Community Learning Venues - An Idea

A well-known African proverb states that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child'. That is to say that no parent can bring up their child alone and teach them everything they need to know to make their way in the world. But neither should any school be expected to take 100% responsibility for teaching children everything there is to know, either. Just as parents should not be required to teach their children GCSE Biology, so schools should not be taking the lead in the teaching of respect, decency, good manners, morals and basically being a 'nice human'. That's what families are for.

Too many people drop their children at the school gates these days and take the view, at least subconsciously, that the state will do the rest. They run their homes like hotels, making the beds, doing the laundry and dishing up dinner every night. They clean up after their 'customers' and make no demands of them; sometimes they don't even speak to them. And so, slowly, they start to behave like hotel clients - getting up when it suits them, demanding breakfast in bed, leaving their rooms in complete disarray ... even stealing the soap. By rights, we should be sending them a hefty bill at the end of every month!

Cyclical School has its flaws. One of the main objections was that it didn't occupy students for 60% of the time they would otherwise have been in school. How were parents going to 'escape' from their roles as temporary supply teachers to their children and get back to work? And if they didn't work, how would they earn any money? And if they didn't earn any money, how was the government going to raise any taxes? And if they didn't raise any taxes ... you get the idea.

So where could students go when they aren't required for their Engage and Evaluate cycles on the school site? (If you don't know what on earth I am on about, you'll need to read a few pages about Cyclical School on the website first. In a few words, it's system whereby classes sizes are reduced to around 8-10 pupils, but they only come into school for four days a fortnight and have to work independently between the two pairs of 'bookend' days which frame each cycle of learning.) A lot of them would want to stay at home, I guess. And many are old enough to cope with that responsibility. But others would need supervision, especially if they were younger or simply because their parents were never at home during the day and couldn't be sure that their teenage son hadn't just stayed in bed. Where should these people go?

This is where the idea of a Community Learning Venue (CLV) came to me. CLVs are spaces in the local community (libraries, community centres, church halls, mosques, sports centres etc.) where provision is made for students to complete their work under supervision. CLVs are staffed by people who could be hired in large numbers with the funds the Chancellor has earmarked for his 'Kick-starter' job creation scheme. Retired teachers, supply teachers, learning supervisors and school leavers could all have the right skills to carry out this role, or libraries could access the funding to employ more staff on the understanding that running the CLV was part of their brief. Coffee shops that had a 'quiet corner' could designate that area as a CLV, if not for all ages then, perhaps for Sixth Form students. By allowing their SMART phones to 'reveal' their location to a trusted app, students could register remotely in these places and both their school and their parents/carers would know where they were and be reasonably confident they were engaged in their work for a respectable amount of time.

Schools wouldn't be so crowded. Students would learn to take responsibility. Teachers would remain sane. Parents could go to work. There would be more jobs available. Everything would just be that little bit more joined up, with everyone doing their bit. Underused buildings would get a new purpose.

With Cyclical School and CLVs, we have manageable numbers of pupils in our classrooms and give them much more individual attention. Everyone in the community would come to see that they had a part to play - whether it was teaching children how to make a Shepherds Pie, do simultaneous equations or get their washing done without dyeing their pants bright pink.

We would have re-engaged the whole village to raise our children.

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