Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Whatever happened to the Lilian Baylis lot?

I'm still struggling through the Princes/Oval hustings write-up and will soon have photos from Madeira Day to upload, which I hope to publish ASAP.

In the meantime, I'm always interested in ways that communities might develop positive links with all of their citizens, including local young people.  For many years in the SE11 area (and beyond), the name "Lilian Baylis School" has been synonymous with "trouble", and it takes a long time for that kind of reputation to shift.  It appears, however, that recent(ish) investment in new school buildings and a new head teacher (Gary Phillips) have wrought rapid change at Lilian Baylis.  Yet, unless you have children at local schools, it can seem impossible to know what takes place in educational establishments at all.  Obviously, that's partly as a result of the draconian legislation, put in place with the aim of protecting children (aka CRB checks), which make it harder to volunteer with young people.  But perhaps sometimes Londoners scurry around so quickly, keeping ourselves busy, that we fail to notice the institutions that are shaping the next generation and we forget that we /are/ the village that could be raising the children.  If that kind of forgetfulness becomes a habit, the risk is that we stop knowing young people as our neighbours, and start seeing them as "a threat".  I don't want SE11 to be the kind of place that is afraid of youth, and I'd be intrigued to know whether readers have ideas for how to link residents with schools in a way that could be fruitful for both.

In the meantime, to demystify Lilian Baylis, and the hard work that goes on behind classroom doors, I've discovered a TV series (recorded at the end of 2009) which demonstrates the kind of pressure that the staff and Head Teacher are under to deliver improved exam results and an environment in which all children might thrive and prosper.  The series was originally shown on Teachers TV, which isn't available on all networks, so I'm pleased they're viewable on YouTube.  Whilst the episodes are quite long, I've found them to be a fantastic window into an entirely different world and well worth watching:

I'm not the only one interested in this vastly improved school. The Guardian have run a story this morning on recruiting staff for challenging schools, with a quote from Gary Phillips (the Lilian Baylis head) who noted, "What you want is people who are motivated by the challenge and by the moral purpose – and by that I mean we are here to transform the life chances of all our students. We have teachers from a real range of backgrounds, but it's about what they believe in and what they're prepared to do for the students."

I suppose I'm asking the same question about our community. How do communities transform the lives of /all/ of their citizens? Are people interested in that kind of enterprise any more, or is it a hopelessly old-fashioned way of looking at community development?

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