Newsflash September 2018
Posted on September 10, 2018 by David Walford
A roundup of some of the school-based news that has hit the headlines this summer…
Whilst you may have heard some of these, or been following their progression personally, here are some of the news stories about school that you may have missed.
We will be looking at some of these articles and the topics that surround them in greater depth this term, but here is some quick information as well as my thoughts and questions around these headlines!
Headline: Fortnite: Schools ‘could learn lessons from gaming’
Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-... (19/08/2018)
Summary: Despite the way that the video game Fortnite is affecting some children’s sleep patterns, researchers feel that there are aspects of the game that could help make the classroom more fun. One example is Year 8 students in one school in Wales getting a ‘point’ when answering a question right, and then getting the option to risk it on a wheel of fortune for the chance to ‘win two points’.
Reflections: The idea that risk (the idea of losing an earned point) is something that will intrigue and entertain young people is an interesting concept, and definitely one to reflect upon yourself and within your practice. There are a few elements of this model worth dissecting, starting with the question: Does this encourage gambling?
There is a chance that as people with power, people with fully-formed brains who the ability to make rational decisions and weigh things up, you may think this is okay/not a problem. However, it is difficult to know the impact that incorporating this into a school would have on impressionable young people.
After discussing this briefly in the office, there was a suggestion that managing risk is a normal part of society; everything from running a small business, to figuring out whether you should walk home or wait for the next bus involves some form of risk. This ‘risking’ of a point is a relatively small stake in the grand scheme of life, so could this be even be a helpful thing to learn at a younger age?
On the other hand, so much of young people’s life is designed to keep them hooked, games such as Fortnite, but the whole of social media is designed to keep their attention, from infinite scrolling to the ‘slot-machine-style’ reloading action. This concept of risk in a prolonged fashion could be such a damaging way of educating young people, getting them hooked to a thrill-seeking/risk-averse lifestyle that could endanger them in the future. We are defined by the habits that we create, and I’m sure if you’ve ever given something up for lent or tried to introduce a New Year’s resolution/discipline, you know that habits die hard.
Contrasting to that, this idea of encouraging young people to answer questions and try, even when they don’t know the answer could be a good habit to teach. Therefore, there are definite occasions or scenarios where this could be a helpful idea – teaching about business in an Economics lesson, about probability in a Maths class, or about strategy in history, there may be a place for risk to occur in school, but at what cost?
I feel that this is an important lesson to teach, not a culture to create.
Question to leave you with: Is risk an appropriate thing to integrate into education and into the classroom?
Headline: Sharp rise in pupil exclusions from English Schools/Schools expel 40 pupils each day, data shows
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/ed... (19/07/2018) and
Summary: The Department of Education’s statistics state that secondary schools account for 4 out of every 5 permanent exclusions, and in the last year of records (16/17), the number of students permanently excluded from primary, secondary and special education has increased by around 1,000. It averages out that across the country there is 40 students being excluded every day. The BBC article in particular also paints the picture of what other factors are more likely to lead to exclusion. Some factors are race, deprivation and special educational needs.
Reflections: Exclusion. Whatever your opinions on exclusion, this article shows that this is a reality that more and more young people enter into every day. Designed as a last resort in order to punish that young person as well as help the other students in the school, the increase in numbers begs the question of whether this is still the case?
A ‘Christianese’ phrase that you may have heard batted around in church and in your office is that as Christians, we go after ‘the last, the least and the lost’. That is heard so much because it is true, and we even sing about the God who goes leaves the ninety-nine for the one. I am in no way knocking the phrase or the theology behind it, but rather asking that if there are more lost young people, more young people told that even school is not a place for them, is all that we as schools’ worker can do is react?
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders is mentioned in both articles stating that funding cuts have played a big part in the rise of exclusions that almost rivals what it was 10 years ago. However, the BBC article shows that “the very poorest pupils, those on free school’s meals, are four times more likely to receive permanent exclusions than other pupils”, and that “black Caribbean pupils have an exclusion rate three times higher than the school population as a whole”.
Whatever the cause is, I fully believe that we should try and keep young people in education as much as we can for as long as we can. I absolutely think we should be in Pupil Referral Unit’s and other provisions, but also in schools, cheering young people on, being in that gap, supporting those that need it. We are called to be proactive as well as reactive in the way we face the challenges we see in the schools we are in.
If we firmly believe in the Christian story involving a second chance for those who muck up, that there is grace for everyone and that no one is too far gone to experience God’s love, how does that extend into our schools’ work? How do we do this whilst still helping young people to learn that their actions have consequences and teaching them how to thrive in society?
Question to leave you with: Can we reconcile the idea of grace & exclusion?
(Statistics gathered from https://assets.publishing.serv...)