The challenge of creating the citizens of the future

Being a member of the community – where does school responsibility end and parental responsibility start?

Education is far more than just exam results. I’ve made that point many times before in this blog and it’s something that as the head of a comprehensive school I am passionate about. Our role is to create happy, confident and successful individuals who are ready to go out and make a positive contribution to society. For some that might mean academic excellence, and we owe it to all our students to help them achieve as well as they can, but the non-academic development of the person is just as important. We want all our young people to strive to be determined, honest, respectful and creative. To care about other people, to be positive and to be proud of their surroundings and those within it. In short we want them to be a force for good in whatever they go on to do – a big goal but a worthy one!

As a school we therefore believe that our interest in students and what they do extends well beyond the school gate. Officially, schools have a responsibility for their students when they are on the way to and from school, especially when they are in uniform. Should schools therefore concern themselves with what students do later at night, on the weekend or over school holidays? I know some school leaders who say no, they should not. The arguments goes that what students do at the weekend or the Easter holidays is a matter for them and their parents, and if they act poorly then that is a matter for others in society or for the police to deal with.

I disagree. Perhaps it’s the growth of social media that has blurred the lines between ‘in school’ and ‘out of school’ life. I don’t know of any school anywhere that hasn’t had to deal with issues that started on facebook/twitter/Instagram over a weekend, and then spilled into school on a Monday morning. Similarly, when students let themselves down in the community three hours after school has finished, or at the skatepark mid-way through a holiday, we will always work with the police, other external agencies and parents to support in whatever action is necessary to rectify that behaviour and ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s why recently we’ve been in contact with all our neighbours to encourage them to call into school if they see anything that concerns them. After all, if we were successful in our overall goal of creating the citizens of the future then these incidents wouldn’t happen.

However, whilst I feel that our school has a role here and we are happy to fulfil it, I also know from experience this will only be successful with the support of adults at home. Parents of course have a responsibility to know what their children are doing when they are out at the evening, weekend and school holidays. We’re blessed with a large proportion of very supportive parents who instil at home the same messages that we try to do in school, and only by working together can we hope to create the kind of young adults that our community can be proud of.

Best wishes,

Joe Barker


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