By Natalie Valios
My new year’s resolution to remain calm in the face of stories that start my blood boiling has just come to an abrupt end. Perusing the Guardian’s education website I came across the news that a new primary school in Sheffield won’t be calling itself a school. Instead it will be called Watercliffe Meadow, a place for learning.
According to the headteacher Linda Kingdon, “We decided from an
early stage we didn’t want to use the word ‘school’. One reason was
many of the parents of the children here had very negative connotations
If that’s the case then don’t other words that go hand in hand with
school also have negative connotations – timetables, homework, exams,
and teachers. Maybe the latter should be called ‘learners’ instead,
although it wouldn’t inspire you with much confidence in their
abilities. Saying that though, neither does the wishy-washy, PC brigade
term a ‘place for learning’.
Kingdon goes on to say that there will be no whistles, bells or
locked doors, “we want to bring the school closer to real life”.
I don’t disagree with the belief that parents who were unhappy at
school are likely to pass on their negative view to their children and
are unlikely to engage with the school. But if Kingdon and her
governors want children – and their parents – to engage with this place
for learning, then rather than go for the ‘let’s pander to the children
can’t cope with losing at an egg and spoon race concept’ by changing
its name, perhaps they should visit those schools who are doing amazing
things with children from exactly these backgrounds and who are proud
to call themselves a school.
If Kingdon wants to bring the school closer to real life then her
pupils (what will they be renamed) should learn that real life is full
of hard knocks which have negative connotations. School is meant to do
more than just educate children in the three Rs, it’s meant to educate
them about life and if they can’t handle going somewhere that’s called
‘school’ then there’s little hope for them out in the real world.