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VCS 246Private schools helping primaries in deprived areas  

With the recent announcements on education policy, here is a story which I hope will firstly encourage but secondly might present a further option for helping disadvantaged children.

In Silicon Valley, California, there is a very high achieving set of schools – Valley Christian Schools   
They have put an experiment on the space station (growing food in space). Its band has played at one of the national sports finals, etc. They focus on 3 As – Academic, Arts and Athletics. As you can imagine there is a waiting list to go there. Their facilities e.g. pool are open to the community so it is a community hub.
They also have linked with a primary school in a local area where there are lots of social issues. Every week, a bus load of their senior pupils go to this school for half a day and work with the children there on academics, music and sport. The results in this primary school have risen a great deal.

The scheme started in 2007. The local primary school had a low score on the standard USA Academic Performance Index (API) - well below the state standard. I guess we would say it would be failing and placed in special measures. Since the scheme started though, the API rose to state standard by 2010 and has continued to rise.

The scheme has expanded due to its success and now involves 7 schools, both senior and junior and also after-school clubs.

What if there was scheme in which top performing schools especially private and grant maintained were encouraged to link to a primary school in a deprived area and pupils in year 12 or 13 volunteered to spend half day a week at such a school to help in academics, music and sport:

  • The volunteers could earn an award/qualification (Duke of Edinburgh?), etc? Show value of volunteering.
  • The senior schools could more easily justify their charitable status if charities.
  • Early Years development effect could be large.
  • There would be social mixing.
  • Appreciation of problems for senior pupils and contacts made/aspirations raised for primary pupils.
  • Achievements of primary school could be celebrated. High achievers could be offered bursaries for the senior school (if private).
  • Schools could also do joint events together.

I don’t think this would cost much and results could be encouraging. Lots of wins.
VCS articleDownload a press article with some more detail on the initiative there.  It gives the history, an outline of activities and the results seen.

So far, the suggestion re our education policy has been to get teachers from private schools to teach in other schools. Isn't that a very narrow view? Why not harness many volunteer top-performing senior students to make an impact.
This could be formal scheme that could scale very easily by:

  • Keeping the activities focused e.g. maths, literacy, sport, music only
  • Making it easy to take on – develop a ‘manual’ and training/networking days
  • Recognising pupils as volunteer mentors – something for their CV and there could be certificates
  • Having the ability to measure impact and outcomes i.e. number of pupils and educational outcomes (built into the DNA of the scheme)
  • Being attractive to private schools
  • Gaining local authority/government recognition
  • Creating local community goodwill 

Are you linked to education? Could you be radical and pilot this? It could make an enormous difference. Happy to discuss more if you want to contact.

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Geoff Knott, 14/09/2016

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