This assignment aims to consider the strategies used by my current school in order to meet the holistic needs of every child. I will assess how the ethos of the school is embedded at whole school level, class level and individual level. Throughout this assignment I will refer to and critically analyse relevant theory to deepen my understanding and considerations. The school I am basing this assignment on will be renamed 'school X' to remain anonymous and the selected child will be referred to as 'child A'.
School X is located in a socially deprived area and the number of children receiving free school meals is above average. A significant percentage of pupils are supported at school action plus and have a statement of special needs. Often disadvantaged areas are linked with a lack of opportunities and positive role models. As a result of this a considerable amount of time is spent working alongside and supporting parents and families through an 'open door' policy.
One of the main aims of school's ethos is to ensure every child fulfils their potential. According to the Excellence and Enjoyment paper (Department for Education and Skills 2003), parental involvement is critical to helping children achieve, as parents influence aspirations and provide expectations. The 'open door' policy makes parents aware that the school is working alongside them and encourages a partnership which is likely to build trust. The school appears to invest a lot of time into supporting parents and carers as they offer workshops on healthy cooking, lifestyles and family relations, as well as encouraging home reading and practicing times -tables. It may be reasonable to suggest that children who come from a supportive, stable background and have opportunities to continue their learning at home, may have an increased chance of fulfilling their potential. The Departmental Report (Department for Education and Skills, 2003) proposes that parental involvement can account for up to 12% of the differences between different pupils' attainment, which is a considerable amount.
It may be argued that the effects of parental involvement are difficult to measure and such research does not allow for individual circumstances. Many children are self motivated and the scope in definitions of the terms 'supportive' and 'succeed' are limitless.
The Every Child Matters agenda (Department of Education 2003) does however highlight particular characteristics which are associated with children experiencing negative outcomes including low income and parental unemployment, poor parenting and a disadvantaged neighbourhood.
The ethos of school X is to ensure holistic fulfilment and not solely academic achievement. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self actualisation, which is defined as the process of fulfilling ones potential, cannot be reached without satisfying basic needs first. Maslow claimed that hungry children will not function adequately and therefore result in misbehaviour (Maslow 1970, cited in Bergin and Bergin 2010, p.42).
Piaget (1971) suggests children develop through a series of universal pre-determined stages. He believed that children are unable to learn new concepts if they are not at a particular stage of development. Unlike Maslow (1970), Piaget focused on intellectual development and it could be interpreted that children will progress regardless of 'basic needs' being met. This may be considered to be an over- simplistic theory as individual differences are not accounted for.
The school runs a breakfast club which ensures all children in the school have the opportunity to start the day with a healthy meal. Some families simply do not have enough money to provide their children with breakfast, which is why the school offers free places to particular individuals.
Cross and Macdonald (2009, p.78) claim that poor performance in the classroom is a result of missing breakfast and not being able to find enough energy in the morning to cope with classroom demands. This opinion echoes that of Maslow's. It may be argued that this is an over simplistic statement as it is likely that other factors and variables contribute towards performance.
Research into brain development does however support the theory of inadequate nutrition, inappropriate diet and insufficient water having an effect on learning and development. The research suggests these inadequacies impede on brain growth and as a result reduces the capacity for learning and developing (Pound 2006, p.77).
It is important to assume that although breakfast club is a whole school entitlement, not every child starts the school day having eaten a sufficient meal or indeed any food at all. In order to prevent hunger, raise attainment and promote healthy eating the school also provide the children with free snacks throughout the day, which include fruit and raisins.
School X provides every individual with a water bottle, which they keep in the classroom. This ensures the children have unlimited free access to water throughout the day, nevertheless the water bottle system does appear to have some shortcomings. On many occasions the children appear to 'time waste' and spend a considerable amount of the session avoiding work. This could be minimised by having a specific drink time, however this would eradicate the independent and 'free access' factor.
The classroom environment is very much child-centred as all materials are accessible and the room is divided into learning areas. In order to facilitate learning and for the children to feel safe, the psychological needs of the individuals must be met. This can be achieved by thoughtfully arranging and positioning furniture which is age appropriate and providing affective dimensions (Clayton and Forton, 2001).
Child A has a statement of special needs at which they require a one to one support assistant. The classroom layout allows for child A and their assistant to fully engage with the rest of the class, as well as working on individual tasks when needed. This is achieved by having a separate area towards the back of the room, specifically designed for child A, which enables a quieter and less distracting learning environment.
This approach enables child A to work independently with their assistant if necessary, or alternatively with the class or as a group. Having a separate area for child A appears to limit the number of distractions, therefore more learning is achieved. Consequently child A does not call out or attempt to distract other children when in the separate working area, meaning other individuals' learning is not compromised.
A negative aspect of having the separate learning area is the danger of child A feeling segregated and not included within the class 'family'. The visible division may have a detrimental effect on self worth and a belonging.
In order to limit segregation the children often work in groups of mixed abilities, giving children opportunity to feel equally valued. In 2009 a report was published which stated 'All children should be taught in mixed-ability classes to boost standards and self-esteem..' (Paton 2009, online).
School X promote the creative curriculum, meaning subjects such as literacy and numeracy can be linked with topic based work and as a result children work in mixed ability groups in core subjects and not exclusively foundation.
Children are aware of what each school day will consist of, as a visual timetable is displayed on the white board. Child A is able to understand the timetable as it is in picture format as well as written, making it accessible to all the children. It is understood that by establishing routines the school day will be consistent and productive as the children know what to expect and feel comfortable as a result. Having routines frees up cognitive processing space for both teachers and children Gaea Leinhardt et al 1987).
If children feel comfortable it is likely they feel safe and secure, which contributes to addressing the holistic needs of children at both class level and an individual level.
A great emphasis is placed on rewarding achievement at school X. This is done in numerous ways from a community and whole school basis, to class and individual level.
Once every half term members of a local church perform an 'open book' assembly which involves dressing up and acting out a verse from the bible. The children are actively involved and the school choir, who often sing at various places in the district, sing at the end. The children share a strong sense of community and belonging during these occasions.
Each pupil collects 'points' throughout the school week for a variety of personal achievements and efforts. At the end of the week the school has a celebration assembly at which 'points' from each class are picked out to win a prize. During these assemblies', the whole school recognise and celebrate achievements in other areas, such as reading and attendance. A couple of children from each class receive certificates and a choice of prizes. Despite only one child from each class being chosen at the end of the week for a prize, the children are continuously enthusiastic about collecting the 'points'.
With no guarantee of a prize the children still behaved in a desired way, which links to the theory of 'shaping behaviour. Skinner (1938) suggested that by shaping behaviour (only reinforcing occasionally) the response will be maintained.
On an individual level the children are often given verbal praise. The teachers feel very strongly about providing an explanation when giving verbal praise, as they are aware that without reasoning the praise can lose meaning and value. The children should feel confident of their abilities and strengths, which in turn increases self esteem.
The classes each have a marble jar, and if the children collectively fill the jar they receive 'golden time' on a Friday afternoon. This is constructive play and a choice of activities. As with the points system, the children have to earn the marbles all week through good behaviour and achievement to gain the reward at the end. It may be unrealistic to expect a child to maintain certain behaviour in order to be rewarded in five days time. Some children may find it difficult to have such perspective and lose motivation. Perhaps a more effective reward system would have the child receiving an incentive the same day; however this could result in a lack of autonomy if tasks become reward focused. If children are solely focused on completing a task to gain a reward, they may take the easiest route to success and gain nothing in the process.
Children learn in different ways, which means a variety of teaching styles is essential if the school is to embed the ethos of every child fulfilling their potential. Most individuals, although possibly have a preference to one, benefit from a mixture of auditory, visual and kinaesthetic approaches to learning. School X ensures classrooms are visually stimulating with the use of displays of work, posters and working walls. Working walls also benefit kinaesthetic learners as they are 'active'. Displays of work not only provide reinforcement, but celebrate achievement too.
During lessons children have discussions with 'talk partners', whole class input and independent working. This ensures each child has the opportunity to be active in their learning. An interactive white board is made use of by every child and not just the teacher, which again reinforces active learning.
Children are encouraged to express their feelings and share thoughts and experiences during circle time. No pressure is applied to children to disclose any information if they feel uncomfortable. However, from observations it is evident that children feel safe and comfortable, as many enjoy circle time and expressing themselves. Child A uses a teddy bear during circle time to help them express their feelings. The principle aim of circle time is to enhance self esteem, raise any possible concerns and to reflect on experiences. If children feel uncomfortable sharing, the classroom has a feelings chart and a 'talk box' which the children can use as a means of communicating any worries or concerns with the teacher.
Through considering and analysing the measures used by school X to meet the holistic needs of every individual, it is evident that the principles of Every Child Matters forms a base for the schools ethos, alongside Maslow's theory of self-actualisation. Future research may find a correlation between well- being and attainment. In my future practice I feel it is essential that I recognise and develop a good understanding of the significance of fulfilling children's holistic needs.
The Every Child matters agenda and Maslow's theory appear to underpin the philosophy of the school at every level. Enjoying and achieving is fulfilled by reward systems within the classroom and at whole school level such as celebration assemblies. Healthy lifestyles are promoted and nurtured through circle time, sharing feelings, healthy food clubs and after school activities. School X has strong links with parents, provide financial and emotional support to promote economic well being and encourage a community spirit.
Finally the children are made to feel safe and valued, aiding them with the tools to fulfil their potential and make a positive contribution within society.