As a child I never noticed it, probably caught up in being ungrateful in the way a child can be, but it always felt like we were missing out.
In primary, my classmates had Sky TV, they went on holidays abroad, they had the latest trainers and they had the latest United football shirt (I'm not sure why that bothered me so much - I'm not a United fan). I wanted all of those things, I definitely remember feelings of resent towards my parents that I didn't get those things as well.
My parents worked so hard (one still does) to give us the life that we had, looking back now I can recognise how lucky we were (and still are). Like most parents, mine did everything that they could to make sure that their children had a better life than they did. Every waking moment, and I'm sure many sleepless nights, were devoted to ensuring that we had as many opportunities as possible in life. I remember vividly how my mum would react when I just couldn't get my times tables right, or if I made silly mistakes in my spellings tests.
As a child I would misinterpret these frustrations as anger.
As an adult I can see that there wasn't any anger, it was the frustrations of not being able to help a child as much as you wanted to.
Caring for me and my siblings became the sole purpose of my parent's every action - I have partial memories of a nine month period where we rarely saw my Dad, his company had sent him off to work on some project up North, but I'm not sure where. If we did see him, it was for little over 24 hours on some weekends, him arriving late on a Friday night after we'd gone to bed and having to leave early Sunday. It was confusing for a young child, but it must have been torturous for my parents.
The sacrifices they made have made a difference to our lives in a way that it would never be possible to repay in several life times.
My older sister is an Cambridge graduate - something that we would never have even contemplated, let alone dared to dream of. She nearly didn't go, after an open day and interview she insisted that it wasn't a place for people like us, 'they're all really posh".
I'm a teacher, something that was inspired by the teachers that I had at school. I originally hadn't wanted to even do A-Levels, my parents said that it was my choice. It was, but if I hadn't it would have crushed them. I'm so glad that I did - previously I'd enjoyed school, but A-Level taught me to love my subjects.
The point of all of this is that we were luckier than most. Yes, we went without lots of things, but the things we did have or did where far more plentiful than many others. It's only as an adult that I've really come to understand and appreciate that and I wouldn't even want to try to compare myself to how unfortunate some are.
My fortune was really brought home the other day, the Sutton Trust published an interactive tool which shows you University acceptance rates by area (link available here) where I grew up, in Croydon, they only saw 10 Oxbridge acceptances between 2015-17, 570 to Russell Group Universities and 4155 to HE institutions in total across the same time period. I'm going to try and uncover some historical figures from when I applied to University.
It's likely you've a pretty wrong impression about Croydon, normally along the lines of; "like the facelift", "Is it where Peep Show is filmed?" That's far from the true picture, there are huge areas of deprivation and huge areas of wealth (pretty much like anywhere). What these stats don't reveal is finer details, or what made me feel so lucky, the hyper-local details. I'm sure that for the postcodes surrounding where I grew up, there were very few who have gone on to post-18 education. It's because of this that I feel lucky, but not joyful.
This is not to say that University is for everyone, but more needs to be done to give those who want to the opportunity, without them also being burdened by debts and not being made to feel like it's not for them.
I realised that I've been neglecting my blog. I also write for RE:Online, but I've been spending a lot more time focussing on my new role, that of Pupil Premium Coordinator.
This is a role that I care a huge amount about, and was one of the reasons that I wanted to get into teaching in the first place.
Now, I've been incredibly fortunate in my life, my parents came from working class backgrounds, my dad from Northern Ireland and my mum from South London and they did everything that they could to support their children. I can't even begin to imagine what they went without just to provide for us. I know how lucky I've been, but growing up where I did and the other pupils I knew growing up, I know now that my situation was often the exception and not the norm.
Since school I've been to University, even managed to get a Masters and now I have a really good job. The best job in the world even. There are times where I might complain and wish that I was getting paid more, or could afford a slightly fancier holiday, but I know that I'm incredibly fortunate - I don't have to worry about how I'm going to pay the bills and I know that I've got a secure roof over my head. I also know that this just isn't the case for far too many people in society.
A quick Google search for news stories relating to poverty, social mobility or Pupil Premium bring up some heart-breaking stories, headlines such as Primary School Tables: Poor pupils won't catch up for 50 years, Gordon Brown: I didn't think I'd see child poverty again in my lifetime or Rising child poverty should be priority of our politicians. These are all recent news stories, it makes for very difficult reading when you start trawling back through the headlines.
The effects of poverty are becoming more well known, whilst we hear gut wrenching stories of the effects of food bank and universal credit, we keep hearing heart warming ones about those helping out those in need. Books such as The Working Class: Poverty, education and alternative voices have really helped to open my eyes further, but nothing compared to the veracity of I, Daniel Blake. I saw I, Daniel Blake in a cinema in Oxford, the entire audience reduced to tears throughout - walking home I could see the real juxtaposition that the city of Oxford has - such wealth and such poverty all in one city, one seemingly blind to the other. Once home I bought and sent around five copies of the DVD to send to people I thought needed their eyes opening, I recently still saw one in its plastic wrap.
My school has a large number of Pupil Premium students and my new role is one that I'm definitely enjoying. That's due in part to the fact that I'm fortunate to work in a school with a fantastic and committed staff - I know that they go above and beyond for the students that they are teaching.
However, the thing that I enjoy most about my role is that student voice is one of the key parts to it. To massively oversimplify it, that means that I spend a fair amount of time talking to students - sometimes because I have something particular to find out about (such as the Year 11 mentoring programme, or certain barriers to learning) but mostly because I get to chat with students and we talk about all sorts of things. The relationships that form can make such a huge difference, it could be the difference between a student hating school and them thinking that maybe it isn't quite so bad, maybe even liking it or even loving it.
Another aspect which I'm loving is designing an experiences programme, speaking to students it is amazing the number of things that they haven't had the opportunity to do. It's an incredibly humbling experience, reminding me constantly of how many things I take for granted. There's lots of fantastic research which has been conducted into cultural capital - I won't do it a disservice by trying to disseminate it here, but for some of our Pupil Premium children it is not just financial hardship that they face, but also a lack of cultural experiences.
I've spoken to pupils who have given me strange looks when trying to explain a museum, what a theatre performance is like, or even what it is like to be on a train. My school is only a few miles from Oxford, but the number of students I've spoken to who have never been is enormous. This whole world that they have never been given access to, or have been made to feel like it isn't for them. The idea of our experiences programme is to give pupils an insight into things that they otherwise wouldn't have. To see and experience the things that they thought weren't for them. Maybe they'll walk away from it hating it, maybe they'll have discovered a new passion, maybe they fall somewhere in between. Regardless of where they fall, they will have experienced something that they wouldn't have otherwise.
I'm only new to this role, and many of these things are in their early stages, but it is a role that means so much to me. I care deeply about the outcomes of all of my pupils (as do we all, otherwise why would we be in the job), but I really do care about the outcomes of our vulnerable pupils. I want them to overcome the gap that exists between them and their non-disadvantaged peers, not because it is a government target but because they deserve it. I want them to leave school with a more positive view of it than when they started, for them to walk away knowing that their time in school wasn't a waste and that it has given them opportunities - whether it is leading them on to college, a job, an apprenticeship, university, I want them to be able to achieve exactly what they want to achieve.
I also want them to have a positive experience every day that they're in school. That comes through the relationships that are being built with their teachers - academically and pastorally. As well as the experiences that the school gives them - not so that they feel that they owe us, but because we appreciate and celebrate them and their achievements.
Hopefully this will be the first of many posts on Pupil Premium, why I think it is important and what we are doing as a school.
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