Lesson 88 Sticks and Carrots

Lesson 88 on More ways and means

At Owen’s school everybody had been battered and bruised by their shaming in the national media, on account of their lowly position in the league tables. Despite the local press being extremely supportive and pointing out all the school had done for its catchment area, the pupils had been very discouraged by the notice they had attracted. 

Naming and shaming might have been intended as a stick to beat the teaching profession, but the impact on the children concerned was hurtful.  The least successful schools in the first rounds of national testing came from the most disadvantaged areas.  Pupils already bearing the practical drawbacks of living in poor areas were now doubly stigmatised by attending the “worst” schools.

The staff at Owen’s school, however, had a strategy to rebuild confidence and enthusiasm.  

They took every opportunity to praise good work and effort. They particularly praised any attempt at a subject or task found difficult. Not giving up earned you the biggest accolade.

They devised a system of rewards ranging from Mrs Reception’s biscuits right up to elaborately printed certificates, formally presented at assemblies, that could be taken home and displayed.

There were also class trips and treats to reward group achievement.

One of the difficulties in improving the school’s SATs scores was the the problem of ensuring everybody turned up on the day of the test. The pupils were very unsettled by examination conditions. Despite trial runs to make them feel at ease, they hated them.  The temptation not to attend was great.

One hundred percent attendance necessitated more than just encouragement and support. It required a considerable carrot.  This took the form of the SATs trip.

There was to be a day out for the whole class. The local coach company had agreed to sponsor it by providing the transport, so it would be free.  The pupils could decide where they wanted to go. The only constraints were that it had to be somewhere that was fairly close and didn’t require a big entrance fee. Suggestions would be put to a democratic vote.

The choices were debated. A secret ballot was held.  The votes were counted.  Anticipation ran high.  There was a clear winner. 

Peer pressure and group loyalty operated to ensure perfect attendance throughout SATs week.  The reward was won.

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In the oldest, scruffiest coach you can imagine, we were off to the UK’s biggest shopping mall – MetroCentre!

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