Show pupils a wider vista

10th January 2003 at 00:00
WEYMOUTH in January. It is cold, dank and miserable and winter has gripped our seaside town. Yes, the view going to school each day remains priceless - miles of curving shingle comprising Chesil Beach. Our coastline has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage Site Award. It has been renamed the "Jurassic Coast"; cliffs jam-packed with fossilised exhibits all neatly served up in a geological time-warp.

My school on the Island of Portland is surrounded by the English Channel on three sides. My catchment area is cod and herring. I have three lighthouses, fields of special scientific interest, three prisons and a shovel load of quarries. The road ends at my school gates and 200 metres away is a cliff top vista nature lovers die for. It sounds magic, but it has its limitations.

There can exist an island mentality. On the day of my headship interview I espied that a local garage had proudly displayed on its hoarding: 'Portland, an oasis in the desert of change'. Our children's perspectives for their futures rarely look beyond Weymouth itself. With no local businesses to support school fundraising efforts and no large supermarkets to support computer voucher collections, it can be extremely difficult to secure the best deal possible for pupils in a county that is one of the Government's worst-funded. Added to this is the lack of multi-ethnic mix in a virtually all-white school. Repeated attempts to twin with a nearby inner-city school have so far failed.

As teachers our responsibilities are to enrich children's lives. No matter where we live we share the same goals and frustrations. Each day brings fresh challenges. None of us may have the ideal location but we all have the power, in the words of Bill Laar, to "take the children where they didn't know they could go".

Stuart McLeod is head of Southwell primary school, Dorset

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