‘I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions’ – Stephen Covey

For many within the state education system circumstance does dictate educational outcome. This does not have to be the case.

The issue of educational disadvantage is very complex and there is no quick fix. As each child is different, so is their attitude to learning. As a result of this fact schools seem somehow counter- intuitive. We all go in to ‘the system’ at 4 years old and become part of a ‘machine’. We are expected to learn in the same way and achieve within set parameters. Success is something that can be measured, it is quantifiable. But is this really the case?

This however is a difficult question to answer and throws up alot more questions.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation children from less advantaged backgrounds feel less in control at school because they are under pressure to perform required tasks in which they lack confidence. This in turn leads to a reluctance to receive the curriculum. So by putting children under pressure to perform and ‘meet the grades’ are we just creating more individuals with a negative attitude?

This week I have seen some evidence of this. My school, an academy which has been praised by Ofstead and has had a number of visits from high profile people, is still fundamentally a school. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), academies were introduced to raise achievement in deprived areas by replacing poorly performing schools. They are publicly funded but are also supported by sponsors and operate independently of the local authority. This means that they have more autonomy and can allocate funds according to their individual needs. Due to their more independent status academies are able to challenge existing school structures. Yet in this instance, from my perspective, this is even less the case.

There is absolutely no doubt that many of the students here are capable of achieving great things and many will go onto university and do very well. However what about those who won’t? What about those who find structured learning difficult and are not academic in their abilities?

I have only been in school a week and already I have a better understanding of what it is that drives students to succeed, but also the barriers they face. I am also starting to see very difficult task of ensuring that everyone leaves with some results.

It is very difficult at this point to pass any form of judgement and I am not here to do that. I am here to learn about the structures that govern the institution, to learn about the barriers that students face both inside and outside of the classroom. I am also here to help those under my charge reach their potential. I am in what is called by Year Here as the ‘immersion phase’ and that is exactly what I am doing, I am immersing myself within the school to try and understand it from everyone’s point of view.

The next couple of posts will hopefully build up a more comprehensive picture. I will try to be as candid as possible and completely non-judgmental. I am here to learn and that is what I shall do.