Pushed Too Far

 

When I switched on the BBC news just the other day, I was expecting some more tragic news from Afghanistan, a swine flue update or at least for some immoral MP’s to have their faces spread across my screen.  I certainly was not expecting to hear that a young boy had been taken to hospital with serious injuries following an attack at his school…by a teacher! 

It has been released that a science teacher, a one Peter Harvey, who taught at All Saints’ Roman Catholic School in Mansfield was arrested after an incident occurred within one of the classrooms at the school.  The ‘attack’ as we are led to believe, left a 14 year old boy, Jack Waterhouse with ‘serious’ injuries, injuries requiring him to be moved to a specialist hospital to be treated.  

 

This event, although singular in its scale, is shamefully not unique.  That is to say that violence within schools has become all too common.  Questions are therefore raised.  

 

What is it that we expect from our educators?  Should teachers merely be that, there to teach or should they also become beacons for discipline within our societies?  How far can their responsibility be stretched before more teachers snap?  Will this have a knock on effect upon the numbers that enter the profession in the future?

 

What constitutes as punishable behaviour, and what sort of punishment should be handed out for children within the school environment?

 

But most importantly for me, what does the attitude and acts of children nowadays say about the state of our society?  

 

I am going to leave the questions there, as this topic has the potential to grow uncontrollably.  I have however chosen to use my first blog to act primarily as platform for debate.  I am well aware that all of you reading this will have had different schooling experiences and so will look upon these questions with very different answers.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, as education is something I feel driven by within the political world.  


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8 thoughts on “Pushed Too Far

  1. Sophie, some very important questions asked. It seems today that the trumpeted phrase “education, education, education” has lost all meaning. Some politicians in the government, and by no means a majority, have begun to understand that just throwing money into institutions like schools and colleges without listening to advice from teachers and headmasters is utterly useless and damn-right foolish. As with every department, we have had a list of initiatives and proposals from the Labour party regarding education that have either failed miserably or have not even materialised. The government’s scheme to educate youngsters about the need for exercise, was undercut by a government led scheme to allow schools to sell of their playing fields. The Labour initiative to cut truancy by fining parents never really materialised, and a effort to restore classroom discipline by introducing a “school police officer” program has become almost farcical. The government, instead need to return powers of discipline to the schools in order to help all involved begin the tough climb back out of the educational black hole that has been created by Blair, and deepened by Brown. Discipline is vital, especially to young minds, and in particular when youngsters do not have a strong, disciplined role-model at home to follow.

  2. Daniel has raised some major points. I’ll just add a few that springs to mind instantly on the school system:

    1- Far too many carrots at school (esp. for those who are most often misbehaved) and not enough sticks.
    2- Parents are not held to account for their childs failures/misbehaviour. Nor are teachers actually.

  3. I agree with the points made so far but tend to see discipline in many ways as symptomatic of a larger problem.

    Children Occasionaly misbehaved at my school but it was ussualy done with humour and never with the agression or defiance that seems prevelant in many schools.

    Many children seem not to value education and judged by their actions many parents don’t either.

    I think our culture has become somehow rather toxic to large numbers of our youth who lack the strength of charachter and / or upbringing to empower them to rise above it.

    There isn’t jut one issue, the problems include everything from the limp and uninspiring liberal approach to education itself, through family breakdown to much of the tv and radio we allow children to watch and much more inbetween.

    I don’t suggest we can or should go back to some imagined historical ideal, but the values society claim to value often seem at odds with what our children are growing up espousing.

    Oh and bring back grammer schools!

  4. Daniel, Control yourself, we have discussed so many times how G schools are not the answer.

    I have spent the last 6 months working in a challenging state comprehensive and have found that behaviour can be a real problem. So much comes down to the teachers “aura”. there are teachers at this school that have all the children in the palm of their hand, and others not so much.

    I think more training should be given to teachers to try and emulate this almost untangiblle force.

    Essentially what i do think we need is not some tweaking at the sides, but wholescale and radical reform of schools. Many Many students have no interest in Milton or Shakespeare and will disrupt a lesson. However the difference in behaviour when the same children are put infront of something practical the change is quite radical.

    We desperatly need to stop trying to force all people into the same whole and start to really enage with a radical change to he criteria and purpose of education.

    DIVERSIFY

  5. haha we have indeed had this debate many time Ryan and many times we have failed to reach an agreement. I am a passionate believer in the Grammar school system and yes before anyone jumps in to say it I am well aware Mrs Thatcher did nothing to help the grammar school cause and in fact whilst she prattled on about how good they were she authorised more and more closures. She and many others foolishly went along with the “one size fits all” consensus regarding education. They were all wrong.

    You mentioned in another comment on this website that “Due to the lack of flexibility in the curriculum at present, vast swathes of children are made to feel like failiures at school,” Its not the ciriculum to blame its the whole damn system that makes them feel that way. The whole mantra of the current system is that we should all be bundled in one group regardless of ability be taught to the same level.

    Tosh. People are different, people do have different abilities and to pretend otherwise is foolish. The grammar school system filtered out those who were less academically able and put them in to an enivronment where they were not ‘left behind to flounder’ as the sensationalists will have you believe, but where their abilities could be developed and encouraged and they could be taught to a more managable level.

    Similarly the system meant that those who were academic and wanted to learn could be put in an environment more suited to their needs and abilities. Such a system also meant that discriminatary factors such as catchment area, wealth, ethnicity etc were not considered. All that was considered was the childs academic ability.

    The current system by contrast, and being state educated I saw it first hand, is failing students of all backgrounds and all abilities. The charge against the grammar school is that they helped the brightest at the expense of the weaker child. The truth about the comprehensive system is that it failed the best without helping the weak. Its lose lose for everyone concerned.

    Under the current system those who arent as academically able as others are bundled in to a class and taught at the same pace, some sit back ‘shamed’ that they arent as intelligent as the other children (which is incredibly soul destorying for the person concerned) while others choose to lash out in other unproductive and disruptive ways making the more able students feel either foolish for being ‘smart’ or unable to learn in the disruptive conditions they find themselves in.

    The amount of times our lessons at school were disrupted was mind boggling and it always astounded me that the more disruptive pupils ‘talents’ werent being channeled and focused on specifically, something the grammar school system was able to do.
    Anyway this is turning in to a bit of a rant so in sum:

    I passionately believe that at a time when social mobility is at its lowest, when more and more people are being priced out of education and when school discipline has all but collapsed we need to get back to reality and have some form of selective system, like the Grammar schools, back in the UK. Business leaders, teachers unions and yes even the Great British public WANT to return to the Grammar School system. We had a revolution in British education in the last 30 years. It has failed. Spectacularly. Now its time for a reverse revolution. Sometimes you have to look backward to move forward. BRING BACK GRAMMAR SCHOOLS!

  6. Hi guys, thanks for the comments, keep them coming.

    It has occurred to me that living in the wonderful Kent, things education wise were very different for me.

    We are the only county left that still use the 11+ entry system to decide the school that children go to for the next step in their eduction. This therefore also means that Kent is heavily populated with grammar schools, so some of your calls for bringing them back are lost on me.

    I do however take great offence to the idea that all state schools are bad, leaving their students under achieving. This is a completely wrong perception. I went to what I consider a very normal state school, and I thrived. I am immensely proud of what I achieved there, the opportunities I was given and the people I met.

    I feel it important to say that from my experience, the state education system constantly reiterates to their students that they are at the bottom wrung of education, that grammar school and privately educated students are leagues above them in skill and intellect. I feel strong enough here to say that this is also an absurd statement. Money has no correlation to intellect. So what is the point of my little rant? More encouragement is needed that skills, jobs, and careers can be obtained through education. Encouragement that education is also more than just learning about Shakespeare the Tudors or algebra.

  7. Sophie you are absolutely right; there are exceptions to the rule and grammar schools do indeed still exist in Britain although I maintain they are a dying and minority breed. What I am getting at is the grammar school system, in my opinion (having been state educated), is a far better system as it recognises and indeed encourages our differences in a postive and productive way. The current education system goes along with the dillusional notion that we are all ‘equal’ academically which is absurd.

    Some are born with the ability to be great academics, others great labourers. Some people are better with their words, others with their hands. Having family that thrived both academically and manually I rank neither above the other but I recognise that whilst my mother was a great academic, my father (who failed miserably at school) was a fantastic builder.

    Today, the idea of keeping someone like my father in school until he is 18 (as is the current intention) is absolutely absurd and would be a waste of our time and resources. He is not academic and never will be no matter how much we try to ram it down his throat or chain him to the blackboard! The grammar school system or a similar system would ensure that those who were and wanted to be academic could work at a pace more suted to their abilities and those who it is clear are not, nor do they want to be, academic can go to a school more suited to their needs.

    The ‘one size fits all’ mentality that runs through our education system is failing students and teachers alike. There is so much more that can be done to improve educational standars in Britain and I feel the grammar schools or a similar ‘discriminatary’ system is the only way to proceed. Instead of filling non academic students heads with facts and figures theyll never use again they can do other worth while with ther time such as apprenticeships and work based training.

    Similarly people who are clearly academic would have their intelligence nurtured and encouraged in a productive environment of like minded individuals of the same or similar intellectual capacity. I cannot even begin to get across to you how much of our lesson time was wasted dealing with students who quite clearly did not want to be there and had absolutely no hope of taking let alone passing those exams. Yet this one size fits all mentality meant we were forced to learn with these disruptive people.

    Having said that I do have sympathy for them. I feel that the system let them down badly. It put them in an environment not suited to their needs or ability. Im sure on some level they felt inaequate and inferior at the fact others were responding to certain subjects better than they were and thus they acted out in disruptive ways. The current system, whilst you are right yields some positive results, would be far better for all concerned if it recognised and encouraged the differences between us rather than went along with the foolish notion that were all equal and should all learn together regardless of the basic fact of life; the fact we’re all different.

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