To serve the child or to serve the school?

Primary and secondary schools have a huge amount in common but there appears to be a singular characteristic that continues to define and distinguish the two sectors.

It can be represented by a continuum, as follows:

The school is there………………………………………………The learner is there

to serve the learner                                            to serve the school

Of course, as with any schemata the above sets out the two as polar opposites but I believe that in most cases a primary school tend, in the main, to err to the left, whilst secondary schools, in the main, err to the right (perhaps err isn’t the correct word here?)

I don’t seek to blame secondary schools for this but there is something about the bureaucracy of timetabling, student management systems, and deeply ingrained assumptions about the purpose of schooling that make it so difficult for secondary schools to escape from the magnetic pull towards “service to the school”. 

I’m coming round to thinking that it is this single characteristic that is making it so difficult for secondary schools to fully address the challenge that is Curriculum for Excellence.

It will take a determined and sustained focus from secondary school leaders to make a dent in this characteristic – assuming that there exists a desire to change.

2 thoughts on “To serve the child or to serve the school?

  1. There maybe some unintended sense to these transitions – starting in nursery, through primary and secondary, and then to employment. Each step is a preparation for the next, and at each step, the individual is less at the centre.

    Coping with the bureaucracy of timetabling at school turned out to be a good preparation for working in an education authority.

    But you’re right, it shouldn’t quite be like that.

  2. It’s intereseting reading this. We’ve been through 4 sets of subject choices now, and each time it’s felt like the needs of teh timetable are of overriding importance whilst the needs of the student have come very secondary. Each time we’ve heard “Yes, that should fit in” rather than “you should think about this combination of subjects because….” From a parent’s point of view, I’ve never heard anything approaching advice on subject combinations with respect to the child’s needs or direction. Perhaps we’ve always made the right choices and haven’t needed advice but the picture is the same when talking to other parents. More than once I’ve said to people “But if he/she wants to do that, he should probably be doing two sciences” or whatever, and it turns out they’d not even considered that. In one case. a friend’s son who was heading for straight credits was told he should do Int2 in a subject he wanted to do at university “because it fitted better with the timetable”.

    I’m quite sure timetabling is a complete nightmare but even so…!

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