A School Uses “Casual Friday” As A Reward For Achieving Students
Jeff Conquest, the headteacher of the Woodland Middleschool in Flitwick, Bedfordshire recently implemented a new rule which aimed to reward students who met the accelerated reading target. The said rule allowed high-achieving students to come to school in casual clothes—those who didn’t meet their academic targets were made to wear their uniforms; Mr. Conquest informed teachers and parents of this rule via text message a few days before the rule was put into effect, asking them to prepare accordingly.
The policy has been met with many different reactions from parents, teachers and education officials alike. Some parents of the students with high scores were very proud of their children and say that they agree with Mr. Conquest’s line of thinking: they say that the casual Friday approach is something which children enjoy and which they feel is an appropriate reward.
However, certain parents feel otherwise—a parent who wishes to remain unnamed stated that the whole thing felt like it was implemented not to reward the achievers but to shame those who underperformed. The said parent says that the whole thing reeks of humiliation: she mentions The Scarlett Letter and references the Victorian Dunce Hat—later, she says that she did not feel at all disappointed with her son who didn’t make the target because he was good at other things.
Mr. Chris McGovern, the former head teacher and foreman for the Campaign for Real Education states that he thinks the entire strategy is very discriminatory. He says that it is one thing to reward students and quite another to isolate underachievers. He says that one of his biggest fears is that the policy sparks fighting within the campus—not just for those who didn’t meet the targets but also for those who did.
He said that a review of the Woodland Middleschool’s results shows that only the top 5-10% of students made their targets, significantly less than the rest of the people who came to class in their uniforms. He says that this could result in the “rewarded” kids being bullied: he goes on to say that Mr. Conquest may have forgotten how children in Middle School tend to behave.
The school’s deputy head, Ms. Sharon Hardachre was quick to defend Mr. Conquest saying that it is exactly because they know their children so well that the policy was implemented. She goes on to say that perhaps in a different place or context, Mr. McGovern and some of the very skeptical parents might be right: however, Woodland Middleschool is a relatively safe environment and there aren’t a lot of bullying cases which occur.
Furthermore, Ms. Hardachre says that they make sure to set very reasonable goals when it comes to their subjects: again, she calls for the critics to look at context. One of the main things they took into consideration when they were thinking up a reward to give the kids was that the reward should be something fun but shouldn’t cost a lot of money. They also said that the reward was primarily given because the target was not easy to achieve but so few of the students were able to attain it. She further says that Mr. Conquest had hoped that seeing their classmates in casual attire would inspire other kids to do better during the coming term.
So far, no parents or other teachers have pressed charges. Students who were asked about the casual dress reward also say that they didn’t mind it very much. Woodland Middleschool has not issued any further comments, alterations or clarifications about the policy.