Choice of select company

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
Bad blood between child and teacher can have a long-term effect - which is why so much thought is devoted to getting the right match between the two.

It may be true that everyone remembers a good teacher; sadly it is also true that everyone remembers at least one teacher they cordially hated.

In our consumer culture parents know what they want and expect to get it. But getting their choice has developed into a fine art and depends on a detailed knowledge of how the head organises his or her classes - and a willingness to pressurise when necessary.

When I first came to my junior school, a leading figure on the parent-teachers' association quizzed me about when parents were to be told which teacher would have which class. It was taken for granted that I would continue the same system operated by the infant head. She would never listen to nasty comments about specific teachers but would look favourably on positive choices. Since I also inherited some monumentally unpopular teachers that year, class sizes would have varied from 0 to 60 if parents had had their way.

In our school, classes remain together from year to year as we believe that a mutually supportive ethos is built up within each class. Other schools change so that children have the chance of making new friends and escaping enemies. Neither system is necessarily the best but decisions made by teachers free from parental bias give fairly balanced classes.

Lately we have experienced demands that difficult children should be excluded, or at least be put in another class away from the complainant's child. Such demands are inevitably followed up with the threat of withdrawal to another school. Since more and more schools are now returning to banding by ability or even streaming, there may be even more disgruntled parents moving children to other schools. Perhaps one broad "A" band is the solution.

When teachers taught their own curriculum behind closed doors, contact was often limited to social exchanges in the staffroom. Now close professional working is essential and so great thought is put into the composition of year or subject teams. A balance of skills, knowledge and experience is necessary. Even more vital is the correct blend of personalities.

One year, in frustration, I suggested that we should organise children and teachers according to astrological groups. Such an idea is not so crazy. In Japan companies are now organised by blood groups; chief executives are sought for particular businesses by looking for the correct blood type. Dating agencies list blood group so that pairs are sure that they are compatible. Perhaps streaming by blood type will become popular here and give a whole new meaning to the A student.

Bob Aston is a primary head in Kent.

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