I had a very enjoyable vist this week to Preston Lodge High School to observe five S1 pupils being taught a science lesson. Amy, Sean Michael, Steven, Dale and Jade showed tremendous understanding and application, and were fortunate to be taught by a great teacher in Gillian Binnie, supported by Mandy Reid. The class overcame a variety of significant personal learning challenges in such a positive manner that it was genuinely uplifting to watch the lesson.
In the course of the visit I also spoke to to some staff about how their combined Guidance and Support for Learning Department is impacting upon the school – particularly in relation to behaviour support. In the past the school had operated a support base where pupils were supposed to be referred for short period with the assumption that the time out of class would “cure them”. The reality was that the longer the children were out of class the greater the likelihood that they no longer saw themselves to be part of the school. The consequence that a “pack mentality” was created with it almost becoming a badge of honour to say “we’re all out of English”. I’ve always fought shy of creating such a mentality so it was great to hear that the new system of staff working with children in class as opposed to extraction is having such a positive impact.
I know that many teachers facing such challenging behaviour just want these types of kids out of their class but the long term effect upon the culture of the school and size of the disenfranchised group which just gets larger and larger – as does their negative impact upon the school.
Of course there are still some children who learn to manipulate the system to get their own way – i.e. to get out of class. What I found fascinating was that almost without exception such children have significant reading difficulties. Such evidenmce makes me all the more convinced that ensuring that all children can read by the age of 9 is an absolute imperative.