A pupils' charter? Get real!;Comment;Opinion

5th January 1996 at 00:00
From the Government we have had a Parents' Charter. From the Educational Institute of Scotland comes a Pupils' Charter. The first has been criticised as mainly a vehicle for the Government's consumerist philosophy of education. Secondary pupils who examine the EIS's efforts on their behalf may dismiss them as well meaning but irrelevant.

That is not to say that senior pupils would disagree with most of the sentiments. Like the teachers' union they value the right to be educated in a secure, well maintained environment by professionally motivated and properly resourced staff.

They recognise the need to give respect where it is due, although they would add that respect has to be earned, as well as being expected from juniors to seniors.

The problem with the Pupils' Charter is that it reads like part of a broader union campaign, which is exactly what it is. It has been produced - for school boards, parents and teachers rather than for the pupils themselves - as a contribution to "All Our Futures", the EIS's funding campaign directed at the Government and the new councils. It is about the "young people of Scotland" as it claims, but it is not for them.

Pupils were not involved in drawing up the charter. None the less, there is no suggestion of young people feeling patronised. That is because the pupils are not being talked to at all. So at least they are not being talked down to. Those mature enough to evaluate the charter will probably respond in terms like, "get real".

It does not deal with pupil rights as these are discussed in classrooms and sixth-year common rooms. It does not mention learning and behaviour contracts which many secondary schools enter into nowadays. It does not deal directly with bullying, drugs and other issues which bother pupils and on which they have views and expectations.

Crucially, it does not suggest that teachers' rights, as traditionally upheld by their union, may need to be rethought in relation to those of pupils, just as they have been in the light of the charter for parents.

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