Perils of living too close for comfort

When I was a young teacher, I was advised to live outside my school's catchment area. Twenty years later, I have moved close to school - and have recently come to regret it.

In the early hours of the recent bank holiday Monday, someone hurled a rock at my car in the driveway of my house. The damage to the windscreen and the trauma left my wife in tears, and Iwas convinced I'd been singled out for retribution by a particularly nasty group of 16-year-old ex-pupils who had left school in July.

Can the police do anything? Well, they gave me a crime number to quote to my insurance company. Can I prove anything? Of course not - it happened in a usually quiet one-way street at about 2.30am. Do I have my suspicions? Yes. This was no random act of violence. My neighbour's classic soft-top Mini, parked on the road, was unscathed.

The attack came only days after our departing Year 11s received their GCSE results. Most of the 230 pupils were decent, working-class kids. A small number had been told (possibly illegally) that the release of their results was dependent on their behaviour during and after the exams.

So what led to this state of affairs? The all too familiar yobbish exhibitionism of a small number of pupils, mainly boys, who realised that a refusal to toe the line brought no sort of meaningful punishment in school, or in the wider community, and who were arrogant and used to getting away with anti-social behaviour. This minority's conduct threatened to disrupt the external exam season, and their behaviour on the last day of school led to the head's insistence that parents bring them to and collect them from their exams.

I am examinations officer, so it was my job to enforce this sanction. Their parents were aggrieved at being put out and I had to listen to daily rants about unfairness and the loss of earnings they suffered as a result. But at no point did any one of them express regret about their sons' appalling behaviour. Most of these pupils were in my underachieving boys' English class, so I knew them well after two years of bother over coursework. Seventy per cent passed GCSE; the rest got D grades. My reward? A vandalised car - because I was doing my job as a teacher and exams officer.

Maybe I pressed too hard to meet my targets in both roles. Perhaps I'd have got away with it if I didn't live in the catchment area. But wait a minute - I don't live in the inner-city or on a blighted council estate; this is a semi-rural area of south Wales. So what's the problem? It's the hidden one that many teachers in my position try to ignore. If you live where you teach, you will encounter, at the very least, low-level jeering as you go about your daily business. At worst, you may be attacked.

Will the Government's national behaviour strategy have any effect? Providing learning support units and more behaviour support teams may have an impact on site, but what about those distressing incidents out of school that so many of us have to put up with?

The writer wishes to remain anonymous

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