help their pupils to articulate and manage their emotions.

Q1, Q18, Q19

Good communicators with good collaborative skills.

Respect and understand the importance of working closely with their professional peers and the children's parent's/carers, and recognise that with their support, the teacher will have a greater understanding of the child, leading to the child's well-being and development being greatly improved.

Recognise and implement the use of the specific responsibilities of their colleagues, especially in relation to SEN and other learning and physical disabilities and needs. Teachers must always give children a 'voice' and recognise any personal issues affecting a child's well-being and act promptly, asking for specialist support if necessary.

Communicate with their pupils rationally and with consistency.

Q1, Q5, Q10, Q18, Q19, Q20, Q21b, Q25a,b,c,d

Flexible and supportive.

Have depth of knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, teaching, learning and behavioural management strategies. Teachers must be able to make full provision for all their pupils including those with EAL, SEN or disabilities, taking into account cultural and faith diversities.

Be able to adapt their teaching strategies and impart their knowledge clearly, and with complete understanding of their methodology, to whole classrooms, groups and individuals, making full use of relevant teaching resources and strategies, and having identified the stage of learning of any given individual, build coherently on the learner's prior knowledge.

Support their pupils through difficult transitional points.

The day in the life of an urban school class room is far from straight forward and a flexible approach is imperative when dealing with the above (including evaluation), with the onus being on 'personalised learning' 'equality' and 'inclusion' to enable students to reach their full potential.

Q1, Q5, Q10, Q18, Q19, Q25a,b,c,d

Empathetic and kind: -

An understanding of how a child develops is essential.

Many teachers, myself included, will doubt have no first hand experience of many of the barriers to learning, or experiences the child may have, therefore an understanding of the effects that social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences can have on a child, is imperative. It is essential for a teacher not to place their own morals and values on the child or parent.

Q1, Q5, Q10, Q18, Q19

Committed, motivated and have high energy levels.

Having a tight and secure knowledge of a child's progress is essential, through rigorous evaluation (assessment for learning (AfL)) http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/18968?uc%20=%20force_uj

and progress tracking to ensure a child stays on target and intervening immediately if a pupil falls off trajectory.

Adopt 'quality first teaching' http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/16013

at all times with a strong focus given to speaking and listening in order to develop vocabulary and understanding.

Broaden pupils' horizons by facilitating a range of stimulating activities.

Q1, Q5, Q20 Q25a,b,c,d

And finally, it helps to be patient, calm and creative coupled with a sense of fun and humour!

It cannot be underestimated the impact a 'positive school culture' Dep in ed p4 has on the progress of a child from a deprived background. Schools with strong leaderships and governance which have an ethos that promotes high aspirations, rewarding of achievement and a commitment to involve parents have been found to be making real progress. Xtra mile

In the 'Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools' (DfES 2004) ( rita Intro) report, a

correlation is made between educational performance with well-being; 'Children and young people cannot learn if they do not feel safe or if health problems create barriers'. Rita Intro.

There is clear evidence to show that 'educational achievement is the most effective way to improve outcomes for poor children and break cycles of deprivation'. (ECM p9/2.2)

Through ECM, A radical 'wraparound' holistic service for children, young people and families was introduced by integrating the services of education (including the Sure Start programme (http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/earlyyears/surestart/whatsurestartdoes/)),

health and social care through the Children's Trust, with the sole objective to 'improve their life chances' (Tony Blair ECM summary) and to protect children and young people from harm and help them achieve what they want in life' ' whatever their background or their circumstances', (http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/about/aims/aims/). The objective being to narrow the gap between achievers and non-achievers by enabling and encouraging professionals 'to work together in more integrated front-line services' (ECM) adopting the process of prevention above intervention; to 'maximise opportunity and minimise risk'. (ECM)

The Children's Commissioner (http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/) was appointed to become an independent voice for children and young people and all Las


Through consultation with children and young people, 5 objectives (given legal status through the Children's Act 2004) were put forward which they felt were key to well-being in childhood and later life:-

being healthy: enjoying good physical and mental health and living a healthy lifestyle

staying safe: being protected from harm and neglect

enjoying and achieving: getting the most out of life and developing the skills for adulthood

making a positive contribution: being involved with the community and society and not engaging in anti-social or offending behaviour

achieving economic well-being: not being prevented by economic disadvantage from achieving their full potential in life (ECM summary p8/10)

Guidelines for the Children's Trust outline how they will cooperate to improve well-being for local children and young people.

In conclusion, I have demonstrated the difficult challenges facing teachers, children and parents/carers in inner city schools.

Whilst a number of these challenges relate to financial and material inequalities, others are more structural and social in nature and may be far more deeply embedded. These entrenched difficulties post particular challenges in terms of pedagogy and privileged positionality of the teacher and trainee teacher.

In identifying these inequalities, I believe we must all show a duty of care as I have demonstrated in my previous employment and wish to continue to do so.

Without committed fiscal, physical and emotional investment in their futures these children will never break the cycle and shackles of the life expectancies they were unwittingly born into. It is indeed 'everyone's business'.