A PRIMARY school in Leicester has decided that the only way it can raise its SATs scores and get children to attend extra cramming lessons is to pay them.
What a great idea, I thought, when I first read this story. Most children respond favourably to a bit of bribery, particularly of the pecuniary kind. I know of a mum who paid her son £50 to go for a haircut because she was tired of his lengthy locks.
I have been known to throw a bit of money at a problem when other forms of coercion failed.
But, needless to say, there has been outrage and condemnation for the £1 payments doled out to 25 Year Six pupils who attend 45 minute refresher classes. Teaching unions say that it’s ‘sad’ and parents have criticised the practice as ‘bribery.’
But the enterprising headteacher, whose school has a poor attendance record and was rated as only ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted, sees it as a carrot, a way to raise aspirations and reward hard work.
I’m with him.
The head has been accused of simply wanting to improve the school’s performance and position in local league tables, but even if this was true it can certainly do no harm to improve children’s literacy and numeracy at the same time.
So far two-thirds of the Year Sixes have turned up for the extra lessons, with some in line for a bonus payment of £5 for appearing at every session. It is estimated that the scheme will cost the school £875 – raised through events and raffles.
A spokesman for the teaching union ATL has said children need time to play and this school is attaching too much importance to SATs. But as most youngsters spend less than a third of their weekly waking hours in education – and have 12 weeks holiday a year – they’ve got plenty of time to watch television, chill out with their families and play. What’s wrong with expecting them to try their hardest and do their best?
When my daughter was at primary school we were concerned that while she was an above-average reader, her maths skills left something to be desired. Her teacher confessed it was unusual to find such a discrepancy between the two but that we shouldn’t worry because she was ‘just below average for maths.’
Being aspirational parents we decided to take matter into our own hands, bought some maths work books and discovered that somehow she’d failed to understand the most basic of mathematical principles. We went right back to 1 + 1 and our extra maths sessions at the dining room table became a biweekly event.
To this day I firmly believe that if we’d simply accepted her ‘below average’ abilities she could only have dreamed of the A she got for maths at GCSE and her entire school career could have been very different.
Aspiration is the absolute key to success in all things and if parents don’t instil it in their offspring, then schools must do everything they can for their pupils. If that means extra lessons to reinforce the basics so that children are building on a firm educational foundation then so be it. And if token payments are needed, then it’s money well spent.