Sunday, 18 July 2010

Big Schools; Little Schools. A Sad Little Story

One advantage of being "unpopular" is that your school tends to attract and is given the pupils that other schools don't want, and because it is relatively smaller, it is easier to spot these individuals' needs.

A true story.

In my Year 7 class this year there a French speaking African boy. Now P was very shy, and I was doing the usual trying to bring him out, include him in the ensembles, while not overwhelming him. Sometimes I would speak in French to him because I couldn't tell whether it was shyness or lack of understanding when he didn't respond. [I know that the newcomers need to operate in English, but the odd sentence here or there doesn't hurt.]

Then one week, as we were walking down past the practice rooms and the instrument stores, en route for a practical lesson in the steel pan room, P pointed out the violins, and told me that he play. And so, as it turned out, he could; he played to the class; he was good; and the others applauded him and gave him respect. We fixed him up lessons with the violin peri, and then we set about reminding him on a weekly basis to go to them.

That would have been a good story, except that four weeks later, after the school was threatened with closure P disappeared. He had gone [in advance?] to one of the schools that Education Leeds had chosen for our students to be sent to after it would have suffered the threatened closure.

This would have been a sad story in itself, but then the big popular school that P had gone to, was then put in Special Measures only a couple of weeks later, with safe-guarding and behaviour as key issues. So there is our little shy boy in this big new popular school, with safe-guarding as an issue. Leaving the rest to your imagination. Little fish; little ponds; big ponds.

[Now there are arguments to say that this school is not as bad as it painted, and to be honest, I only visit it occasionally; don't teach there; don't know the full picture; can't honestly judge; and I wouldn't want any other school to suffer death by rumour; so there's nothing more here than is in the public domain. And Ofsted: Ofsted was the icing on the cake of our campaign to save City of Leeds School, so I'll hear nothing against them; well not right now.]

But I think about P from time to time, and I just can't help wondering if he has walked past the instrument store yet.

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