SMALL SCHOOLS WORK A HANDBOOK FOR TEACHERS IN SMALL RURAL SCHOOLS ALAN SIGSWORTH AND KAFU JAN SOLSTAD

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1 MAKING SMALL SCHOOLS WORK A HANDBOOK FOR TEACHERS IN SMALL RURAL SCHOOLS ALAN SIGSWORTH AND KAFU JAN SOLSTAD UNESCO Internationa Institute for Capacity Buiding in Africa Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2001

2 CONTENTS Emwoxd... Preface... vi vii Introduction...; Chapter 1. Making the Most of the Sma Schoo: First Thoughts Chapter 2. The Socia Structure of the Sma Schoo Chapter 3. The Organisation of Learning in the Muti-grade Cass..... Chapter 4. Parents, Schoo and Community: Working Together Chapter 5. The Loca Environment: A Resource for Learning , Chapter 6. Strategies for Panning the Curricuum Chapter 7. Professiona Support: Cooperation Within and Between Schoos V

3 FOREWORD Not very ong ago, many European countries faced the chaenge of providing education for a. This ed to many innovative approaches, for exampe the aternative day schooing utiised in many Scandinavian countries, where chidren went to schoo every second day, but teachers taught for six days a week. Another of the important strategies utiised in Europe, particuary for remote rura areas, was the muti-grade schoo. The typica muti-grade schoo in Norway or in Scotand was a one-teacher schoo where pupis in a the grades of primary schooing sat together in the same cassroom. The highy skied and dedicated teacher deveoped the skis to teach severa grades successfuy in one cassroom! Today muti-grade casses continue to provide education in many remote rura areas in Europe. Many deveoping countries face the same probem of chidren in remote rura areas finding it difficut to wak ten or more kiometres to a oca schoo. This is a serious chaenge in most African countries for exampe, where ong distances make it impossibe for young chidren to attend schoo. As a resut many chidren start schoo at the age of ten, when they are big enough to wak such distances on their own. However starting schoo at such a ate age creates serious probems. Most famiies require the abour of oder chidren, so that from the age of eeven the majority of chidren have to assist in the famiy work on farms and in the house. Moreover parents are very hesitant to aow their young daughters to wak unaccompanied over ong distances for fear of sexua harassment and even rape and abduction. The end resut is that many chidren either attend schoo for ony one or two years, or they do not attend schoo at a. The muti-grade schoo ocated cose to the chidren s homes offers a ready soution. Chidren do not have to wak ten kiometres to schoo. Nor do they need to face the dangers of sexua harassment and abduction. And they can contribute to the famiy s abour needs without disrupting their schooing. However, arq sma muti-grade schoos as good as arge schoos? This is the chaenge we face. Aan Sigsworth and Kar Jan Sostad have devoted a ifetime to muti-grade schoos, abeit in Europe rather than in Africa. What they have to offer in terms of professiona and technica advice in this book is worthwhie. The Norwegian Government has been supporting a piot project for muti-grade schoos in Ethiopia. The manua has been written within the context of this project. I expect this manua to serve a very usefu purpose both in Africa and in other industriaised as we as deveoping countries. Fay Chung Director, UNESCO Internationa Institute for Capacity Buiding in Africa (IICBA) August vi

4 PREFACE The genesis of this book may be traced back to September 1996, when the authors participated as speakers in the Inter-Regiona Workshop on Singe-Teacher Schoos and Muti-Grade Casses, hed in Liehammer, Norway, and jointy organised by the Norwegian Nationa Commission for UNESCO and the Norwegian Ministry of Education. Soon afterwards, we were asked to comment upon a partiay competed draft of a handbook for teachers in sma rura schoos. That, together with the discussion in the Liehammer Workshop, caused us to consider just what a &&c handbook for a sma muti-grade schoo shoud contain, and what it shoud be ike, whether the schoo be in a remote area of an affuent European country or, especiay with resources in mind in some other remote area, such as sub-saharan Africa. The practica issues and concerns which are common to those who work in sma rura schoos, such as mixed-age teaching, muti-grade cassroom organisation and schoo-community cooperation, shaped our seection of topics. The theme underying a of its contents is that sma schoos and their community contexts contain potentia advantages and assets, which can be harnessed and put to good educationa use by skifu teachers. Yet what shoud such a handbook be ike? We decided that it shoud be concise, and consist of ony seven chapters, each of which shoud be we iustrated with exampes, and accompanied by activities within which readers coud be abe to deveop ideas, to think criticay and to note panning possibiities for their teaching. Whist much of the presentation is drawn from teachers, pupis, community members and researchers in Norway and Britain, we have aso been abe to draw upon iterature and schoo experience in Africa. Aan Sigsworth prepared the draft versions of the Introduction and Chapters 1 to 4. Chapters 5 and 6 were substantiay buit from the materia provided by Aasmund Gyseth, head teacher of a Norwegian muti-grade schoo, whist Chapter 7 is based upon the contribution of Monica MeisfJordskar, a Norwegian regiona adviser on schoo and teacher deveopment. We are aso indebted to Aasmund Gyseth for his critica hep and suggestions during the compiation of this book and to Vigdis Bitustsy Jacobsen for the drawings. Both she and Mr Gyseth have worked for NORAD in African countries. The handbook is seen as part of the piot phase of the UNESCO project Enfrancjng tie Effectiveness of h4utbpde Casses and Singe-Teacher Schoos, run by the Internationa Institute for Capacity Buiding in Africa (IICBA) and financiay supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Kar Jan Sostad Senior Researcher Nordand Research Institute Norway Aan Sigsworth Senior Feow Schoo of Education University of East Angia UK vii

5 INTRODUCTION Sma schoos with muti-grade casses are uncommon in towns and cities. It is in the sparsey popuated regions of countries that these schoos are mosty to be found. This handbook has been written as an aid and resource for teachers who work in them. Before outining the form of the handbook, it may be worthwhie to indicate briefy how views of the educationa contribution which sma schoos can make, have recenty undergone a change. When basic education for a was estabished in Europe and North America during the 18th and 19th centuries, arge sections of the popuations ived in rura areas where transport was poor or non-existent. Necessariy, schoos had to be ocated were peope ived and such schoos tended to be sma. This was particuary the case in countries with arge sparsey popuated areas such as Norway where, in addition, harsh winter conditions did not aow ong waks between home and schoo. In the second haf of the 20th century, many poiticians and panners, especiay those in countries with vasty improved transport faciities, became convinced that ony arge schoos coud provide reay effective schooing. Commony, their argument ran as foows: sma schoos disadvantage chidren because a sma teaching staff cannot provide an adequate curricuum; teachers in remote areas must be professionay isoated, because they are far from urban inservice centres; muti-grade casses are harder to teach than singe-grade casses; the chidren perform ess we; they suffer sociay, because their singe-age peer groups are too sma; it is costier to educate chidren in sma schoos than it is in arge ones. Where this ine of reasoning was accepted many sma communities saw their sma schoos cosed and their chidren transported ong distances to schoo. However, as the century was moving towards its end and as the effects of schoo cosures upon pupis and their communities became apparent, a much more positive view of sma schoos began to appear. We can iustrate this change with three exampes. Fit, the idea that the sma schoo shoud be seen as a centra eement in the community was we expressed in Norwegian evidence presented to the Sparsey Popuated Areas Project in 1981: [Schoos] shoud primariy be socia miieu in which chidren can easiy accommodate and deveop, in cose persona contact with teachen they know we and who an we in&grated in the Ioca community Second the simpe assumption that sma schoos are necessariy poorer, educationay, than arge schoos was chaenged in a study by the United States Nationa Institute of Education, which offered as its fit concusion: Cood schools and bad schoos (however defined) come in a sizes... there is simpy no basis for the beief that making a schoo bigger wi automaticay make it better2 Sher. J.P. (1981) Rura EducaUon in UrbanLFed Natkm.s: Lewes and hwvaton.s. (OECDKERI Report). Bouder. Coorado. West View Press 2 op. cu. I

6 Third with regard to the persistent emphasis of panners and poiticians on the need to reduce the disadvantages of schoos in remote areas, Darne (198 1), an Austraian educator, argued that a more positive approach woud be:.... to as far as possibe any educationa advantage that might be derived from iving far way from the urban and arger town centres..3 This handbook shares those three views. Sma schoos can be good schoos: the appropriate pace for a sma schoo and its teachers is within the community; sma schoos shoud make the most of the advantages which their size and ocation offer. The purposes of the handbook are: To identify the positive features of the sma schoo and its setting. To discuss briefy such features. To identify basic principes which can be used as starting points for deveopments within the schoo and community. To encourage the reader to generate ideas and to initiate panning and action. To assist with these purposes, the discussion is interspersed with points at which the reader can pause to note ideas. In addition, there are suggested activities at the end of each chapter which ca for observation. panning and practica cassroom action. It wi be very usefu for the reader to have a notebook to hand in which to work through the activities, to jot down ideas and observations, as and when they occur, and to make panning notes. In this way, handbook and notebook can together constitute a resource for deveopmenta possibiities and pans. young mader: 3 DarneI. E (1981) Equaity and opportunity in rura education. in Darre. F. and Simpson. PM. (Eds) RUIZI Educatton: In Puntit ofemze,!/~, Nationa Centre for Research on Rura Education. University of Western Austraia. 2

7 Introduction The chapter topics are: Identifying advantages in the sma schoo. The socia structure of the sma schoo. The organisation of earning in the muti-grade cass. Cooperation between parents, community and schoo. The oca socia and natura environments as resources for earning. Strategies for curricuum panning. Professiona support and cooperation within and between sma schoos. Perhaps the term handbook may create an erroneous impression of what this book is about. Any educationa setting is unique. Not ony does the situation vary from the one cassroom to another, but aso from day to day in the same cass and same subject. For reasons such as those, it is not possibe to provide teachers with detaied prescriptions on how to hande day to day cassroom chaenges. This handbook makes no attempt to give such answers. Rather, by presenting ideas, raising questions and suggesting fruitfu routes to foow, sometimes supported by specific exampes, we hope to put the teachers of sma rura schoos in a better position to refect upon their own situation and practice and to find soutions which harmonise with their unique setting. In many deveoped countries modern information and communication technoogy (ICT) offers a wide range of opportunities for improving education generay. Certainy, it offers many possibiities for education in remote rura areas. We have not touched upon ICT reated materias in this handbook for two reasons. First, even in rich deveoped countries such as the Scandinavian ones, these technoogies, as appied to rura primary education, have not, as yet, been deveoped to any arge extent (though important work is in progress). Second, and more importanty, the present handbook addresses itsef to the situation and needs of rura education in deveoping countries, where teaching methods and strategies depending on huge investments are out of the question for many years to come. In our view, by concentrating on the basic issues of education in the circumstances of sma units, ong distances and scarce resources, we beieve that most of the content of this book wi be reevant for teachers in sma schoos, regardess of the kind of technoogy to which they have access. Whist the handbook is quite short, it does contain a wide range of activities. We suggest that, as a beginning, you famiiarise yoursef with its contents by reading the book right through. If you do that, you wi be we paced to decide whether to work through the activities in the order in which they are presented, or to begin with one in which you have a specia interest. 3

8 CHAPTER ONE MAKING THE MOST OF THE SMALL SCHOOL: FIRST THOUGHTS In this chapter, we wi examine four aspects of sma muti-grade schoos which their critics caim to be disadvantages, before going on to introduce a number of features of sma schoos which are centra to improvement and deveopment. We wi return to them in the topics which form the remaining chapters. We begin with a puzze. In the past, them has tended to be a beief that sma schoos coud not provide as good an education as [arge schoos]..... [Recent] findings indicate that pupis in the schoos with fewer than 100 pupis on ro, most of which are rura, achieve standanis which are sighty higher than those achieved by pupis in the arger schoos...ovemi, the quaity of earning tends to be sighty better in the sma rather than the arge schoos.. On a wide range of comparisons concerned with the quaity of education provision, sma schoos are rated rather more favouraby than arger one&. This very positive view of the educationa contribution which sma schoos can make is taken from a 1995 government document concerned with rura areas. Ten years before, the previous government, in a simiar report, had observed that, it is inherenty difficut for a sma schoo to be educationay satisfactory. 2 Here is the puzze. How coud the view of sma schoos have changed so much in ten years? Both governments had the same poitica outook and, over the period, itte had changed in the organisation, resource eves and staffing of the nation s schoos. The answer ies in one important change. During the ten years, a new and much more comprehensive system of schoo inspections had been put to work and for the first time, detaied information became avaiabe on a the nation s schoos. For the first time, it was possibe to compare the educationa quaity of arge and sma schoos. Now, it seemed that, even if sma schoos possessed the disadvantages which poiticians and educationa panners had previousy caimed, they must aso have features which enabed them to provide an education at east as good as, if not better than, arge schoos. With that puzze soved we wi consider some of the features of sma schoo which their critics cite as disadvantages. It is important to do this, because if a caimed disadvantage proves to be a m disadvantage, then the possibiity exists that it can be eiminated or, at east, reduced. 1 HMSO (1995) Rura Engand. London 2 HMSO (1985) Better schws. London 5

9 Making the Most of the Sma Schoo The Caimed Disadvantages of Sma Schoos Teaches: Cumi~uum Coverage It is surprising, but true, that even in countries where sma schoos predominate, the arge town schoo is sti seen as the idea mode against which sma schoos are compared. The most obvious difference between the arge and sma schoo is that of staff sizes. Surey, the argument goes, a sma schoo of 2 or 3 teachers cannot hope to provide the same breadth and depth of curricuum as that provided by a staff of, say, 10 teachers. There are two main points to think about here. If the teachers in sma schoos have had a sound schooing and an adequate professiona training, they shoud be more than abe to cope with the demands of the basic primary curricuum. Further, in arge schoos with singe age-grade casses, it is common practice in many countries that the cass teacher has his/her pupis for ony one year. The teacher who works with a muti-grade cass has contact with his/her pupis over two, three or four years. The extra knowedge which a teacher gains of the pupis over that onger period upon which he/she can base their teaching of the curricuum, represents a considerabe advantage. Teachers: Pmfmionai Isoation If teachers are unabe to obtain advice and find it difficut to update their professiona knowedge, it is ikey that the education which they provide for their pupis wi be ess effective than it coud be. There are two reasons why fears have been expressed that teachers in sma schoos may suffer professiona isoation. Fit, the size of the schoo may mean that they are the ony teacher or, that there are ony one or two coeagues with whom to exchange ideas and advice, unike the situation in a arge schoo, where there are more coeagues. Ceary, this represents a concern, but it does assume that a teachers in arge schoos take advantage of their situation. It may be the case, however, that where there are ony two or three teachers in a schoo, they fee a greater need to make the most of each other s expertise and speciaisms. Second teachers in sma remote schoos are often a ong way from in-service provision such as coeges and teacher centres. When winter conditions are harsh, or when the rainy season arrives, it may be impossibe for a teacher to trave even short distances to reach an in-service centre. Here, the matter of distance from forma in-service provision is a definite disadvantage. This isoating factor can ony be overcome if the providers are abe to take account of the circumstances of their sma remote schoos when panning appropriate forms of in-service education, incuding networking arrangements. Muti-grade Ckses The caim that muti-grade casses are a disadvantage to pupi earning because such casses are harder to teach, is based upon the view that, for teaching to be effective, chidren must be grouped and taught in singe age-grades. Where, within a muti-grade cass, chidren are rigidy divided into singe age-grades, say of , 9-10, with each age-grade taught as if it were a singe cass, then the caim that muti-grade casses are harder to teach is vaid. However, where teachers see those divisions as no more than one option among many for organising their work the caim oses some of its force. 6

10 Making the Mast of the Sma Schoo Critics of sma schoos aso aege another disadvantage of muti-graded casses. This one centres upon the age imbaances which can occur in a muti-grade cass where, at any one time. one or other of the age groups in the cass may be under-represented. For exampe, the cass may contain ony a handfu of eight year od chidren. Here, the critics woud argue that, because the eight year ods are so few in number, their abiity to work and compete with peope of their own age is reduced and therefore, their socia and inteectua deveopment wi suffer. Generay, those who cite the matter of age group imbaance beieve that ony in a arge singe age cass can chidren have the chance to deveop their inteectua and socia potentia to the fu. Later in this book, we wi argue that this criticism ignores the opportunities for these deveopments which the muti-graded cass and indeed the sma schoo itsef, can provide in the hands of imaginative teachers. 17he Cost of Sma Schoos Those responsibe for providing a nationa system of schoos have a duty not to waste taxpayers money. It is usuay the case, but not aways, that the cost of a pupi s education in a arge schoo is ower than the cost in a sma schoo. Obviousy, the greater cost of supporting a system of sma schoos can be seen as a disadvantage by those concerned with the funding of the whoe education system. There are two matters to think about here. First, where the provision of education in sparsey popuated areas is by means of arge schoos, one consequence is that chidren must be transported, or they must wak ong distances, to and from schoo. Not ony is this tiring, especiay for young chidren, but in some circumstances, it may actuay be dangerous, with the resut that parents become unwiing to et their chidren, especiay their daughters, make the journey. As a consequence, many chidren fai to receive the education which is their right. The cost of providing sma schoos must be baanced against the need to make education accessibe to every chid wherever they ive, if equa access to education is to be a genuine nationa aim. Sma Schoos: Making the Most of Them The prime task for teachers in any schoo is to assess both the difficuties and the possibiities which their schoo and its setting present and then, to consider how to overcome the difficuties and how the best use can be made of the possibiities. For teachers in sma schoos, this task is vitai. In the next part of the chapter, we wi ook briefy at a number of sma schoo features which merit serious attention, if the sma schoo is to provide a good education. We wi then outine a number of principes which seem to underie the work of teachers in successfu sma schoos. 7he Teacher When a teacher goes to work in a sma schoo, he/she soon reaises that whatever resources the schoo has of books, buidings and equipment, he/she, aong with perhaps one or two coeagues, represents the onytrained professiona resource. With that comes the reaisation that if this resource is to be used to fu effect, it cannot be defected from the schoo s prime purpose, which is to maximise the earning possibiities for the chidren. A prime question then for any teacher who works aone in a singe teacher schoo, or as a member of a very sma staff, is: How can I make the greatest use of the earning time which the schoo day and week provide? 7

11 MakingtheMostoftheSma Schoo i%e Socia Structun of the Sma Schoo Because a sma schoo is sma, its characteristics are very different from those of a arge schoo. Its staff is few in number; there is much ess possibiity of an organisationa hierarchy and the need for teacher inter-dependence is much more evident. With regard to the pupis, a number of factors infuence how they associate and form friendships across ages and gender in ways that are not commony found in arge singe age-graded schoos. The two most evident of these are the muti-graded nature of their casses and the sma siie of the tota schoo pupi group. The nature of these reationships wi be considered more fuy in the next chapter. Here it is sufficient to suggest that, when a teacher is abe to harness the socia structure of the pupi peer group to the routines of the cass and schoo, the chidren can benefit sociay and the work of the teacher can be supported. In effect, the teachers and pupis can cooperate in running the schoo. Teachers and Curricuum Knowedge Earier, we argued that teachers in sma schoos shoud be abe to teach the basic primary curricuum if their own schooing and professiona training have been adequate. That, however, does not mean that they have a monopoy on curricuum knowedge. Some peope outside the schoo may possess schoo knowedge, whist a wi have oca knowedge. Brought inside the schoo, such peope can support and enrich the teacher s work, often enabing the pupis to ink their curricuum knowedge to the word they know outside schoo. Schoo and Community Even when a sma schoo is situated in the midde of a viage, it may be no more than an outpost of the nationa education system. Viagers may see it simpy as the schoo. A schoo in a viage can become more than that, when the teacher encourages the parents and other community members to come into the schoo and contribute their ski and knowedge to its work. When, additionay, teachers, pupis and community members come together to deveop educative ventures, e.g. in some form of community improvement, then peope begin to tak of our schoo. Put another way, the schoo becomes the schoo of the community; Achieving professiona support Teachers in sma schoos in remote areas, as we noted earier, often experience difficuties in reaching in-service centres. Sometimes even when they are abe to do so, they find that the course, or programme, is geared much more to the requirements of teachers in arge schoos than it is to their circumstances. Probems ike this often stimuate teachers in sma schoos to seek aternative ways of deveoping their professiona understanding and skis. Commony the teachers in good sma schoos act as sources of ideas to each other and sometimes, they are abe to widen their professiona circe by deveoping cooperative contacts with other nearby sma schoos. By this means, they can exchange ideas, seek advice and pan curricuum together. Very often, this proves advantageous, for such meetings can often be more reevant to their needs than are distant courses. This matter of gaining professiona support wi be deveoped in Chapter Seven. Putting the Advantages to Work: A Suggested Set of Working Principes It is important for the teacher in the sma schoo to identify the advantages and to make the most of 8

12 Making the Most of the Sma Schoo them. Here, we have briefy considered some of them and they wi figure again in the foowing chapters. We cose this chapter with a set of working principes which seem to underie the way successfu teachers work in their sma schoos. Pease refect upon them and add others which you consider to be important when thinking about, panning and teaching in the sma schoo. A sma schoos possess advantages as we as disadvantages. Each sma schoo possesses particuar advantages: a these advantages shoud be identified and used as deveopmenta starting points. Teacher time in a sma schoo is the schoo s most precious commodity: it shoud not be dissipated on non-teaching activiw. The socia structure of the sma schoo has distinctive features: these featuns shoud be harnessed to organisationa, administrative, teaching and earning tasks. The sma schoo has too few peope (teachers and pupis) to divide its activities on the basis of gender: schoos shoud be gender-fre paces. The teacher does not have a monopoy on knowedge: ay peope with both forma and oca knowedge shoud be drawn into the educationa task. Schoo and community can generate mutuay educative activity: practica action invoving both schoo and community shoud be pursued Cooperation with simiar ike-minded schoos is vauabe: schoos shoud deveop forms of contact by whatever means possibe in order to exchange ideas, expertise and advice. An od primary schoo. Zambia. 9

13 Making the Most of the Sod Schoo In this chapter we first considered severa aspects of sma muti-grade schoos which their critics regard as educationay disadvantaging. Then we went on to comment briefy on severa features of these schoos which are crucia factors in their deveopment and improvement. We concuded the chapter by presenting a set of principes which are apparent in the work of good sma schoos. The activities which foow invite you to think generay about the sma muti-grade schoo as an eement in the provision of schooing in your country. More specificay, you are invited to refect upon the characteristics of your schoo and to consider the suggested principes. Suggested Activities I. The genera situation and the pace of the sma schoo in your region b educationa provision Imagine that you are writing to someone who has never visited your region. Describe briefy for them what it is ike in terms of its geography, cimate, economy and genera way of ife. With regard to your region, what woud you see as the advantages and disadvantages of prbviding education by means of arge schoos with singe age-graded casses? In what kinds of situation in your region does the sma muti-grade schoo have a roe to pay in soving the probem of chidren s access to education? What do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of using sma schoos to dea with this probem? 2. Your Schoo Describe briefy the area which your schoo serves, e.g. physica characteristics, occupations, communications, way of ife. Note those features of your schoo which you think constitute its main advantages and disadvantages from the point of view of (i) you as a teacher, (ii) the pupis and (iii) the parents and community. 3. Thinking about B&king Principes An educationa principe is an expression of a beief or vaue by which we shape our practice and against which we judge our performance. Think about the seven principes outined in the chapter in reation to your practice and experience. Which of them underie your work? Which of them do.you think is the hardest, or woud be the hardest, to impement in your schoo? Why is that so? Which other principes do you appy to your own professiona practice? 10

14 CHAPTERTWO THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE SMALL SCHOOL: TEACHERS AND PUPILS WORKING TOGETHER When teachers and chidren go to schoo in a morning, they enter a physica structure, the schoo. As they do so, they take on their different roes of head teacher, teacher and pupi and so form the socia structure of the schoo. The intention in this chapter is to examine the socia structure of the sma muti-grade schoo and the reationships which form within it. We wi aso attempt to iustrate how good use may be made of the possibiities which they contain. The Concept of!kbcia Structure The socia structure of any organised form of human activity - a hospita, a factory, a church - can be thought of as a number of ayers, containing peope with specific roes and degrees of authority. If we think of a arge primary schoo, we can imagine it as having at east four ayers. In the topmost ayer is the head teacher, answerabe to the nationa, regiona and oca governments for the effective oversight of finance, administration, curricuum, staffing and the we-being of the schoo. In the next ayer are deputy head teachers and senior teachers, perhaps with responsibiity for overseeing aspects of the curricuum or pupi wefare. Forming the third ayer are the cass teachers, each with responsibiity for their cass. In the owest eve are the pupis, some of whom may have duties as cass monitors and schoo prefects. This picture of the socia structure of the schoo is, of course, over-simpified. It coud impy that the socia structure of the schoo is as rigid as its physica structure. That woud be wrong, for what makes any schoo distinctive, is how the peope who occupy those ayers and positions interpret their roes and activey try to fufi, or change them. Moreover, the socia structure may not be as soid as it seems. A head teacher, for exampe, may choose to do some cass teaching in order to gain a better fee of how the schoo works. At cassroom eve, teachers may demand and gain, participation in schoo decisions. The socia structure of a schoo is not set in stone. The Socia Structure of the Sma Schoo A frequenty made comment on sma muti-grade schoos, is that they have more resembance to an extended famiy than they have to a arge schoo. Certainy, that comparison strengthens when we think of the smaest of sma schoos, the singe teacher schoo. Here is the simpest socia structure in the education system - a teacher and his/her cass. Yet that simpicity is deceptive for, paradoxicay, the roe of the head teacher in such a schoo is, in some ways, broader and more compex than that of the head teacher of a arge schoo. Unsupported by other staff, the head teacher of a singe teacher schoo must carry the same binding duties as the head teacher of a arge schoo, whist embracing the roe of a fu-time, muti-grade, cass teacher. In the two or three teacher schoo, the socia structure is different again. Here, too, the head teacher is a fu-time cassroom practitioner. Because of this, the authority structure is ess cear than that in a arge schoo. On the one hand, the head teacher has the officia authority of his/her 11

15 The Socia Structure of the Sma Schoo position as schoo eader, whist on the other hand, his/her authority as a cass teacher practitioner is determined in the eyes of the other teacher(s) and the pupis by his/her professiona performance in the cassroom. Authority, in these circumstances, is not a given. It is something to be achieved. The joint roe of head teacher/cass teacher in a muti-grade schoo with a sma staff can pose probems, not ony for the head teacher, but aso for the other teachers. For exampe, if the head teacher paces emphasis upon the head teacher part of his/her roe at the expense of his/her practitioner roe, the other teachers may react by emphasising the boundaries of their roe and confining their contribution to their own cassroom. The issue of reationships between teachers and head teacher is not, of course, reevant to the singe teacher schoo. So far as the two or three teacher schoo is concerned, it is possibe to suggest that the interpretation of their roes by head teachers and teachers in sma schoos poses a number of diemmas for them. We have set out severa of these, as seen from the head teacher s perspective: I have so many other tasks to do, I fee that my teaching may be suffering. Coud I pass some of these duties to the cass teacher(s)? If I did pass on some of these duties, woud the other teachers, or maybe the parents, begin to think that I was not reay behaving as a proper head teacher? What effect woud that have? If the cass teacher(s) were to take on some of the responsibiities, how coud I hep them in return with their main responsibiity - teaching and earning in their cass? If the chidren see the other teacher(s) doing parts of my job, woud I ose some of my authority as the head teacher? To what extent do diemmas ike these strike a chord in your professiona experience? Which other eements of your roe contain conficting aspects. Make brief notes of them. We wi consider head teacher and cass teacher roes and reationships in the sma schoo again, ater in the book. Now, we turn to that other eement in the socia structure of the sma schoo - the pupi. Athough pupis do not have a paid position in the schoo s socia structure, they nevertheess represent a significant part of it. In exporing the characteristics of the reationships which pupis deveop with each other in schoo, we wi be using the term peer group which, in everyday anguage, is used to mean a group of peope of roughy the same age and status who share simiar interests. We begin by examining chidren s reationships in arge schoos. 12

16 The!hdakSt~ctum of the Sma schoo Pupi Peer Group Reationships in Large Singe-Age Graded Schoos When young chidren are assembed into a cass on their first day at schoo, the ikeihood is that they wi stay together in that cass right through their primary years. Over that time they wi share the same cassroom, pay in the same payground and experience the same teachers. Schoo is a very ong, intense and confined socia experience for chidren, and it woud be surprising if it did not have a powerfu shaping effect upon the reationships which they deveop during their primary schoo days. The study of pupi reationships in schoo has been undertaken amost entirey in arge town schoos, those with one or more casses to an age-grade. The patterns of pupi peer group reationships which such studies revea are consistent. Amost without exception, chidren in the casses of age-graded schoos confine their friendships to members of their own cass. Byth and Derricott (1977) observe: 1...in schoo with its age-graded organisation....a11 the chiden earn their annua imzment of status... Because of their cose association with the schoo as an oqanisation, the chiidmni informa reationships mirnz the forma o~anisationa structun~ substantiay.... b7 9) Meyenn (1980), in his study of pupi reations in a arge, age-graded schoo for 9-13 year od chidren, confirmed the effect of schoo organisation on pupi reationships, aso pointing out that, within a cass, two singe gender peer groups can co-exist? [The boys / ives remained within the bounds of their cass group and boys in other casses wee cassed amost as stizmgers... The two most obvious features of these pupi peer networks were that they were formed argey within cass boundaries and were amost entirey of the same gender... there tended to be itte interaction between the boys andgirs. (~275) These studies were conducted amost twenty-five years ago in Engish schoos. A recent Norwegian study by Kvasund (1999) confirms their concusions.3 We can summarise the effect of age-grading in arge schoos upon pupi reationships as foows: pupis form their reationships amost competey witbin their cass group, creating gender peer groups which a~ virtuay independent of each other: he eve ofpeer contact between casses is ow. 1 Byth. W.A.L. & Demicoa. R. (1977) 77~ Socia Significance ofmidde S&J&, Batsford. * Meyem R.J. (1980) Peer networks among midde schoo pupis in Hargreaves. A and Ticke, L (Eds) &fmaie Schocds: Orfgh. Idwogy and Prartce, Harper and Rmv 3 Kvahnd R. (1999) QuauUer ofhbma eamng in smahr and bigger rura schcwls in hhvay, paper presented at the Interskoa Conference, August Be. Norway. 13

17 The Socia Structure of the Sma Schoo Chidren s Peer Groups in Sma Muti-Graded Schoos. In a sma schoo which consists of one or more muti-graded casses, each cass obviousy contains more than one age group. It foows that chidren wi spend onger than one year in their cass and therefore, wi be in cose daiy contact with chidren different in age from their own. Moreover, the composition of their cass wi change sowy year by year. For exampe, in a mutigrade cass containing four age grades, the odest group wi pass on to the next cass at the end of the schoo year and a new, young age group wi join and be graduay assimiated into the cass structure. Whist chidren of the same age in a muti-grade cass wi have an identity as a recognisabe group, they wi aso have greater opportunities to form reationships with chidren in other age groups than wi chidren who pass through schoo in a singe age graded cass. There are two other aspects to the formation of reationships in schoos with two or more mutigraded casses: As an age group moves from one muti-grade cass to the next, its members deveop new reationships in their new cass whist retaining their contacts with the chidren in the cass they have eft. In other words, their reationships form bridges across cass boundaries. In sma schoos, where chidren wish to engage in activities which ca for more peope than their own age group contains, they are impeed to draw in chidren oder or younger than they Teaching group. u(hat about the others? 14

18 TheS0C&structun of the SIMU schoo are. Such a need aso works against the deveopment of the gender boundary commony found in arger schoos, thus extending the network of reationships. It is not surprising that studies of chidren s peer groups in sma schoos such as those of Be and Sigsworth (1987)4 and Kvasund5 revea very different patterns of pupi reationships from those in arge schoos. The chief features of pupi reationships in sma muti-grade schoos are: In a muti-grade C~ZLSS, chidren-deveop reationships.within their own age grade, but they extend those reationships into the other age grades as we. Within the muti-grade cass and the schoo, the barrier between the genders is ess strong than in arge singe age graded schoos. Boys and girs seem prepared to cooperate if the task demands it. When the whoe schoo combines in an activity in the cassroom and in the payground, it is evident that chidren s reationships extend across the age range of the schoo. Friendship groups have a much wider age span than those in arger schoos. On this basis, we can observe that the different patterns of pupi reationships in muti-grade schoos - within and across casses and between age and gender groups - create a distinctive kind of peer group. Whist the chidren s reationships in their cass provide them with a sense of age identity - of where they are in the schoo - it is their reationships acne the schoo which creates their sense of identity within the schoo peer group. Ceary, the schoo peer group can either be an asset or a deficit, depending upon how it ines up with the purposes of the schoo. Any teacher who wins the aegiance of his/her cass peer group has gained a precious asset. In the sma muti-grade schoo, gaining the aegiance of its extended peer group represents a treasure beyond price. A Mid-Point Pause It may be vauabe for you to pause for a few minutes and to note down any connections which you have made between the account of pupi peer group reations which you have just read and the characteristics of the pupi peer group in your schoo. In the rest of this chapter, we wi attempt to iustrate how the nature of a muti-grade peer group can be an advantage to the teacher. We begin by recaing the first principe which we set down in Chapter 1, namey that a the advantages in the sma schoo situation shoud be identified and used as deveopmenta starting points. Given the circumstances of the soitary teacher in a singe teacher schoo, there often seems to be very itte which coud be caed an advantage. As we have noted before, the teacher in that situation is the soe professiona resource which can be empoyed in the organisation of the chidren s earning across the entire curricuum. Such a precious resource, ike water in the desert, must be conserved and used to maximum effect. That priority underies the second principe which we isted: 4 Be, A & Sigsvmth. A (1987) The Sma Rura Schoo: A Matter of Qua&y Famer, London. 5 op. cit. 15

19 The Socia Structure of the Sma Schoo Teacher time in a sma schoo is the schoo s most precious commodity: it shoud not be dissipated on non-teaching activity. Put another way, we coud state that teacher time shoud be focussed entirey on fostering pupis earning. If we aim to base sma schoo practice upon that principe, the best point at which to begin is an examination of how time is used in schoo, for whist governments may ay down how many hours per day chidren are to be in schoo, there is no guarantee that a of those hours wi be spent effectivey on earning pursuits. The Use of Time in Schoo Harrison (1990)6 studied the use of cassroom time in a number of muti-grade casses in sma Engish schoos. The daiy time-tabed time she termed Cassroom Time. She defined as Setting Time the time spent at the beginning of each session (at the start of schoo and after the morning, midday and afternoon breaks) in organising pupis, distributing materias, etc., before work commenced. The time which remained when Setting Time was subtracted from Cassroom Time, she abeed Teaching Time - the time in which the teacher and pupis engage in purposive earning activities. She found that, in a four session day, Setting Time coud range from 5-15 minutes per session. In other words, up to one hour per day coud be ost from Teaching Time. She noted other factors which reduced Teaching Time, e.g. Waiting Time, when individuas and groups must wait for assistance and aso Distraction Time, when time is ost because chidren s attention is drawn away from their task. Loss of time from causes ike these is a feature of cassroom ife generay. The nature of a mutigrade cass makes the probem more cogent, because the severa age grades composing the cass are ikey to make separate demands in reation to setting and waiting time. For exampe, if the daiy oss of time from Setting and Waiting Times amounted to an hour per day in a muti-grade cass of four age groups, then over the four year period spent in the cass, each pupi woud ose the equivaent of around thirty schoo weeks of Teaching Time. One means of reducing the oss of Teaching Time is through the invovement of the peer group. Invoving the peer group Athough there is ony one professiona eader in a singe teacher schoo, other eaders are present. When the teacher is abe to draw them and their peers into the running of the schoo, a major asset of the sma schoo is reaised and teacher time can be conserved. Amost a teachers invove some members of their cass - those they regard as most responsibe - in the routine, non-teaching tasks which schoo ife entais. Where the teacher is skifu enough to invove a the peer group, he/she not ony draws in a major form of assistance, for the corporate ife of the schoo is aso strengthened. The head teacher of a singe teacher Scottish primary schoo exempified that kind of invovement in the running of her schoo when she decared I organise my chidren so that the ony thing I have to do is teach. Every chid in the schoo, from odest to youngest, had responsibiities - domestic, organisationa, and administrative, so that she, as the soe professiona resource, coud use her Time in Cass as fuy as possibe. Moreover, the way the chidren were organised meant that oder 6 Harrison, C. (1990) Schw time in the primary schoo in. Gaton. M and Patrtck. H. (Eds) Currfcufum Provision in the Smaff PrbnqSchd. Routedge. London 16

20 The socia structure of the sma!khoo chidren inducted younger chidren into tasks which the atter woud eventuay inherit. Inasmuch as she fuy invoved the peer group in the running of the schoo and did not discriminate between boys and girs, her approach iustrates two other principes which we noted earier: The socia structure of the sma schoo has distinctive features: these features shoud be harnessed to organisationa, administrative, teaching and earning tasks. The sma schoo has too few peope (teachers and pupis) to divide its activities on the basis of gender: schoos shoud be gender-free paces. Is your use of pupis ike that of the Scottish teacher? Rest for a moment and jot down (a) four or five cassroom tasks which your pupis presenty undertake and (b), four or five of your other non-teaching tasks which woud be possibe for them to undertake. Whether the schoo is a singe-teacher schoo, or one of severa muti-grade casses, the two principes set out above provide major ways of enabing the teacher(s) to increase the time avaiabe to impement earning. Yet how might a teacher set about fuy invoving the peer group in the running of the schoo? There are three eements to consider: The teacher must undertake a detaied and systematic appraisa of a the tasks which are essentia to the smooth running of the schoo. This appraisa can be carried out by the teacher aone, but if it is shared with the pupis, then it is ikey that a more detaied task inventory wi resut. If the appraisa is spread over one or two weeks, it wi aso be more comprehensive. Athough teachers can usuay nominate peer group eaders, they are often ess sure how those eaders reate to one another and how far the affiiations of other peer group members extend. A period of quiet observation both in the cassroom and outside wi often yied a good dea of information about the structure of the overa peer group, its eader and its sub-groups. Any kind of change in socia arrangements brings disturbance. If the decision is taken to give the members of the peer group more schoo responsibiity than they have previousy experienced, then the extension of responsibiity shoud be gradua, beginning perhaps with one area. The improvement of Setting Time might be a suitabe pace to start. Setting time Setting Time, as we noted, is that time, short or ong, at the beginning of any session before work begins. If Teaching Time is to be conserved, then Setting Time must be as brief as possibe. The probem of achieving that end can be presented as a direct probem for the cass to consider. It can even be given a tite: The Quick Start Project. There are three features to think about and pan: 17

21 The Socia Structure of the Sma!hho The physica requirements, e.g. the room arrangements, and materia and equipment requirements which differ from session to session. How responsibiities are to be aocated. *Any rues which shoud be made. For exampe, many schoos foow the rue that the cassroom shoud be prepared and the groups given a first briefing at the end of the previous session, so that entry into the next session can be rapidy achieved. Pupi invovement in panning the genera organisation of the cassroom can be vauabe. The pupis, after a, experience their work pace differenty from the teacher and they know, or beieve they know, how arrangements - of books, writing materias, tabes, benches, equipment, the payground - coud be improved. The changes which they suggest may, or may not, work, but if they see that their suggestions are taken seriousy and tried out, their future commitment wi be a the greater. %iting Time One of the most difficut and persistent probems for the teacher of a muti-grade cass is that of distributing their time between the different groups. It is inevitabe that some pupis who have been set to work independenty, wi finish their work eary, or be hed up because they need the assistance of the teacher. Necessariy, they must wait. Whether that waiting time is wasted time, or productive time, depends upon the extent to which cassroom arrangements enabe chidren to fi it usefuy. The reasons why chidren spend time waiting are many. The commonest are: 1. The nature of the task is not fuy understood. 2. The task is understood but there is uncertainty how far to proceed. 3. The chidren are not sure which resources they can use without permission. 4. Individua pupis or the group ack the skis and knowedge to work independenty. 5. The task has been competed and the chidren do not know what to do next. 6. The cassroom has insufficient resources for the chidren to occupy themseves, when they have competed a task, or whist waiting for advice or hep. Vkz can consider these in order: 1 & 2. i%e task is not fuuy understood. There is uncertainty how far to proceed Even though the teacher has given a fu expanation of the task and its extent, and has provided written instructions on the chakboard some chidren wi remain uncear. Here, it is important to ensure that peer group eaders in the group understand the remit of the task, so that they can act as teacher substitutes and that tie other members of the group know to whom they may turn for hep, Where a group is too immature for any of its members to function as eader, then it is important that they are made aware of which senior pupis they can approach, if the teacher is occupied. 3. ir)ze chidren a~ unsure which rz?sounzes they can use withoutpem&sion. Here, the organisation of resources is important and it is an area where invovement of the peer group is vauabe. For exampe the cassroom resources, (e.g. books, writing materias and equipment) can be categorised on a with/without permission basis. Their arrangement in the cassroom, responsibiity for their care and rues for their use can be worked out by teacher and chidren together. 18

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