What is your favourite TV programme? Do you watch EastEnders? Even the theme tune brings me out in hives but there must be something addictive in this show to bring the audience back day in and day out because it has been going for thirty years! The characters are larger than life: the situations they find themselves in remarkably complex. Dealing as it does with life, love and loss this popular soap opera focuses on family relationships within a tight knit community and has tackled some hard – hitting topics such as racial prejudice, unemployment and euthanasia to name but three.
Our young teenage house guest loves watching ‘Friends’- an American soap which has enjoyed enormous success over the past twenty years. Replays of old episodes are watched time and time again- I am sure she knows the scripts off by heart!
Complicated relationships are at the heart of both of these programmes. Both friends and Eastenders have enjoyed their fair share of marriages that’s for sure and both have a character called Ross who made daft decisions when in love! There the similarity ends.
How many young people live their lives vicariously through the stories played out on the TV screen I wonder? Not everyone will get to live in a fabulous penthouse apartment and hang out every evening with friends at the local coffee shop. Thankfully not too many will also be surrounded by landlords and gangsters either!
This got me thinking about what it means to live in this country today and how, as a school leader I can influence the character of my pupils so that they can be successful and influential citizens, proud to belong to this great nation. One way this can be achieved is through broadening our curriculum offer.
I happen to believe that each child has an entitlement to a culturally rich school experience. I want our kids to build up a sense of identity as Sheffield children by experiencing the many opportunities this great city has to offer. Theatre, arts, museums, history, industrial landscapes and beautiful countryside are all to be experienced in our excellent primary curriculum. Visits and visitors are planned there to enrich and deepen learning. They can help build confidence in cultural identity too.
Pride in ones cultural heritage and British citizenship are not mutually exclusive. One of the greatest things about Sheffield is its diversity- a city of all faiths and none, many tongues and ethnicities to flavour and more restaurants than anywhere I know! It is no wonder that so many students return to live here after they graduate.
Sadly, some of our children have very little experience of city life outside of Darnall and yet most parents I speak to are very ambitious for their children to go on to future study and career success. How then to bridge that gap? Parents often ask what they could do to help. Here are a few ideas.
Tell your special stories. Gift the children the story of your family and its arrival in Sheffield. Help them to develop their mother tongue if you are fortunate enough to speak a language other than English. Celebrate the new school learning they will share with you this term. Listen to them read their reading book. Encourage them to complete homework or attend holiday school this Easter. Be very interested indeed. Children whose parents are actively involved in their child’s school life make very good progress in their learning.
Why not try something even more powerful- switch the TV off and take your children into town this weekend. If the sun shines, let them run through the Town Hall fountains and if it rains the Peace Gardens offer gorgeous shelter. Explore the Botanical Gardens together, walk round High Hazels Park, visit the library – plan an outing. There is so much that you can do for free! Get to know your city through the eyes of your children and give them a different story to cherish.
They might even thank you for it one day!