The Kes Factor: Finding Every Child’s Passion

There is plenty of talk about ‘resilience’ in schools these days. Everyone you meet seems to be going on about it. People are searching high and low for it hoping to find it.

You might find it blowing about in the playground. It could be down a corridor. It might be rattling about in a classroom somewhere.

But wherever resilience is, you have to find it for yourself.

This reminds me of the classic book by Barry Hines called A Kestrel for a Knave. This is a belter of a book and is a real story of survival, resilience and strength.

The story is about a troubled 15 year old called Billy Casper living in the small Yorkshire mining town of Barnsley. Life is certainly tough and cheerless for Billy because he’s unhappy at home and his school treat him like a failure.

But things change for Billy when he discovers something that becomes his passion –  a kestrel hawk. It is through training Kes that he gets away from his problems and finds strength and inspiration. With the help of his English teacher, Mr Farthing, Billy develops a friendship and unique bond with Kes which makes him a different person. This has been described as the book teenage boys would read when they wouldn’t read anything else.

Kes was made into a film and Ken Loach’s  adaptation has rightly achieved cult status. Not surprisingly, Kes was worked into a screenplay.

Published in 1968, Kes is a gritty and compassionate masterpiece always relevant and a must-read. See the clip below featuring David Bradley as Billy.

Being Noticed And Valued

In their book The A-Z Of School Improvement, Tim Brighouse and David Woods talk about this ‘Kes factor’ and give an example of Secondary heads aiming to find out the passions of those children at risk of ‘learning to fail’.

Sometimes we can miss what children are really interested in and their true passions. Children might not like school or they might enjoy it a great deal but they have interests and passions that they live for beyond the school gates.

I once taught a boy who was really well motivated, great at Maths and English but he really came alive when by chance I discovered his passion for planes. Another passion linked to flight!

He seemed to know the name of every plane going. I had a coffee table book on aviation at home so I lent him this book and he was overjoyed. It was crammed full of new information and this fed his passion even more. He was chuffed to bits that I had taken an interest and I was chuffed that I could help. I also had something I could tap into within lessons.

But that Kes factor is something we need to actively discover in all children so we can play our part in helping to build their confidence, self-belief and resilience. We can all be in our element and in the zone but we’ve got to find that passion because as Sir Ken Robinson says, it really does change everything.

 Tapping into every child’s Kes is important. Every child wants to feel special and valued so taking an interest in each child’s world is crucial.

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