Teaching and Learning in the Inner City

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Within every school, all across the world, there are barriers that can affect children's learning, be it within the school setting itself, the family home, or the wider community. The effects these barriers can have, not only a child's education, but their aspirations, confidence in themselves and the world around them, are potentially devastating. These barriers, and in turn problems, tend to be far greater, more obvious and more damaging in the inner city schools. Each child has their own story, their own dreams and aspirations, and it is important that we allow the children the greatest chances and opportunities to achieve everything they desire and are capable of. It is important that these barriers do not prevent a child from having aspirations and dreams, or from having the necessary opportunities and experiences to fulfil them.

Since the tragic death of Victoria Climbié we have seen the greatest Government reaction to a child being mistreated. The Government has now implemented the all important 'Every Child Matters', entrusting everyone who works with children with their care and protection, and making sure that communication does not fail yet more children, as it has done in the past. This paper sets out the Governments' proposal for 'reforming the delivery of services for children' and it builds on 'existing measures to ensure that we protect children at risk of harm and neglect from negative outcomes and support all children to develop their full potential' [1] . While there are thousands of children at risk each year, the majority of those at risk are found within areas that struggle economically, but that is not to say they are by any means confined to these areas. The introduction of 'Every Child Matters' has given each and every child the right to five specific and important things in life; being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and economic well being [2] . Each one of these outcomes has sub categories, and the children rely on the help and qualifications of the people who care for them; be it in an education, family or recreational settings, to help them achieve all of these outcomes, allowing them to become well rounded, valued members of their communities. The reason that this publication is so significant for teachers, head teachers, and other school staff is because there is evidence which clearly demonstrates the most effective way to improve outcomes for poor children and to break cycles of deprivation is through educational achievement [3] . Due to the introduction of 'Every Child Matters' schools are undergoing significant changes, as they are beginning to embed the ideas of Every Child Matters, personalised learning, extended school initiatives and transform learning communities through building schools for the future [4] .

There are numerous barriers within school that can be a cause for concern, which can prevent children from achieving their full potential. These include the pupils being taught in an unsuitable learning environment, inappropriate pupil groupings, ineffective and poorly used teaching assistants, a limited range of teaching styles used, inaccessible curriculum materials and inflexible timetabling and curriculum learning pathways [5] . The school is responsible for the majority of these barriers, and they need to be addressed. Some are more difficult to combat than others; for example the numbers of students in each class, if the children are to get the best education possible then the class sizes need to be reduced, but due to funding, building sizes and the availability of good teaching staff solving this problem is complex, and unlikely to happen in the near future. The job therefore falls to the teacher, and any support staff they have available to them, to make sure that they are able to include all the children in the necessary activities, regardless of academic ability, use a range of teaching styles [6] , and to allow the children of all levels to be challenged, whilst in a stable, fun and safe learning environment. A huge emphasis here must be on the importance of the teaching assistant, particularly in the inner city schools, where there are often a greater number of children who are of a lower academic standard due to barriers outside the school, which will be discussed later. The teaching assistant is a huge asset to any classroom, and it is vital that the teacher utilises this asset as much as possible, to help those children who, for whatever reason, struggle to master the basics of either maths or literacy, in particular. The teaching assistant is a huge influence with regards to the implementation of either 'Every Child a Reader' or 'Every Child Counts', allowing themselves time with the children, and to help them gather the foundations they require, in an environment with fewer or no distractions than a classroom. This is a far better ratio for the children who require the additional assistance, the teaching assistance has the time and more available individual resources than the teacher does, who constantly has to focus on classes of around thirty children, and struggles to focus on individual children all the time. The teaching assistants particularly helps to promote the child's inclusion and acceptance, their self esteem and independence, ensure their safety and access to learning, and acting as positive role models [7] , and plays an enormous part in the implementation of 'Every Child Matters'.

If a child is to achieve their full potential, not only in education, but in life, then they need to feel safe, confident, healthy and supported. Many children, all over the world go to school each day not feeling safe, healthy, supported, confident, safe, or even cared for, and it is these children 'Every Child Matters' aims to help the most. Our family settings for many of us, is our safe place, and know that our parents are going to be there to support us, be it emotionally or with school, however sadly this is not the case for every child. Many children who attend the inner city schools come from areas that suffer economically, and in turn this often means that they suffer socially as well, with higher crimes rates, and children entering into criminal activity, or having behavioural problems that may not have appeared had their circumstances been different. There are many children that do not feel safe if they were to go outside and play with their friends, or their parents do not trust the people in their neighbourhood not to harm the child, or endanger them in anyway. Fear of what happens outside your own front door, can be very distressing, and children often feel as if they cannot gain any independence because they are prevented from experiencing the outside world, even if it is for their own safety.

Today, more than ever, we are made aware of problems children face within their own homes; not all of these are necessarily parents fault as such, for example if they do not have enough time to help the child with homework, or take them to sporting activities as they have work commitments, to try and allow their family enough money to buy the food and daily essentials required. Also with divorce rates higher than ever, should parents decide to get a divorce, even if it is amicable, it can have devastating effects on the child, who often blames themselves for the break up. Many divorces or home situations however are not amicable, and it is these children who struggle the most; they worry constantly about their family and home life, meaning they struggle to concentrate in school, and on designated tasks. A home where parents shout constantly, or never talk is not one we wish to bring our children up in. For some children this is all they experience in their home. Many children feel that it is necessary to use violence, or shout at their peers, or staff if they feel that they are not getting the attention they require, or if a situation is unfair, or they fall out with their peers, disagree with a member of staff, as this is what they see their parents do on a daily basis, and children are unaware of any other way to resolve conflict, think that this reaction to situations is normal and happens everywhere. It is important with these children that staff try to help the child understand that there are other, better and more appropriate ways of dealing with conflict or disagreement, and that they are there to talk to, should the child want to tell them anything, about concerns at home, or if they feel that they are at risk within their own home; being abused, emotionally, physically, sexually or neglected. This applies to all children, as abuse is not just taking place within the inner city areas, but can be found everywhere, but within the struggling areas it can be more common, as there is often more to argue about with money problems, and with the current economic climate many parents are losing their jobs, making family problems more complex than before. Some of the children within these homes are subject to risk, according to the laws governing the safeguarding of children in England, and these children could be subject to further devastation in their lives by potentially being removed from their families for their own safety, which is also an element of 'Every Child Matters', giving these children a safe place to go home to, and a supportive network behind them to give them opportunities and experiences. These situations need to be handled carefully as each child can react extremely differently in all situations, and the teacher and school staff need to be supportive and understanding of these types of situations, encouraging the child and helping them understand they are supported can achieve things through educaton. As well as the above mentioned hardships that can be found within the home, we must also remember that there are cultural and language differences which can cause barriers within the school environment as other children, and often staff do not understand these differences, and it is important within any school to open the pupils minds to accepting other cultures and religions, other than their own. Many children, within certain inner city areas, also do not speak English as their first language, which can cause numerous communication problems, for staff and other pupils within the group, making classroom and peer inclusion much more of a challenge than with children who are fluent in English. There are specific QTS standards that have taken into account these cultural and language barriers; specifically 18; Understand how children and young people develop and that the progress and well-being of learners are affected by a range of developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences and 19; Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including those for whom English is an additional language [8] .

There is no way of removing all the barriers that face children within the inner city areas, but with the introduction of these new initiatives; Every Child Counts, Every Child a Reader and most importantly Every Child Matters, we are the better equipped than ever before, as teachers, support staff, families and carers to give these children the best chance to gain, maintain and achieve their dreams and aspirations.

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