Smile, hard work means prizes
Thirteen-year-old Jade Sinclair is saving for a black inflatable bubble chair for her bedroom and Jenny Brass from fifth year is working towards a Top Shop voucher. Wick High is the first and only school in Scotland so far to reward pupils in such a tangible way for good work and behaviour.
Pupils' achievements are recognised with Vivo Miles, which they collect just as their parents collect loyalty points at the supermarket.
The online reward system is already used in 500 schools across 95 local authorities in England. In January this year, Wick High in Caithness became the first Scottish school to use the scheme.
Vivos are the 21st-century answer to gold stars - and so far they're going down well with these Highland pupils and improving their performance.
Schools pay an annual subscription to take part in the scheme and decide what achievements they will reward with Vivos. Teachers here have 200 Vivos to distribute each week and have to use them or lose them within the week. Rewards are given for everything from academic achievement to small acts of kindness that might otherwise go unrecognised.
History teacher Carrie Bennett introduced the idea at Wick High when she took up a post as a development PT with responsibilities that included rewards and achievements.
She used to reward pupils with a system of sticker charts, praise stickers and bronze, silver and gold certificates. "It was all fine, but the pupils didn't really value them," she says.
These Caithness teachers decided to reward achievement, good behaviour, contribution in class, responsible citizens, out-of-hours learning, meeting expectations and improved attendance and work.
"The good thing is they're actually seeing they're getting something for it," Miss Bennett says. The online system also encourages numeracy skills and familiarises children with the idea of online banking and the notion of saving for something they really want.
"I'm saving up for something for 1,000 points," says Jade, who's in third year. It's a bubble chair - that's a chair that inflates," she explains. Pupils can monitor their Vivos online and spend them on the online catalogue.
So far Jade has 400 Vivos and jokes that she'll be in fifth year by the time she has enough for the chair. But she admits the scheme has helped improve her school work. "It can make you concentrate more at school and put more effort into your work," she says.
And Jade's noticed others making more effort too: "There's more people taking in their homework on the due date. People who used to get punishment exercises from teachers for being bad are not getting as much now."
Fifth-year Jenny Brass says she and her classmates worked harder for exams to get Vivos: "People put in much more work because they knew they were going to get a reward at the end."
Jenny has got 545 of the 2,000 points she needs for her Top Shop voucher. She jokes that it will all have been worthwhile when she can walk into school and say: "You've bought me this top!"
Pupils have a card like a credit card and an online account where they can check whether teachers have given them extra awards. They're rewarded for attending after-school clubs for study or recreation or if teachers see they've made particular progress with work - school prizes can now come in Vivos too.
Jenny Brass was rewarded for revision and working on past papers at after- school classes before her Standard grades: "Before the exams I went to pretty much every subject after school," she says.
Points can be used to buy everything from highlighter pens to mobile phone top-ups or on donations to charity. Model first-year pupil Shona Tait is queen of the Vivos in Caithness, with over 1,000 which would be just 400 Vivos short of an MP3 player.
But Vivos isn't just about encouraging consumerism. Managing director of Vivo Miles Adrian Burt told TESS: "Twenty per cent of all points children spend online are spent on donations to charity."
`IF WE FIND A PUPIL HAS DONE A KIND ACT FOR SOMEONE ELSE, WE GIVE THEM VIVOS'
Some parents may take the view that their children should be behaving and working hard at school without needing an incentive scheme, and teachers have had misgivings that the system just means more work for them.
But at Wick High, Kathy Wares has been surprised at the ease with which the online points are allocated.
"I think a lot of people thought it would be a lot of extra work. But the biggest problem for me is remembering to do it," says the principal teacher for pupils' supportadditional support needs.
"It works hugely well in our department and we use it in a whole lot of different ways. If we find a pupil has done a kind act for someone else, we give them Vivos," says Mrs Wares. "We are seeing a difference - they are enthusiastic."
Students' Vivos are also allocated to whichever house they belong to, leading to a league table with fierce inter-house rivalry.
At this school they decided against the option of removing Vivos for bad behaviour, preferring to reinforce good behaviour.
"I just felt that you will have children who will do well in some subjects and perhaps not in other subjects," says Carrie Bennett, development PT. "And it's maybe not fair for them to be punished for something they've done in another subject when they have actually worked really well."