I have just finished watching this excellent programme and wanted to share some thoughts.
- It was clear to me that the programme was not completely true to life. Of course the pupils and the school were real and the situations, but bringing in a new teacher to focus entirely on a smaller group of pupils, allow him to spend whatever money he liked and to do whatever he liked with the children is not really what can happen in real life. As I teacher, I know that, but I hope that the general public recognise it too.
- It highlighted the importance of role models for boys. It was clear that engaging the boys' fathers had a huge impact on the efforts of the boys. We all know that it is vital to involve parents in the children's education, but it really impressed me that Gareth deliberately targeted dads. It makes me think that we could do more.
- It showed that a creative curriculum can work. The head said, after analysing the results, “how we design our curriculum and the sorts of things we do, we put such emphasis on reading, writing and maths, the enjoyment has gone out of learning, if we can put enjoyment back in and they’re still learning, that’s what we should do.” We can all take something from that.
- The theme of competition kept recurring throughout the series. Mr Malone frequently told the boys that 'girls are doing better' or 'boys are not doing as well as the girls in this school'. I don't know if I'm entirely comfortable in this approach but it certainly spurred the girls on. This straight talking encouraged the boys and made them want to do better and to improve. I have said to my class that they need to beat the other class, but is it right to do this with boys and girls? Has else anyone tried this?
- The head set a target for Gareth's boys to achieve by the end of the process. They had to improve their reading age by six months. Whilst I was surprised that writing wasn't chosen for the target, given that this is an even bigger issue than reading nationally. I was really proud when it was revealed that the boys had reached their target and Gareth was justifiably proud too. But taught me the importance of setting targets. It's all very well to have an idea, but it showed me that it is important to expect a measurable impact. The head monitored the progress and discussed the initiative regularly. I need to set targets too.
Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys website
Gareth Malone's website