YANA’S WORLD: Episode 2 – Kay Johnston Veteran Teacher

| February 21, 2012

Dr Yana Johnson MBE

I had the great privilege of meeting a woman with a vision and who is an aspiring trailblazer in her own right. Kay Johnston, a teacher with 33 years under her belt, has seen the changes in society and has a great understanding of the needs within the Diaspora as well as an astute head for business. She is not afraid to swim the strong upstream tide to achieve her goals, which are set to change the lives of many who will achieve success under her watch.

Campaigning for a free school to be established in London, Kay is working tirelessly with the support of her family and a committee which includes Cambridge dons. Kay has identified premises for Britain’s 1st Diaspora High School where male students are promised direction, support and mentoring routes to career from nursery ages right through to industry.

After seeing the failures within the system hold children back, role models and mentors within the community and world of work linked to school, could change the way we view success. In the UK there can sometimes be a barrier to success due to pupils from working class backgrounds not realising their potential early enough and not being motivated to really reach for their goals.

While Kay has achieved great success with students placed under her tutelage, her template for success is one that she wants to implement within the structure of her school so that ordinary children from working class backgrounds benefit – a model which can be duplicated nationally and internationally.

Veteran Teacher Kay Johnson

When we consider that our educational system today started locally, there is room for global change.  We have seen riots and discord all over the world, some of the issues very similar affecting local communities. However, the solution to change could be a global template worth sharing.

Please tell me a little bit about what affects you most when you see boys not achieving their potential?

It’s a mixture of frustration and sadness, knowing that they are limiting their choices.  Sometimes, they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, such as an inappropriate curriculum which does not engage them.  There are still too many schools that have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their curriculum and this does not work for every child.  Schools need to move more towards a curriculum which fits around the needs of the child rather than the other way around.

A lot of boys particularly, bow to peer pressure where it is seen to be not ‘cool enough’ to achieve in school.  Some lack the support outside of school and this adds to their disengagement.

What are your opinions on parental involvement?

This is a vitally important area.  Schools have got to do more to involve parents from the beginning.  When parents only go into schools when something has gone wrong, it sends out the message that the school is a negative place.  At Diaspora High School, we intend to address this by having an enrichment programme specifically for parents and older siblings who have left school and are out of work.  In this way, the school becomes theirs too and when they are involved, they will drive their children to achieve better in school.

How do you aim to stand out and achieve results?

Diaspora High School will stand out because it is unique.  It will be the ONLY boys’ school in the borough which will offer care, guidance and support from nursery to industry.  We intend to follow the International Primary and Middle Years Curricula which has the same subjects as the National Curriculum but differs in its approach.

At KS4, we have both an academic and vocational curriculum which is designed to gear students for the world of work.  We also have the most comprehensive mentoring scheme – different from others in that our mentors will play an active part in students’ lives, offering them work experience, work shadowing and most importantly at least a three month work placement at the end of formal education.  These placements will be finalised one year ahead, thus minimising the stress of job-hunting after students leave school/university.  As far as possible, we will try to match mentors to students’ aspirations so that their work experience is relevant.

We expect 100 % of our gifted and talented students to gain the qualifications to enter high quality courses at university if they so choose.  We also expect 100 % of middle ability students to leave with good GCSEs or ‘A’ Levels, with some taking up apprenticeships where appropriate.  Those choosing university will be fully supported.  100% of Foundation or Entry Level pupils should leave school with a qualification to enable them to enter the world of work with ease and further education wherever possible.

What is your passion?

Apart from education, I make the time to read every day.  I also enjoy international travel and fussing over my children.

How do you relax?

I relax by reading, watching my favourite soap operas and listening to music.  I love to sing too, though it leaves my children aghast.

What is your long term goal?

My long term goal is to create more schools using the template we have for our first school so that a high quality education and bright future becomes the right of many more children of deprived backgrounds.

What music do you listen to?

It depends on my mood at the time.  I have a large collection of music, ranging from soul, funk, soca, calypso and classical.  My favourite however, has to be the music which was popular when I started partying in the late 70s.  Al Green, Millie Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Boris Gardiner – now that’s my kind of music!

Who is your hero?

Without a doubt, my mother who is my friend and mentor.

What is your favourite book?

Anything by Lesley Pearse.

As a parent what has been your hardest challenge?

Keeping my family positive when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with a terminal illness seven years ago and keeping her buoyant until the end two years later.

Kay is looking for mentors who can commit to engaging and supporting her vision which will benefit the students aged from 11 to 19.  For more information, please contact free@diasporahighschool.co.uk  07988543745.

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