Tuesday, December 16, 2008

British Headteachers told to 'high-five' pupils to improve exam results

This is just more of the feelgood approach that has already failed

Trainee head teachers are being told to give pupils in tough areas high-fives in an effort to improve exam results. A Government-backed training scheme is urging would-be heads to give pupils the U.S-style welcome to help forge 'positive relationships'.

Sir Iain Hall, training director for the scheme called Future Leaders, is passing on the advice at intensive residential courses after visiting schools in the U.S. He is also recommending a technique which involves pupils gathering in a circle and applauding one of their number, with the head saying the pupils name and 'we appreciate you' and the children cheering that child.

But his suggestions brought claims that heads were being asked to 'ingratiate' themselves with pupils, undermining their authority. Under Sir Iain's approach, heads would greet children at classroom doors by giving them high-fives - slapping their palms with arms extended - or shaking their hands. 'When your children come into the classroom, how do you greet them?' he asked a meeting of prospective heads, the Times Educational Supplement reported.

'Whether it is a high-five, it is touching a child's hand, it is shaking their hands, we teach our Future Leaders to stand at the classroom door and greet every kid who comes through it. It's about establishing positive relationships all the time, shaking the hands of kids that go past, giving those high-fives.'

Sir Iain, a 'superhead' who was knighted in 2002 for services to education, revealed he had been inspired by visits to schools in tough parts of America. He was recommending the circle and applauding technique after seeing it at a New York school. 'It is getting that positive relationship where children can relax and think "somebody believes in me",' he said. Asked whether English pupils would respond to high-fives, he said: 'If I believe it will work with every student, then it will.'

But Anastasia de Waal, of the social policy think-tank Civitas, warned that high-fiving by senior staff could hamper attempts to impose discipline. 'We are struggling to assert authority in schools. 'I fear this is just going to look ridiculous and actually some pupils are going to be moderately insulted by it. 'I don't think they will see it as cool and in fact will see it as deeply uncool so it will backfire.'

She added: 'This is characteristic of much about secondary schools these days, that everything should be relevant to pupils and fun,' she added. 'But what makes things relevant is when children understand their work and can apply it to the real world.' She said some primary schools in Finland invited pupils to shake hands with teachers at the end of lessons. 'This is more about showing teachers respect,' she said.

'We are approaching this completely the wrong way round. We should be trying to generate respect for teachers rather than encouraging them to ingratiate themselves with pupils.'

The Future Leaders scheme aims to tackle a growing shortage of heads in inner-city areas. It is part-funded by the Government, through the National College of School Leadership and Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, and the charity ARK (Absolute Return for Kids), which was set up by millionaire financier Arpad Busson, fiance of actress Uma Thurman.

Andrew Day, deputy head of Greenford High in Ealing, West London, has taken part in the Future Leaders training scheme and is an advocate for the high-fives approach, claiming that pupils can relate to it. 'It is what they do. It is all about how they perceive you. The moment you start working with them, they know you care,' he said.

High-fiving is thought to have originated in the U.S. in 1970s, probably during basketball or baseball games.


The old, old story again -- this time from Australia

Fewer dumb girls but fewer very bright ones too (ENTER is the test for entering university in the State of Victoria)

Girls rule overall in the study stakes but boys are still the brains' trust. New VCE data backs up the trend of female students achieving a higher average ENTER, but more boys nail the perfect score at the elite end of the scale. More than double the number of boys (21) than girls (10) received the highest possible ENTER of 99.95 this year. Last year, 19 boys and 13 girls aced their final year of school with the perfect score. The average ENTER for girls in the class of 2008 is 65.51 and 62.63 for boys.

Females also topped males last year when comparing average scores; the 2007 female average was 64.06 and 61.42 for males. Boys outperformed girls at the top level in 2006, with 26 male students getting 99.95 compared with just nine females. For the past three years, more girls have passed VCE than boys. Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre Director Elaine Wenn said girls outperformed boys overall. "However, boys continue to outnumber girls by two to one at the highest level of 99.95," she said.


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