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John Henrik Clarke said, “A good teacher… must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.” This is true, but how do you keep everyone’s attention?
I can entertain, use my pitch, tone and volume of my voice and even break into song. But some of my students, like many of my female classmates in university, are totally impervious to my charms.
These students are called Pupil Premium. Schools get additional funding for these students, but as you can imagine there are conflicting views on how to spend this money.
Pupil Premium students have recognised barriers to their learning. They include coming from a disadvantaged background or if a parent is in the armed forces.
According to research from Ofsted, over two fifths are spent on teaching assistants, but now schools are trialling more extreme initiatives like using ex-navy personnel to literally get difficult children out of bed. A school in Portsmouth, now uses ex-navy employees to go to truanting students houses and take them out of bed and take them to school. This initiative has seen attendance improve from around 80% to 95%.
I like this train of thought as it guarantees students are where they need to be, in the classroom.
My problem is, I question how much time and effort has been allocated to understanding why they don’t come to school.
I have a student called Alan who is a regular truant. It got to the point where he would do his lessons with me. His attendance stats went up so my bosses were happy but this couldn’t last. So we did what we should have done from the start. We talked. We got to the bottom of why he doesn’t attend and we compromised on a reduced timetable.
Just imagine what schools could achieve if resources weren’t focused on improving statistics but on developing the child holistically.