I am writing from the ‘white ghetto’ where there is unemployment, drugs and crime. I am writing as an Islander born and bred, although not inbred. I write as a mother of 3 children aged 11, 9 and 6. I write as someone who has worked in education on the Island for 15 years as a primary practitioner and specialist teacher and as someone who has recently set up a company to support families and children struggling in education. I come from a working class family that has lived on the Island for generations. I have a degree, several post graduate certificates and a diploma. I have aspiration. I have actively chosen to live on the Island as my husband and I believe it to be a beautiful place to raise children.
Mr Hoare’s comments in the TES article angered me, not necessarily because I disagreed with all of them, but because the view that he portrayed to the media about where I live is not real, holistic or fair. People in great power and with great influence bear huge responsibility and I feel disappointed that perhaps flippant and stereotypical comments have been reported to the media based on upper class values and bigoted views.
I can’t disagree education on the Island has seen a turbulent few years but there are clear and defined reasons for this. The first being school reorganisation which saw the Island move from a Primary, Middle and High system, to Primary and Secondary, with the introduction of some 6th Form Colleges. This transition was poorly managed by both local government and local authority and left many schools in unsuitable buildings, with inadequate resources causing staff morale to become low. There are areas of deprivation on the Island, significant deprivation in parts. I am sure there are issues with drugs and crime but I believe this to be an issue in many other authorities and not exclusive to the Isle of Wight.
The state of the teaching profession in general at the moment is not supporting the development and improvement of secondary schools. What teachers are expected to do on a daily basis is not sustainable long term. Fantastic, dedicated and life changing teachers are leaving the profession every term because they are simply exhausted at trying so desperately to make a difference to young people’s lives, inspiring them whilst delivering a curriculum on a non-existent budget which becomes less every year and managing class sizes which are becoming increasingly unmanageable in size. Teachers are not magicians, whilst I know many outstanding practitioners who do an amazing job on limited resources, limited time and limited budget and perhaps the work they do could be classed as ‘magical’ given the circumstances they currently work in.
Mr Hoare’s comments paint a picture of a desolate Isle full of no hope and despair. This will not support us in recruiting and employing staff within schools, or in expanding Island aspiration and economy and suggests that the people living here do not care and this is simply not the case. To counter act the way the Island was depicted by Mr Hoare, I wish to show you a week in the life of 3 children living on the Isle of Wight. No drugs, illegal activity or unemployment or lack of aspiration in sight. My children attend a state primary school, and all of our friends and family hold down jobs and provide their children with the best opportunities they can outside of school. I believe my children and their friends and family in the pictures represent a large and real selection of children living on the Island this summer. This is not a ‘posed’ or recreated week for your benefit, but the week leading up to the article being written.
A Trip to Yaverland Beach with family. Building Sandcastles, swimming in the sea. Cake making and family time once their dad finished work
Street dance for our girls in the morning, followed by a performance at a public event in the afternoon. Their dance school, The Starlight Boutique,’ is one of many on the Island and has over 200 pupils.
We then had family for tea and fun with rounder’s in our garden.
We met different friends at the beach, an opportunity to try paddle boarding because one of our friends has one and an opportunity for children to try sailing a topper owing a to a purchase made by us with a group of friends last summer to make it affordable. Cricket on the beach altogether. Followed by a barbeque on the beach.
A trip to a local activity park in the day with their cousins as their mother was work. I went to work in the evening to provide a free workshops for parents raising the profile of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia.
My children accompanied me to work as I provide tutoring in the holidays. We then did jobs such as taking my daughter to have x rays of her teeth and getting new tyre’s on our car . Friends visited and we played in the garden all of the afternoon.
We attended a fun session at a local skate club. (John Cattle’s- who has been nominated for a positive role model award and who is offering free skate lessons at skate parks all over the Island throughout the summer holidays.) We then visited my Nan in local residential home before spending time in our garden at home.
We headed to the beach with family and friends. Spent the whole day digging sandcastles and running in and out of the sea. The children with us this day were aged from 14 years to 3 years and they supported each other, looked after each other and had fun together. We had a meal all together at tea time once their dad finished work and talked about our day.
More fun at the beach with different family and friends.
Trumpet practise for my son in the morning. A trip to the Chale show, a yearly Island event where the best Island produce is showcased, there are things to watch and things to do overlooking the sea and countryside. Followed by fish and chips at the seaside together as a family.
I hope that people can see that the Island is far from a ‘GHETTO,’ and a place of no hope and despair. Like everywhere in England there are despairing elements of course, but nowhere is perfect. I hope the education on the Island improves but I am not convinced that the people living on it and attending the schools are the ones who need to change or are wholly responsible for its current condition. I am not convinced that the teachers who work in Island schools need to work harder. Perhaps the issue is bigger than this and maybe it is more about falling budget and funding and the expectations that other people who don’t live on the Island have of Island people. Perhaps it is because Islanders are constantly stereotyped and put down, that they live up to this expectation in some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are people here who plan to and who are trying to change that. There are great role models and people who have achieved great things who live here who try to help others. We might only be a drop in the ocean but the power of determined people, the power of people who wish to make a difference and the power of people when they work together and become united should not be underestimated. Education and schools on the Island are on the up and hopefully rather than work against us the government and OSTED will find a way to work with us.
A sail boat cannot move fast against the wind, but put the wind in its sail and see how far it travels. It’s only a guess, but I suspect many Island people won’t be interested in joining the best sailing club and will choose to sail right past it, foregoing the champagne. They will be too busy enjoying the real Island life, the life that sees happy, healthy and lucky children who live in the real world.