Inspired School Leadership in areas of high deprivation

Published: 14 Jan 2014

Author: Aidan Dowle
Inspired School Leadership in areas of high deprivation

Aidan Dowle, Deputy Headteacher of Lakers School in Coleford, Gloucestershire, was one of four senior teachers chosen nationally this year to travel overseas as part of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. He chose to visit schools in areas of high deprivation in Chicago, where he had volunteered as a teenager.

With 1 in 4 UK children living in poverty, educators face a daily challenge to engage these students and enable them to fulfil their potential. “My interest was to identify schools where people are succeeding against all odds, and where staff are creating life-changing opportunities for children who are frequently trapped in poverty,” said Aidan.  

One set of schools known as ‘Catalyst Schools’ caught his interest. “These schools are in in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the USA and yet are achieving remarkable results on limited resources and are easily competing with the state schools across Chicago.  They have a clear vision of education and work as a team with a clearly defined set of values.”   

Students in Catalyst schools are greeted with a personal handshake from all of the staff as they arrive at 07:30am. Uniforms are immaculate, smiles and greetings are genuine and the behaviour exemplary. Class sizes are kept as low as possible and the curriculum is adapted and collaboratively planned every week.  “These children feel valued and safe and their motivation to learn is clear for all to see,” said Aidan.  

For the final part of his journey, Aidan travelled up the Mississippi river to St Mary’s University, Winona, to observe a detailed programme aimed at supporting children from the inner cities through university and on to a professional life.

Now back in Gloucestershire, Aidan has already been working with the senior team at Lakers to further improve the coaching of excellence in teaching. The school will also be taking a renewed look at the value of Global Citizenship and international links with partner primary schools in this area.

“This Travelling Fellowship has been a life changing experience,” said Aidan of his seven-week journey. “I feel inspired and affirmed that we are not alone in Lakers in believing that true education, which is so often lost behind tests and exams, does have the power to change lives and communities.”

For more information:

Contact Aidan Dowle: a.dowle@lakers.gloucs.sch.uk      

Notes to Editors

This Education initiative is supported by a partnership with The Farmington Trust to jointly fund a further four Fellowships a year from 2013 to offer educational opportunities to future head teachers to undertake research on educational values and standards, to familiarise themselves with educational developments, and to improve their leadership skills.