Bravado barrier

4th July 2003 at 01:00
WHEN teachers get round to considering the impact on schools of the proposed legislation on antisocial behaviour (page four), they might be excused for thinking that they will not be directly affected. The police may not be coming into playgrounds to break up groups of pupils and fixed fines for littering will not be imposed in school grounds, though monitoring local cafes and chip shops at lunchtime could prove a nice little earner for the community purse.

But the introduction of antisocial behaviour orders and parenting orders, through what some teachers are already inevitably calling the "parent police", could produce an avalanche of demand for background reports from lawyers employed by parents appealing against the orders. If this happens, the irony will not be lost on former guidance teachers whose experience and expertise in these matters have been taken out of the system by the implementation of the teachers' agreement. The increased number of promoted staff in primary schools may find their time being taken up with behavioural rather than curricular or organisational issues.

Schools should certainly be aware of the warning issued at the recent NCH Scotland conference (page four) to avoid conferring "the dignity of victimhood" on young people. Assuming that tagged youngsters will not have the gadget deactivated in school, the tags could become symbols of victimhood or excuses for erecting what the same speaker called the "bravado barrier", both of which could have destabilising influences in schools.

Tagging could well be seen as a cheap fix that may work at a political level, a soft option preferable to the hard slog of getting young offenders to address their behaviour. It is not too fanciful to compare this sort of initiative to the medieval stocks, fine as ritual humiliation but showing little evidence of making a lasting impact. These are early days, but at least we know what happened to the stocks.

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