What keeps me awake at night - If we don't expand their horizons, who will?

2nd August 2013 at 01:00

I teach at a school in a very deprived area where children rarely leave their own postcode. Just last week, we went on a school trip to a neighbouring town and very few of the children, who are aged 6-7, had ever heard of it.

This is because the parents don't feel any need to leave the confines of the estate where the school is located: one parent told me he had been outside the estate only twice in his 28 years on the planet. I asked him why he didn't leave more often and he replied that he saw no reason to do so.

This context is important as we have, for the past few terms, been running an intervention for children with behavioural and social issues. These children are far behind their classmates because they find it difficult to concentrate and engage in the classroom environment. Some of the support staff had the idea of opening their minds to new experiences by taking them on trips to different places around the county. Around six of the most difficult children were put on the scheme and on a single day each week they were taken to historic National Trust properties, country parks and other places of interest.

The impact was remarkable. Classroom behaviour improved, engagement improved and attainment improved. The simple act of taking the children outside their environment, opening their eyes to another world, suddenly gave them the impetus to push themselves and engage.

The plan was to roll this out to more children next year. However, our headteacher called us in last week to explain that the funding had been taken away and that even our small group would no longer be viable. The reason we were given is that there is simply not enough money to go around, especially for things a parent should be doing themselves.

The problem, of course, is that the parents are not fulfilling this role. They are not acting to expand their child's horizons, and so who else is there to fill that gap but us? Yes, the role of educator should not be that of parent, but where taking on some of that parental role can be the difference between a child succeeding or not, is that not worth the money?

The writer is a teacher in Scotland

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Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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