I have been a teacher for 28 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 52, this much I know about how best to support our most disadvantaged students.
Sobering moments can hit you unexpectedly. I was privileged to speak to a conference hall full of Glaswegian teachers recently at Celtic’s football ground, Celtic Park. Apparently their fans call the hugely impressive stadium, ‘Paradise’. I was told that the average life expectancy for men living in the surrounding Parkhead area is 54 years. As Sir Kevan Collins – my co-presenter – and I reflected, if we lived within sight of Celtic Park, I’d have eighteen months to live and Sir Kevan would have already popped his clogs.
Poor teaching perpetuates disadvantage. Here’s why we have to keep improving our performance in the classroom. The Sutton Trust Report, Improving the impact of teachers on student achievement, included this important finding:
The effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds: over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. In other words, for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is a whole year’s learning.
It’s so obvious, isn’t it? My son came home the other day and asked me to print off a Biology GCSE Unit 2 exam paper so he could practise questions after he had revised. I had superfast broadband, a laptop and printer, I knew where to find the papers, I had a password to access the latest version. When I had printed off the paper, I even had a stapler… I went on to drop all the papers in an electronic folder for him and he proceeded to revise, asking me for help when he needed it. Any insufficiency in his provision at school is compensated for by the support he accesses at home. Not so for the boy from the estate whose parents don’t have such rich resources and insider knowledge.
A modest proposal. If our most disadvantaged students are going to thrive, as school leaders we have to stop guessing about what works and lead learning from an evidence-base. Our teachers have to be the best teachers in the world. Period. It was particularly apposite to speak at Celtic Park to Scottish colleagues who work in some of the most deprived schools in Great Britain, with Sir Kevan Collins. The CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation was on sparkling form as he extolled the virtues of the Sutton Trust/EEF Teaching & Learning Toolkit which has been recently up-dated.
Sir Kevan Collins on tour! If you want to hear Kevan speak, then come along to the Research School Regional Conference 2017 on 24 May where he and I are teaming up again! You also get to hear Alex Quigley… You can book here.