It takes a village to educate a child

John Pearce's picture
It takes a village to educate a child and yet.... if she is to become a citizen of the world she must be encouraged to to look wider than her just own community.

However, to take her away from all she can learn from her neighbours, community and even family, is to allow her no time to grow roots. Or, even worse, it wrenches at her roots just as they are developing.

For this reason local schools, community schools are the strongest foundation of a global education system.

Beware of all who deride local schools, community and comprehensive education and those who rename schools, or want them to be like others miles away. They are making excuses prior to leaving their community, their roots and seeking to join some elite, somewhere else.
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Tabbers's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 10:20

Which is all very well - but what if the local school that you are trying to join is over-subscribed? What if you have to "game" to get into any school, because you're moving into the area? What if you can't afford to buy a house in the catchment for the school most suited to our child? What if you're told by the local authority that there are no places in any school in a five mile radius for your son; that your daughter will struggle to get into most schools in the same radius, and the likelihood is that they will be in different schools miles apart?

What do you do then?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 11:23

Or, what if you don't live in a nice area - market town or leafy suburb - but in a grim environment characterized by rusty barbed wire being blown across wasteland like tumbleweed, to the tune of sirens as the Plod raid the local crack house? Hopping on a bus and traveling two miles to school somewhere else (...anywhere else....) might be just what you need.

Tabbers's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 12:28

Indeed the whole "local school" thing breaks down when you move locality. My experience was pretty dreadful - in an oversubscribed area you end up in a Catch 22 - you can't aply to a school until you have an address, but committing to an address in an oversubscribed catchment means you run the risk of both not getting in to that school and not getting into any others either. When you couple that with a shortage in a large area and absurd house prices it makes the whole situation impossible.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 12:34

I think your post reminds us of the need for there to be coherent local planning for education Tabbers.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 12:42

Are you suggesting we should shut all the community schools in deprived communities and make those children get buses to schools in posh areas Ricky?

Or just that the middle class/pushy parents should do that and the kids from deprived families who can't afford the bus should be left to rot together without anyone noticing?

My son's primary school, which is deep inside an mainly serves a large council estate, is an excellent school. Yet is constantly loses children to the village schools which advertise their leafy surrounding to parents of babies who do not yet understand any of the issues described above because they are not discussed and who don't understand and will never know how lovely it is to know people and to be well known in their own community and how nice it is to walk to school instead of being trapped into using the car.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 12:44

I think the main post here tells a very important story. I would add to it a description of how the adults in a community get to know each other and come to take ownership of and move to roles of leadership within their own communities when their children go to the local schools.

I don't think the last paragraph is really justified however, I think it's more the case that an awful lot of people who have not raised their children in their local communities (or perhaps ever even been properly part of a community themselves), who probably did not go to their own community schools and who therefore have not come to understand these issues have got involved in policy making.

Tabbers's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 13:05

Well, very possibly, Rebecca, but that does nothing to address the immediate situation we found ourselves in.

Quite frankly we have been badly let down by the County in our new location. We moved from an area where my children attended an excellent local school (rated 1) in our local community, to an area where 3 schools we visited couldn't care less whether we applied or not because they were oversubscribed, and the County stated that our children could well end up in poor schools miles apart and with no connection to where we were living.

There was no way we were going to accept that on top of the disruption to children moving away from their friends. We were effectively forced out of the state system.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 17:05

'It takes a whole village to raise a child' is, apparently, a much used African saying, referring more to an extended family/tribe than any kind of community that exists these days in Britain. A dynamic twenty first century economy needs a mobile workforce prepared to relocate as necessary. This post also mingles localism with a comprehensive style of education although there is no good reason why the two should necessarily go together. Why shouldn't local people aspire to go off and join some elite somewhere else. If they didn't, for example, we wouldn't have any Armed Forces.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 17:22

For me it's a local thing rather than a comprehensive thing. And its actually more about primaries than secondaries. The community secondaries have pretty much gone which is sad, but much can be recovered by focusing on community primaries instead.

I'm particularly interested in how we can build strong communities despite mobility through intelligent policy. For example I would like to see primary schools being hubs where those with some spare time (such as empty-nesters) can volunteer to link with families who need a bit of extra support and can help by going into homes to play with kids and help with homework or by helping kids get to clubs or whatever.

I don't want to prevent people going off to do whatever they want to do but I am concerned that in the mix of things not enough attention is being paid to the issues described in this post.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 17:06

My husband has been offered many jobs and we could move often. He has accepted jobs below his aspirations and he works away from home a lot so that we can ground our children in the way described here and cover the bills. It's more complicated for us because of the other parents involved in our family which makes keeping the family base in one place the best things for the children. There are many ways of creating the type of grounding that this poster describes. My parents compromised much in their lives to offer me and my siblings this and I greatly value it and intend to do the same for my children. I won't necessarily always stay in the same place but I hope to stay based here or to move to somewhere with a vibrant community I know my family will thrive in.

The people I love, respect and admire most all seem to share aspects of this kind of grounding in their past and sadly many people don't have it these days. Many recover from any disadvantages that brings when they have their own children.

Please don't think anything I'm saying is a criticism of you Tabbers - I absolutely wouldn't do that - I'm not in your shoes, don't know your circumstances and I don't make a habit of judging others. I'm very lucky I've had the opportunities I've had to make the kind of life I want work and others are not so lucky or find other ways of grounding their family and children. I'm just trying to explain why I support this post in a bit more detail because I don't think we talk about these issues enough in society.

Tim Bidie's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 17:44

Yes. I think you had it right in your comment above. The post completely loses the plot in its final paragraph. It is also a little bit weird to put family after neighbours and community as it does in its second sentence. The tragedy of much of modern Britain is the breakdown of both the nuclear and extended family, both of which, of course, lie at the heart of the very real communities and villages of sub saharan Africa.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Tue, 29/05/2012 - 19:59

Since my daughter started school at a local primary last September, I have become more acutely aware of the local community factor and relationships and their importance in her upbringing and experience and that of our whole family. To have a reasonably short walk to school every day , meeting up with and joining with friends along the way, is what its all about for me and from me for her. My child has local playmates within walking distance and parents are able to offer much needed support to each other when required. We pass trees that go into blossom, then bud, then lose their leaves. The grass is cut, the grass grows back. She learns to observe the built environment, the well off houses we pass, the council estate, and knows that her school friends come from both of these places. It is tough bringing up children today and only with that sense of community fostered and encouraged by regular exposure can some sense of common experience be engendered amongst parents. Only by going to school so locally will she gain a sense of her own local environment and community and sense of belonging. That short walk to and from school is invaluable. Every day we meet people going to work in the opposite direction, people taking their kids in the opposite direction to their nursery, and workmen, postmen, delivery drivers who all become familiar faces. Now and again we drive because I have to go straight to work but that is more stressful and empty due to lack of contact. We have friends who have not secured a place locally due to excessive demand and who face a long drive or bus trip to school, miles away from the community their child lives in. Their biggest fear is that their child wont be accepted and wont be able to foster meaningful relationships having to bussed in and out whereas their school friends will see each other in the local shops, meet up in their local parks, and the parents will know each other and pop in and out of each others houses. For my friend, this wont be an option. Her child will have to go to a before and after school childminder every day. Meeting other parents at the school gate wont be an option for her. Arranging after school playdates informally through chatting would be impossible. She wont be able to observe her child interacting with others in the playground in order to find out who his friends are. Her childs experience of school will have to be fed back second rather than first hand. This is perhaps a unique situation but it would be common to most parents who cant or wont use their local school and who have to endure fairly long commutes. In my view, on balance, Id favour a more poorly rated local school over an excellent one further away. There is more to lose than to be gained in my view.

andy's picture
Wed, 30/05/2012 - 10:57

This is a much touted piece of wisdom that if my memory serve me well has its basis in small intimate african tribal community culture. It is in this setting that the the strength and truism of the saying is at its most powerful. It is much more difficult to replicate in the much large community cultures of the developed world, if only because of the sheer economies of scale. The underlying message/truth and richness of the saying is not one we should ignore or overlook. There is so mcuh to be learned from it.

So, yes, our Primary Schools can and indeed do have a significant part ot play in rooting this in our developed western culture but it only truly works when parents and extended familes step up to the plate and fulfil their part in the unfolding nuturing and growth of children. When this happens the community has its wider base upon with to replicate the African model. And herein lies the inherent problem - UK family life, UK social life, UK communities are fractured and fragmented to have the time to dedicate to fully meeting their roles in responsible parenting and cohesive families. Lets face it there is an ever present creeping individualism, a creeping hedonism across the UK. It is evident everywhere. Yes, there are some places and some families that still manage to maintain what we now refer to as old fashioned values and who take personal responsibilities seriously, but they are diminishing and have been for years. You only have to look back to last summers riots to see the massive fault lines.

Thus for me the notion of localism, the notion of local community schools where all pull together and put their shoulders to the work raising well balanced personally responsible educated young people is year on year becoming the unattainable goal. Probably the last time we came close at a national level was the 1920s through to end of the 50s, thereafter it has been increasing everyone for themselves.

andy's picture
Wed, 30/05/2012 - 10:58

Thank you for sharing that. Long, long may that experience continue. :)

Shane Rae's picture
Fri, 01/06/2012 - 08:41

I'm sure I agree with the over-arching sentiment in the OP. I certainly feel that education starts in the home and it is my responsibility for the education of my children. I look to my local school to support me in the education of my children-but I certainly don't hold them responsible for it. And I care about the education of my neighbour's children too-even though I don't necessarily 'get on' with all of the parents-these children are the collective future of our community. We all have a vested interest.

I've said it on here plenty but the glowingly obvious thing that Gove refuses to acknowledge about the communities that he hails as such great success stories all have one thing in common- that they view the education of their children as a shared responsibility. Quite the opposite of the blame culture here in the UK where pupil performance data is used as a weapon to blame the schools, the teachers, the economy, the class divide etc but never place any of the 'blame' at the feet of the parents themselves. This is a country where they actually have to jail parents to get them to make their children attend school.

If my local school wasn't up to scratch, I'd certainly have a go at becoming a Governor and seeing what positive effect I could have-long before thinking about moving my children outside the community where they live. I've been a governor at my local primary for 10 years. My first child arrived there only 3 years ago.

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