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This assignment will look at and critically analyse how the approaches at my school lead to meeting the holistic needs of every child. It will start by briefly explaining Maslow (1987)'s hierarchy of needs and the Every Child Matters policy, and how these are used in within the school. It will then move on to how the classrooms follow this policy, how this relates to the children and their families and the methods put in place by the class teacher to ensure this and then, will critically analyse how all these theories and policies affect the individual children in the class, in particular a child who has been closely observed, and how their school experience could possibly be improved through different theories and methods. The assignment will then conclude by suggesting ways to improve teaching methods through the observations made and how these improvements will meet the different needs of the individual.
Maslow (1987) stated that in order to become everything that one is capable of becoming each individual must work their way up the hierarchy of needs until they reach self-actualisation. However to achieve this, the individual must successfully complete each stage in order.
This approach is adopted within schools today and is part of Every Child Matters (2003) policy and although it has been phased out, schools still follow the practice, and it is upon this policy that many schools base their mission statement/ethos. The Every Child Matters policy was to ensure that all children could achieve, be healthy, and be safe and to ensure that they had equal opportunities.
At my school their ethos is the same. Their statement says that the school will; provide a broad and varied curriculum (National Curriculum 2000), help children to become independent self-motivated learners, provide a safe caring environment which will cater to the needs of all children and finally provide opportunities for the children to reach their full potential be it academically, socially, creatively, sport or personal.
For this the school is a success, they provide after school sports clubs and music lessons for the children. One criticism which I would like to make is that there is no breakfast club/homework group where the children could gain the extra support should they need it. If the school is to follow Maslow (1987)'s hierarchy, then they should make sure that children's basic needs are fulfilled, and whilst they do provide safe clean drinking water for children whenever they need it and school lunch etc. there is no breakfast club in place to provide the children with a meal first thing in the morning, This is argued by Cummings C.et al (2007). During my time at school, on a few occasions children have mentioned that they can't concentrate because their "tummies are growling". I have also noticed in school that the parents are rushing to drop their children off and very few see the class teacher at all, a breakfast club would in this case benefit this area too, as parents could drop their children off and have a few extra minutes perhaps to check with the teacher that their child is doing ok and has no problems and is happy. Research by Moyles and Robinson support this theory (2002 p.55)
"Studies have shown that when there is a partnership between schools and home, there is a positive impact on children's learning and behaviour" (Beginning Teaching Beginning Learning P.55)
One argument that the school could put forward for not undertaking these clubs is the limited funding available to the school and so they would have to ask parents/carers for donations or fees towards covering the costs, some of the parents would have no objection of paying however others may not be able to financially support their child in this way and so their child would be left out causing feelings of exclusion and alienation which goes against the school ethos. Due to the government's recent spending cuts the funds previously available to the school to finance these clubs has being drastically cut. (The Guardian (2011): How spending cuts are hitting schools - despite coalition vow to protect them) There has been speculation as to whether these cuts will also affect clubs across the board, such as the sports clubs. (The Guardian (2012): Drop in school sport support blamed on funding cuts)
The schools last OFSTED report was carried out in 2008; in it they describe the school as outstanding however since then the school has improved in several different areas.
"This is an outstanding school. Leaders and staff have not been content to maintain the
exceptional performance reported following the previous inspection. Instead, the school has
gone from strength to even greater strength. Standards in writing, once a comparatively weaker
area, have risen in leaps and bounds demonstrating the school's determination to settle for
nothing but the best. Parents are full of praise. Typically, they comment that 'we could not ask
for a better school'. Pupils' own opinion is that this is 'a brilliant place'. " (School A OFSTED Report 2008)
It now offers music lessons and has a string orchestra. One criticism I have of the music lessons however is that children are brought out of the classroom, during which time they may miss important information and learning. Similarly with the orchestra, it rehearses during playtimes and children have lessons during lunchtimes, this keeps the children from their own free time in which they can play and develop their social skills. During observations in the staff room, staff have mentioned that certain children-notably girls- do not know how to play and this is stunting their imagination (importance of play reference), and whilst they agree that orchestra and learning music is a positive thing, perhaps these activities should take place outside school hours. According to the Department for Education Services
"'Play helps young children to be competent learners who can make connections and who can create and transform ideas and knowledge, because they are imaginative and expressive" DfES Report (2007 p.2)
One argument for this not happening is that teachers do not have the time to undertake after school activities due to the time constraints that they face, and the amount of work they are expected to complete outside the classroom such as the planning and preparation of lessons. The school could also argue however that it is through the extra practices and children devoting these break times to the orchestra that this is the reason why it is so successful, and can go out and play concerts both in the local and wider communities.
The classrooms in school follow the school ethos, however this is done through the children making a set of golden rules, these include:
Respecting other members of the class and their work
Trying their hardest with everything
Being polite and well mannered
Include everyone in activities
These are once again based upon the principles of Every Child Matters but in a language that the children can understand and on their terms. These golden rules help to promote and reinforce good behaviour in the classroom.
The classroom in which the observation took place the children are grouped by ability, personally I don't agree with this and think children of all abilities should mix where ever possible. Research has shown that peer mentoring has had a positive effect in the classroom, whereby children of higher ability are able to mentor those of lower ability and be able to explain activities which aren't quite clear to the lower ability children. This follows the principles of Vygotsky (1989 p.428 Smith, Cowie and Blades (2003)), who put forward the idea of a 'More Knowledgeable Other' (MKO)
The child (child A) upon which the observation was carried out on, took part in 'peer mentoring' during a design and technology lesson, and helped children of a lower ability, once they had finished their own work. Child A is in the middle ability range group. He is seen as intelligent but gets distracted quite easily from the tasks set and so fidgets with items he has to hand or starts staring around the classroom. He has guitar lessons which he thoroughly enjoys, and upon questioning said that it was his favourite lesson follow by ICT. During group work he seems to keep himself to himself and doesn't really mix well with the other children in his group, preferring to play with children in other groups and in other classes at break times. One approach which the class teacher could put in place is 'talking partners' instead of the children selecting which classmate they want to work with, she could pair the children up in a way which would mix up the abilities and sex divide in the class, quite often the girls will select other girls to work with and the boys the same. If child A was to work with a child of higher ability it may push him to try harder with his work. Quite often during carpet work he has finished the exercise before the class teacher has finished going through it, so another criticism is that there needs to be more differentiation within the activities, which is not always possible but in maths for example the questions could be harder, and for literacy different ideas could be used. Child A's distracting behaviour is known to the class teacher and she is constantly monitoring him, when she thinks that he is not concentrating on task, she will question him about the activity or what he's put in his work, which could put child A under pressure and sometimes he struggles to explain and stutters slightly. A solution to combat this problem could be talking partners. Instead of asking child A a question outright she could ask him what his partner just said or as a pair ask what ideas they have come up with. One reason why the class teacher may not have introduced talking partners is because it would involve a lot of moving around in the classroom which would possibly unsettle the children, and also if a child of lower ability was working with a child of a higher ability it may have a reverse effect, the child of lower ability may feel like there is no point in answering because the other child already knows the answer and become intimidated by the situation.
In conclusion it can be argued the school has many different approaches to meeting the individual needs of the child. This is done through the introduction of out of school groups such as sports clubs and music lessons. The school also encourages child involvement in the running of classrooms for example each class has written a set of 'golden rules' to help promote respect and understanding. It has been argued the school could try different approaches to learning such as peer mentoring and more out of school clubs which could benefit the children in different areas, another approach which could lead to the class working better together would be team points, when a child shows a great amount of effort or finishes a piece of work to a high standard then team points are awarded, this is based upon a behaviourist approach and positive reinforcement, a criticism of this however is that the child would start to focus more upon the reward in this case the house points and not on the actual work set. These approaches include the enhancement of the educational needs (homework clubs) and breakfast clubs (social development and health needs), and are in line with Maslow (1987)'s hierarchy of needs which states to become a rounded individual each person must pass though each stage of the pyramid. The school clubs and different approaches to learning help to promote this transition. I feel that the approaches I have experienced will enable me to develop my teaching and provide a more holistic school life for the children; I have learnt how to use the appropriate strategies and schemes such as more partner work, mixing the ability groups, and behaviour management methods such as the 'golden rules', and believe that implementing a 'team points' chart would allow the children to work together and bond thus providing them with situations chance to build strong relationships with both their peers and the adults in the classroom.