Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Article excerpt

Byline: By Fay Tinnion

A-level and GCSE results are out this month. Statistically North-East pupils underachieve when compared with other UK regions and this, for all of us, is a serious issue.

To give an example, in 2004 48.7% of pupils in the North-East gained five GCSEs A*-C. The national average was 53.7%. This according to the Regional Development Agency.

No one can seriously argue that pupils in the North-East are less intelligent than elsewhere. Yet underachievement must have causes. Is it that our region's children face not only more deprivation than elsewhere but also have lower aspirations?

In my humble experience pupils who aim to do well at school usually come from homes where doing so is actively encouraged. Homes with plenty of books in them. Homes with parents or guardians who value education and who expect their children to respect school staff. Homes where a regular, sensible bedtime is enforced ensuring pupils arrive in school refreshed and able to concentrate. Many homes in the North-East are like this but unfortunately too many are not. It may be controversial to say it but a significant number of parents inside this region fail in their responsibility to help educate their own children. Some because they live lives that make failing very likely and this is not always their fault. Some, however, fail wilfully because they don't value education and in many cases even resent it.

In some areas of the North-East this irresponsible attitude to education is an entrenched view.

Some Government policies will undoubtedly help. The use of learning mentors in schools has provided dedicated staff to deal with disaffected youngsters prone to truancy. They also provide support to young people whose home lives make learning difficult. School-based Learning Support Units help re-integrate truants by proving a gradual re-introduction to their studies. They also allow staff to refer disruptive pupils to a place where they can re-learn behaviour codes before returning to the mainstream. Less academic pupils are now allowed to sit a reduced number of GCSEs whilst also undertaking an increased amount of citizenship and work-related study. …

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