Education: Children face culture of low expectations

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The Independent Online
Heron Cross Primary School, in Stoke-on-Trent, was the only English primary school where no pupil reached the required standard in either maths or English in this year's school league tables.

The school lies in an inner-city area of Victorian terraced housing with a high level of unemployment and single-parent families. 66 of the 280 children at the school have free school meals.

Children suffer from a culture of under-achievement and they are hampered by a series of other problems. Headteacher Steve Turner, who has been at the school for a year, says teachers and parents are trying to building up a partnership to improve Heron Cross.

But the school's other problems include bad behaviour and particular difficulties with boys. Mr Turner said many parents in the area near the school were brought up in families where it had been relatively easy to get an unskilled or semi-skilled job if you left school at 16.

``I am not blaming or making excuses but stating the reality in the area. We are trying change the culture in school to one of achievement and are trying to make the school open and welcoming to encourage parents to get more involved,'' he said.

Heron Cross has stressed the importance of literacy and numeracy and spent more time on them before the Government's announcement last week that primary schools would have to spend an hour a day on each subject. Mr Turner believes the broader range of skills required for English and maths are harder to acquire than the more factual knowledge needed for science.

Bad behaviour has been a problem at Heron Cross, with rowdiness and noise sometimes disrupting lessons. The school has drawn up measures to tackle this, including setting the same standards in all lessons - one stage it had a large number of teachers on temporary contracts with different teaching styles. Mr Turner is pleased to have a permanent staff, but is concerned about a lack of male role models for boys, as he is the only male teacher. This was particularly important for boys in single-parent families who mostly live with their mothers.