Troubador Why I Started a Small School

Interview with Rosalyn Spencer

Released: 28/06/2014

eISBN: 9781789012224

Format: eBook

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Why I Started a Small School

A nurturing, human scale approach to education and parenting


At the start of Why I Started a Small School: A nurturing, human scale, approach to education and parenting, we see the emotional turmoil Rosalyn experienced when she received a letter indicating that her son's difficulties in school were more likely to be the result of her parenting skills, and life at home, rather than having anything to do with the way he was being educated. 

Her own school days were filled with feelings of failure and low self-esteem, but she overcame many hurdles to become a teacher herself. In this time, she witnessed again and again the damage that the education system was inflicting, not only on some children, but also on their parents. Driven by a desire to ensure that her son should suffer no longer than he had to, and in an effort to help others in a similar situation, she was determined to find a solution. 

After months of hard work, a new parent-run school opened with 12 children aged from four-11 years. It had seemed that the impossible had come true, for at the time the school opened, there was virtually no funding! Lives were changed forever. Within weeks of the school opening, some of the children became almost unrecognisable as their grim outlook on life was replaced by a confident stature. The learning difficulties that some of them had experienced were far less of a problem in this new nurturing environment. As well as the children changing, their parents became more confident and outgoing too - for many of them had been made to feel inadequate before the project started. 

Why I Started a Small School: A nurturing, human scale, approach to education and parenting tells the amazing true story of what Rosalyn achieved, and how that dreadful letter was proved to be utterly and totally wrong.

This is a book for parents everywhere but especially those who are worrying about problems their child may be encountering in school. This book may be the proof you need to know that it is not your fault, that you have done the very best you can for your child under the circumstances and that perhaps it is the school that needs to examine their methods.
This book is for teachers and child-care professionals too. If you already use a caring, human scale approach towards children and their parents then this book will affirm what you are doing. If you are a teacher or professional who uses ‘throw-away’ comments and/or find yourself blaming the parents when things aren’t working in the classroom, this book should help you to see things from a different perspective. Hopefully, it will encourage you to think again.
This book may be of very great interest to adults who struggled through school themselves and left school with few (or no) qualifications and low self-esteem. It will give you the opportunity to reflect on your own schooling and examine whether your lack of success was really down to your lack of ability or was it down to lack of encouragement and / or imagination on the part of your teachers?
Finally, this book is for anybody who enjoys reading memoirs and narrative non-fiction, especially if you have an interest in parenting and education.

Having taught in comprehensive schools for twenty-seven years I am aware of the problems that can arise, particularly in the transition from primary to secondary school.

Rosalyn Spencer's account of her experience of school both as a student, then teacher and parent, highlights in a clear and balanced way the potential challenges and failings of the state system.

Her vision and determination to seek a viable alternative in providing for her child's needs when the system had clearly failed, is admirable.

by Steve Goss

The focal point of the book is that we all blindly follow the system despite its faults and failings but few, if any, of us have the courage to challenge it, moreover the guts to do something about it. Despite barriers, setbacks and opposition Rosalyn Spencer showed tremendous determination to give her children the best possible start in life, something every parent should aspire to.

by Geoff Needham

I am currently homeschooling my toddler and will continue on this path until she wants to make decisions herself or I find a suitabe, small school. Rosalyn has such a path of experiences behind her, making this a beautiful and informative reason her personal journey of education, family and her personal commitment to making a difference.

by Sam Crawford

I wasn’t sure what to expect and I soon found I could identify with many of the situations you described both with your own experience and that of your children. It has certainly made me reflect long and hard on both my experiences in education and those of my children.

Congratulations on your book, I think it is a valuable resource for parents and will help to alleviate some of their worries and most importantly offer guidance and hope.

by Anne O.

A captivating and entertaining journey through alternative and interesting aspects of education. A great example of what can be achieved with an abundance of optimism and belief. Rosalyn offers an inspirational story and a happy ending.

by Dennis Rock

Rosalyn's book will surely inspire many parents and teachers to engage with childrens educational needs on a different level. As a parent, I would definately have persued the possibility of an HSE for my two girls if this had been an option.
I was educated at my local Secondary Modern school in Lincoln (1966 to 1971), having failed my 11+. My experience was generally good and I got on well with most of the teachers. I was encouraged and helped all the way, becoming Head Boy and acheiving 4x1's and 3x2's. I can't help feeling it may have been different without the skills of those very good teachers and of course, the excellent support of my late parents.
I hope the 'new' system will allow 'failures' such as myself (and Rosalyn) to flourish.

Loking forward to the next book.

by Steve Ulyat

Rosalyn Spencer experienced a truly epic journey through our educational system, first as an apprehensive student, and later as a devoted parent and inspirational teacher. In her book, she weaves her experiences together to give us an inspiring case not just for change, but also for hope.

by Ann Hickey, Social Worker and Parenting Specialist

 Rosalyn Spencer

With over 25 years teaching experience, my lifetime's work has involved finding ways of helping individuals to succeed ranging from young children struggling to survive in mainstream education and teenagers in care, to setting up and running a children's nursery and then a non-fee paying "alternative" small school. I have also had the enlightening experience of home educating my own two children.

In order to spread the word about alternative approaches to mainstream education, I visited all the small schools affiliated to the national organisation Human Scale Education during the summer term of 1997. Together with my two children, then aged 7 and 12, I travelled around England and Scotland in a caravan for ten weeks visiting fifteen small schools. This trip was a pivotal factor in kick starting my writing career as well as being the basis for my Masters Degree in Education by Research.

Following publication of articles about my findings in a number of magazines, I was commissioned by Human Scale Education to write a detailed report resulting in the publication of "15 Small Schools" in 1999. I subsequently wrote a number of other feature articles, mainly about alternative educational approaches, before taking a break from professional writing to concentrate on other work and the completion of my MA degree.

After working with children in residential care, I gained a position as a Nurture Group teacher at a large state-run primary school. This involved working with young children who had emotional, behavioural, social and/or personal difficulties. I also became involved in setting up and running a number of parenting classes, and training children to work as Peer Mediators in their schools. During this time, I had feature articles published about Nurture Groups, Environmental Issues, and Parenting Guides in addition to continuing to write about small schools and home education.

Over the years I have found working with parents extremely rewarding and effective in improving lives for children. Since 2006 I have been working as a Youth Offending Service Parenting Coordinator. Some of the parents I work with are very needy but for some parents, their child’s crime goes against the grain as the parents have given their child a perfectly good upbringing. The majority of young offenders have learning difficulties, and the majority of parents I’ve worked with have told me that their child’s behaviour problems often started, or became more intense, when their child moved from Primary School into Secondary School. Listening to parents (and also their children), I have learned that there is usually a close link with the way the school deal with a child’s learning difficulties and the child’s behaviour both in and out of school. Whereas for some troubled families school is a lifeline for the children, and there are numerous teachers who have turned around the lives of their pupils, sometimes against all the odds, I often hear a very different story from the families I work with. I wrote ‘Working with Parents’ after observing a parents’ group one day. It seemed significant because the stories they shared about their problematic experiences with schools recur over and over again in my work.

Now that both my children have left home, I spend my free time taking photographs, playing classical guitar, swimming, walking, and of course, writing. My book “Why I Started a Small School: A nurturing, human scale, approach to education and parenting” is due to be published by Matador on 27th March, 2013.

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