The importance of recognising and knowing each pupil | Portsmouth High School

The importance of recognising and knowing each pupil

Ian Wilson is Head of Little Ilford school, a comprehensive in Newham, East London. His school has a new intake of 300 pupils a year and Ian struggles to learn the names of his pupils. He said in the Independent recently:

“Whenever I have a spare moment I try to put names to faces because names are very, very powerful,” he says. “Sir Alex Ferguson says his most important management skill was knowing everyone’s name. If I see something going on in the playground and I call a child by name they soon stop. ‘Sir, you know my name!’ they say.”

The bulge in pupil numbers, the result of rising birth rates and migration has led to plans to create super-sized schools of around 3,000 children in the near future and not all educators think huge schools are a bad thing. Many of them are rated highly by Ofsted and there is an economy of scale enjoyed by larger establishments.

However, all of these very large schools are state maintained and whilst there are some sizeable independent schools – mostly foundations that comprise of several schools under one umbrella – most fee-paying schools are kept to a modest size by comparison. This is because our school values the individual and it is important for pupils to be recognised and known.

Although PHS has grown a little recently it is the correct size for us. I don’t need to paper my office with the photographs of all the pupils as Ian Wilson does to learn the girls’ names. By the end of Year 7 I have taught that entire year group and through form captains’ lunches, celebrations in my office or just by chatting to the pupils around school I know them all and most importantly I know them well and at PHS we have no plans to change.

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