High five for better results

12th December 2008 at 00:00
American-style greeting could be key to success in inner-city schools

Giving disadvantaged pupils "high fives" will help improve exam results, teachers training to lead some of England's toughest inner-city schools are being told.

Building strong personal relationships with individual pupils is part of achieving success in challenging urban secondaries, according to the Future Leaders scheme. And, in some cases that may mean adopting an all-American greeting.

"When your children come into the classroom how you do 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."

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

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

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