Saturday, 19 December 2009


Well, my spell at the school in Shropshire is over. My last day was Thursday, and I have to say I'm sorry to leave. The kids were sweeties and the staff were lovely. They even thought to get a box of chocolates as a leaving gift - how thoughtful is that? I'm going to miss them.

By contrast, I have a three month placement in an academy in Tipton next. Tipton is in the Black Country, a part of the Birmingham conurbation. It has its own dialect and social rules. The difference couldn't be greater.

Academies, on the whole, are a recent invention. A failing school can rejuvenate itself by turning into an academy. They change the name, uniform, term dates, funding, style of lessons and subjects they offer; voila! A new school. What they can't change, is the demographic area the school is in, and therefore the kids are still the same, with the same social problems and attitudes.

I went to look round the one in Tipton. I managed to get lost both on the way there and on the way back. I ended up skirting fields in the middle of Staffordshire.

I love the emphasis they place on developing the whole child. The kids are growing up really self aware of skills like confidence, listening to others and independent learning. All of this is far more beneficial to the child than academic qualifications are to kids with no aspiration to do anything with them.

The lessons are blocked into morning and afternoon lessons, lasting a good three hours each. I like the idea of this in principle, though how it will be to plan and teach, I don't know. I was never into the high stress six short blasting lessons a day, with kids forever being unsettled and changing rooms. I have always preferred a calm approach.

I'm not under any illusion that this will be an easy placement. City kids are more edgy and take longer to accept new people. Close knit communities can appear friendly, whilst not letting you in. You can be their best mate, and then they nick your phone.

We'll have to see what happens. It will be an adventure - a bit like the journey to and from the place was.

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