If you were to analyse the language that emerges from the Department for Education and Ofsted about primary schools, you’d be forgiven for thinking we only ever taught English and maths.
The reality, as we all know, is somewhat different and most of us do have a "broad and balanced curriculum", and an extensive support structure for all pupils.
All of us involved in education appreciate we are in a period of austerity, and know that we should endeavour to produce better and better results with a reduced budget.
What is concerning is how this will affect one really important part of the school, one that is not talked about enough: the "hidden curriculum", that focuses on a child's wellbeing. This is the work that addresses the emotional needs and behavioural, physical and mental health issues, which are so evident in many of our children. We try to help children to build the self-esteem and confidence which will enable them to access the main curriculum and so achieve their potential.
In the past these areas of concern were normally out of the remit for schools, but over recent years ownership has changed, with schools becoming central to dealing with them, and increasingly responsible for meeting all the pupils' needs.
In many ways this has been due a lack of resource, but also it has been so a seamless relationship could be created between school, pupil and parent.
Our school, for instance, has a dedicated personal and social team with a home-school link worker. It has several emotional literacy support assistants who offer support, and a speech and language teacher.
The school itself has a very strong wellbeing ethos at its core. These professionals are led by an excellent individual whose sole aim is to ensure no outside influence interferes with children making their expected academic progress. This is not always easy and in a large school we are party to some unpleasant experiences. These put pressure on the individual staff involved and the senior staff need always to be well aware of staff's wellbeing.
Isn't it interesting that schools accept the challenge presented by these children? They work with them and are so often successful in many ways – normally against the odds.
In today’s economic climate, three points present themselves to me:
- Why are these teams not seen as an integral and essential part of every school and given the appropriate recognition?
- For every child there is a story – why then are these not appreciated in the appropriate way when a school is inspected? A good school never makes excuses for pupils but equally as a society we need to recognise the complex lives many of our children live.
- What will happen to these teams across the length and breadth of the country as we all have our budgets tightened? It seems inevitable that we will lose the quality staff schools have created, and we worry that this void may never be filled again.
Is the government prepared to throw all this away? Will schools shout about the importance of this work?
Without support from the government, and schools speaking in defence of these teams, I can see the reversal of years of progress over a very short period of time. I can also see a generation of disaffected children reappearing before our very eyes.
Well done, Mr Osborne.
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