Give pupils high fives to let them know you care

12th December 2008 at 00:00
Trainee heads gesture helps establish 'positive relationships' with pupils

Giving disadvantaged pupils "high fives" will help to improve exam results, leadership trainees are being told.

Building strong personal relationships with individual pupils is a key part of achieving success for teachers in challenging inner-city schools, according to Future Leaders, a training scheme for prospective heads of urban secondaries.

And, in some cases, this may mean adopting a more American-style welcome.

"When your children come into the classroom, how do you greet them?" Sir Iain Hall, the scheme's national director of training, asked a meeting of aspiring heads.

"Whether it is a high five, it is touching a child's hand, it is shaking their hands - we teach our Future Leaders to stand at the classroom door and greet every kid who comes through it.

"(It's about) establishing positive relationships all the time, shaking the hands of kids that go past, giving those high fives."

Sir Iain, a former head in inner-city Liverpool and Manchester, told the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference earlier this month that he had been inspired by visits to charter schools, and Knowledge is Power schools in America.

He also recommended a technique he had seen at a New York school where every morning pupils were gathered in a circle and applauded.

"The headteacher would say 'John, we appreciate you' and everybody cheers John," he said. "It is getting that positive relationship where children can relax and think 'Somebody believes in me'."

Asked by The TES whether English pupils would respond to high fives as well as their US counterparts, Sir Iain answered with his own brand of American-style positivity.

"If I believe it will work with every student, then it will," he said. "In 1952 nobody had climbed Everest."

Andrew Day, deputy head of Greenford High in Ealing, West London, has taken part in the government- and charity-funded Future Leaders scheme and is an enthusiast for the high-fives approach.

"It is what they (the pupils) do," he said. "It is all about how they perceive you. The moment you start working with them, they know you care."

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