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Neighborhood affects student performance
Detail: A new study of schools in three neighborhoods where there was some sort of physical blight near the school, but not inside, by a Leicester-based research and consultancy firm, found that symbols of urban decay as far as 10 minutes away from the school had a devastating effect on student behavior, truancy and teacher morale. This study commissioned by NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, and published as “One More Broken Window” is the first study of its kind in the UK to examine the relationship between schools and the physical environment.

This year-long study, interviewed headteachers, teachers, pupils, parents, school governors, police and community groups in the neighborhoods about its effect. Some students disagreed that urban decay affected their performance. One said the physical blight of a disused funfair 10 minutes from their school made pupils "work harder because they want to get away". Another said: "You can't say 'I live in a bad area, so I'm going to cause a riot in class'."

Alan Dyson, professor of education at Manchester University and co-director of the Centre for Equity in Education, also, is of opinion that the effects of the purely physical environment are quite small. The important thing is, he says, is that "they signal a whole set of social environmental effects". According to Dyson, what the school looks like inside is the most important. He argues that a school near a row of boarded-up homes, but in a neighborhood with few difficulties, would probably be relatively unaffected by the sight of the homes. Likewise, a school situated near a beautiful park, but in a neighborhood with many difficulties, would still have the problems of its neighborhood.

However the report's authors believe that the physical environment near a school is still very important and the local planning process must acknowledge that schools should no longer be left out of neighborhood redevelopment and regeneration plans.

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Source: Based on Jessica Shepherd's "What cost a derelict Landscape?" in The Guardian, January 20, 2009 and
Date: February 13 2009