Bored in a fantasy land

16th December 2005 at 00:00
There was a sense of denial in last week's report, "Truants are 'too bored'."

Rather than accept that pupils who participate in unauthorised absence are responsible for their own action, the comments you reported by Ewan Aitken, the local authorities' education spokesperson, appeared to point the finger at education as a whole.

According to Mr Aitken, truancy is all the fault of the curriculum which "was simply not suited to the small numbers who become disaffected" with the result that "we have to develop an alternative curriculum."

This is typical of those who work in a political or administrative capacity in education and raises a couple of questions. First, who is going to teach this alternative curriculum? Although it may come as a shock to Mr Aitken, teachers have to work incredibly hard just to deliver the syllabus as it stands.

Is he really suggesting that schools develop and deliver a secondary education system which will somehow entice truants back to school?

The other question is what do we do if this second system fails to "engage"

with "disaffected" pupils? Do we develop a further syllabus, an alternative to his alternative curriculum?

Mr Aitken's solution is resolutely located in the realms of fantasy, a theory comprised entirely of trendy rhetoric and political soundbite.

Pupils have a responsibility to attend classes irrespective of whether they are "bored" or "disaffected". By blaming the curriculum rather than the truant, Mr Aitken and his ilk are only going to make the problem worse.

This ideology manifests itself in another article in the same issue ("We are all behaviour tutors"), which claims that teachers have sole responsibility for "modelling the behaviour we want (from pupils)" and that "if we fail in that, then the fault is ours".

The report states that teachers are wrongly pursuing the following policy:

"If a child can't read, you teach them to read. If a child can't behave, you punish them."

This is, however, a false assertion. If children are disruptive, it is not because they can't behave - it is because they choose not to behave. Once again the pupil is absolved of any responsibility for his or her actions.

Sadly, this is a viewpoint which all too often finds a platform in The TES Scotland and invariably goes unchallenged.

David Nicol Liddesdale Place, Edinburgh

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