Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nursery & Primary Education Matter More Than Home Environment

Here's an interesting article in the Guardian today. Researchers claim that attending a good pre-school (2-3 year olds) and primary school has more influence on children's academic progress than their gender or home environment.

This throws out the whole idea that it's the parents fault, or the socio-economic status of the children that is to blame for low-achievement in school.

I personally taught in 2 very different schools in Brixton, London. Brixton is well known in London as a pretty tough area to teach in, and has a bad reputation for drugs and gangs. It has a high population of African and Afro-Caribbean students.

The first primary school I taught at in Brixton fit the stereotype of a school out of control. I taught Year 6 my first day, and had 2 years experience teaching in London already.

Before I could say, "Hello my name is..." the students ran into the corridor to participate in and witness a massive fight between a few of the boys. Imagine my delight at teaching that class for the day! I eventually calmed them down and managed to get through the attendance, get them to assembly & start the day again.

Surprisingly, they loved me! They asked me back again & again. I suspect it was because I wasn't shocked at their behaviour, but didn't accept them either. I am firm but fair, an essential skill in all London schools.

The next school I taught at in Brixton was just a few blocks away. Same population, same backgrounds, same socio-economic status. But this school was different. It had been rated as "outstanding" by Ofsted, the government regulatory body that rates schools.

So what was different? Well, not the kids! They came from the exact same neighbourhood. The school itself was different. The expectations were higher. The focus on extracurricular activities was much stronger. These students could do steal-pan drumming at lunch, play football ("soccer" for us), learn Turkish cooking, have extra support for their studies, and so on. They had every opportunity to excel in school and in school life.

The teachers worked together. They genuinely believed that all students can achieve in school and in life. Students with special educational needs were encouraged and supported. Behavioural difficulties were dealt with straight away and not ignored.

So, for me, I agree with this article. We do make a huge difference. And that's why I adore our teachers and the amazing work they do in London schools.

But what about you? Have you taught in a diverse school? Can you share your story? Please leave your comments below. Don't be shy!

If you think you want to teach in London, whether at tough school like my first example, or an "outstanding" school like the second, you can apply by sending me your resume to Check out the website for more information about visas. Teaching jobs for January are being filled quickly, so apply today.

Get your copy of Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. The ebook is receiving rave reviews from all readers, so I know you won't be disapointed. If you are though, I'll give you your money back.

1 comment:

  1. Just found this really old post. My experience is that schools can really make a difference, but I believe that's a dangerous line of thought. Of course we should be aiming to offer the best possible education and have high expectations regardless of our students' backgrounds... but a lot of parents think it's the school's job to teach their children everything, including basic manners. Which then aren't reinforced at home. And that makes it really hard for their teachers -- there's only so much we can do. For the best results, kids really need both.


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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