This approach looks to build upon children reaching their full potential. Abraham Maslow (1987) referred to this in his theory of human motivation as 'Self Actualisation.' Maslow's idea of self actualisation is built on the progression of individuals emotional, social, physical and spiritual potentials. Seeking to engage students in the learning process and encouraging personal and collective responsibility.
For the purpose of this assignment the names of any schools or children have been changed to protect identities.
Grange Manor School is a 3 form entry community primary school. The school is larger than average with 687 pupils on the school roll, a high proportion of which are eligible for free school meals. With the ethos of 'Celebrating Success Together', the school aims to provide an inclusive education, meeting the needs of all pupils and ensuring they have access to a broad and balanced curriculum to which they are entitled. The school makes this a reality through the attention paid to the different groups of children within the school. These include minority ethnic and faith groups, Children new to English, and children with special educational needs.
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In order to best evaluate how the school maintains the holistic needs of the children, we will look in-depth at one child to give us an example of how the needs are met. With the constraints of this assignment we will address particular needs mainly through the classroom, followed on briefly by the provisions made by the school and for the community.
Tommy is a bright 8 year old boy who has very low concentration in the classroom. This is evident from his IEP's (Individual Education Plan) dating from Nursery to the present time. He also suffers from a condition named 'Short Gut Syndrome'. In brief, this means he is very sensitive to what he eats and drinks, therefore is fed via a tube during the night. Due to his illness Tommy's physical development has been slow, his height and weight are far below the average of what an eight year old boy should be. Tommy's slow physical progression has resulted in him experiencing difficulties with his fine motor skills. According to Dr Mary Sheridan (2008), at the age of 8, a child should already be able to write letters of the alphabet with similar grip to an adult. However, due to long observation this has proved to be a consistent problem for Tommy (Please see Appendix 1 for an example of Tommy's handwriting skills).
From joining the school in nursery, according to his IEP's, Tommy has had targets to improve his skills of dressing up, fastening/unfastening zips and buttons, along with practising how to hold a pencil correctly. These targets have been ongoing, extended each time. In order to support his development of holding a pencil effectively, pictures were used as reminders, helping to model how to hold pencils accurately to improve his writing skills. To further help Tommy achieve this target, special triangular pencils have also been provided to reinforce his grasp. (Please see Appendix 2 for further details on triangular pencils)
In contrast to the provisions made here, observations have shown that in fact there has been little opportunity for Tommy to practice these skills. In the classroom, he has his own individual programme of work. During written tasks Tommy spends a vast majority of the time using the support of ICT. Chris Kyriacou (1997) supports the idea of individual programmes of work, he believes this helps to maximise the quality of the pupils' learning experience to match the levels of the other more able children in the classroom. This has worked well in regards to helping Tommy achieve the success criteria of the lessons; the provision of using ICT in the vast majority of the lesson has also assisted Tommy in completing the same amount of work as his peers. However, this brings me to question how and when, and to what extent is he able to practice his writing skills? It seems that the importance of learning the simple skill of writing effectively is overshadowed. If not improved this could lead to lower self esteem and frustration, possibly resulting in a negative attitude to writing all together (Owens, 2008).
According to a study carried out by the London University's Institute of Education in 2006, fewer than half of British primary schools set time aside in a week to teach handwriting (Hensher, 2012). It could be argued that with the rise of technology, some teachers may be using computers as a quick tool to engage less able children in the classroom, subsequently paying less attention to their lack of skills in other areas of learning. The practice of writing provides a personal experience to learning; it engages the brain and helps to improve expression (Bounds, 2010).
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Tommy's difficulty here is believed to have had an impact on his writing level, currently he is working at a 2A level which is below the average for a year four pupil (DfE, 2000). Despite his learning experience of using computers to type his work, the assessments do not yet cater for the use of computers. He is still assessed via paper and pencil, marked against the same summative criteria as the other children in the class. We have to also note that word processing programmes on computers such as Microsoft Word often prompts us when we have made grammatical errors in our text, sometimes even automatically correcting them. The computer in this day and age helps to do our thinking for us, which then brings me to question whether or not Tommy understands the mistakes he makes he makes while using ICT. Perhaps this is affecting the structure of his writing and grammar when he puts pencil to paper; therefore we come to question whether the extensive use of ICT is actually helping him learn effectively?
Additionally, to gain the self esteem spectrum, children need to be confident in their capabilities (Maslow, 1987), Tommy is achieving the lesson objectives but his achievements in the written assessments are not reflecting this. Could this then affect his confidence in regards to his own expectations of what he is capable of achieving?
This is not to say that computers in the classroom cannot be effective. Only in the extensive use of computers in the example given above can they be seen to be detrimental to other vital skills of learning.
More positively, in regards to the lack of concentration Tommy has in the classroom. The use of ICT has in some aspects supported the increase of him staying on task. An example in this instance is that of a numeracy lesson. The teacher has planned a carousel of activities each lasting ten to fifteen minutes. The activities range from an individual written task, group work, then finishing off with the interactive educational game Mathletics. The differentiation of activities here has proved to be very successful resulting in Tommy currently working at a numeracy level of 3B. The mixture of tasks have helped to engage his learning and if implemented to his literacy lessons could work just as positively, along with giving him more opportunity to develop his writing skills.
In the classroom setting, Tommy is seated at the front in full view of the teacher. If seated for longer than thirty minutes he loses concentration at an average of six times. My definition of loosing concentration here consists of distracting others, leaving his seat and wandering around the classroom, and generally being off task. On each occasion the class teacher actively reinforces the behaviour strategy, positively addressing Tommy and directing him back on task. The teacher uses a friendly tone showing mutual respect, resulting in him responding well to the teacher's authority. This approach works more effectively as opposed to a power-oriented action, children respond better when they are felt respected by teachers. This has become a more effective way of teaching, making the classroom a place of positivity.
The behaviour strategy in place works around respecting others and things in the classroom. On the first day of term, the children along with the class teacher compiled a short number of rules to follow for the rest of term; each child was then given the opportunity to sign their name on the board displaying these rules, similar to the concept of a contract, binding the children to a promise. This approach follows the Investors in Pupils initiative, giving children the responsibility in identifying and understanding what is expected of them.
The Investors in Pupils initiative is one of many used across the school. Fitting perfectly with the whole school ethos of celebrating success together, it helps to give the children a voice and allows them to set their own achievable personal targets. Tommy has chosen his own personal target to 'Concentrate more in class.' The initiative here has allowed him to take control of identifying what it is he needs to work on with the support of his peers. The children collectively have been able to work together and celebrate the success of peers reaching their targets, whilst at the same time fuelling their own motivations to reach their personal goals. Initiatives like this are successfully teaching the children the essential life skill of self evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, a skill that can lead to what Maslow (1987) referred to as self actualisation.
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Moving on, according the latest OFSTED report (2011), the school's 'Care, guidance and support are outstanding, particularly the quality of pastoral care. Every pupil is valued and encouraged as an individual'. This goes in line with adopting the vision of the Every Child Matters Agenda; each child is encouraged to adopt a positive attitude to learning not just in the classroom but outside as well. The school prides itself in providing quality interventions from the Special Educational needs team right through to the extensive range of extracurricular activities and trips. Every child is made to feel involved at some point of their journey regardless of their circumstances and abilities. Teachers actively encourage pupils to take part, with an exhaustive list of what is available (Appendix 3); a vast majority of children in the school have been able to find something they are interested in.
Regardless of Tommy's medical needs, he is a very active child and is keen on playing cricket. From becoming a member of the cricket club he has built up his self esteem, making him feel no different from his peers. These extracurricular activities are key to providing pupils with an opportunity to channel their interests in a safe environment. They build on social skills allowing them to have a better sense of belonging. It could also be said that allowing children to focus more time in tasks and activities contributes to an all round more positive behaviour and attitude to educational as a whole.
Along with the provisions made for the pupils, the school plays a large part in contributing to the community. There are a range of clubs and courses specifically tailored to support parents including; positive parenting skills, ESOL classes (English for speakers of other languages), ICT and social networking, and keeping up with numeracy. These courses have been put into place to assist parents in helping their children at home. For example, the ESOL classes have been very effective. With a high number of pupils joining the school from different backgrounds, these courses have helped parents less confident in English to better support their children in reading at home.
Class teachers maintain good relationships with parents, liaising with them at home times and parent's evenings. The teachers have an open door policy, encouraging parents to take an active role in their children's education. This approach works well, as too often in the past; parents have always been contacted when a child misbehaves and little time has been spent to contact parents to praise children's work or efforts. It is believed if a teacher takes an active role of liaising with parents on a regular basis; this will work to the teachers' advantage of having more cooperation from home.
Having looked at how some of Tommy's needs have been met and the vast amount of provisions put into place. It would be fair to conclude that on a larger scale, adequate care and attention has been taken to provide an inclusive learning experience as a whole. Despite the improvements needed in providing more opportunities for Tommy to practice his writing skills, in other fields he has shown to be working at a good level. Once more provision is made to help Tommy to address his writing skills; there would be no reason to suggest that he cannot achieve the grades expected of a year four pupil.