Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Where's the Full Metal Jacket?

This was in The Guardian today: 'Hefty fines for parents who allow excluded pupils outdoors'.

I didn't understand a word of it. What are 'excluded pupils'? Why are they outdoors? And how are the parents accountable?

Turns out that in England they've decided to fine the parents if a child who has misbehaved or has consistently been hauled up for bad behaviour and as a consequence been 'excluded' from school, is found wandering around outdoors during school hours!

Under measures from the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which come into force this week, the parents of excluded children found in a public place during school hours, without a good reason, will be fined between £50 and £100. Failure to pay could result in prosecution, which could lead to a £1,000 fine or a community sentence.

To back up the measures, the prime minister, Gordon Brown, told a press conference today that education would be a key area for the government over the coming months, with an emphasis on discipline, standards and improving school leadership.

I'm so appalled I don't even know where to start. So this is going to be semi-incoherent and half-hysterical and I shall instantly stop when I feel like my head's going to burst.

First off, no one's outlined the circumstances that might lead to 'exclusion' - what a civil word - from school. One sentence in the article mentions 'unruly behaviour'. This might range anywhere from throwing chalk at the teacher's head, to setting a desk on fire. You might need to suspend or expel them - let's say the words shall we? - but at a school surely several other things would have to be done first? What about counselling? Talking to and with the parents? A less severe and disciplinary approach that did not make going to school so terrifying?

These guys need to look again at their entire system of education. An article that, in a few paragraphs, talks about courts, contracts with parents after a child has been 'excluded', fines, and uses words and phrases such as 'discipline' and 'tough love regime', and a way to teach children to 'effectively resolve conflict, manage their anger and stand up for the rights of others' does not in any way encourage me to believe that the parents or educators or the government know what they're talking about.

They're talking about children for heaven's sake!

Why are they not asking what makes the children so angry? Or what they are conflicted about?

Of course the parents are partially responsible, but how does a fine help? I can tell you who it's not going to help: the kids concerned. The parents, after paying the fine, will go home and yell at the kids until they're blue in the face. Said kids will go and drown their sorrows illegally and vandalise a few park benches and as a reward they get to be 'excluded' some more.


I really don't get what any of this has to do with education (not schooling, mind you). It sounds like a penal colony or some Victorian Era nightmare.


Other posts on education: A RIVER Runs Through It; in which the adolescents write the darndest things. (this last seems so innocent in comparison. Those 'excluded' kids aren't even having this much fun).


anita & amit said...

oh god, how unutterably sad. what mindless jerks tony blair and his lot have turned out to be, no? and to think everyone was so thrilled to have them in power to begin with... (like poor bridget jones)

??! said...

it's more of a case of grasping at straws.
ASBOs didn't work, being all positive didn't work, making the tests easier didn't work, being polite to them didn't work. And so it comes to this.

Space Bar said...

Anita: I know. Though to be fair, I'm not sure it's only Tony Blair.

??!: That's what is sad - the whole house is crumbling and they're fixing it tile by loose tile. How does that help?