Don't write off Darren and Dean

18th April 1997 at 01:00
As the head of a comprehensive school, I was dismayed, though not surprised, to hear of Nigel Turner's comments at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' conference, that the "Darrens, Deans and Damians" had no chance of reaching national norms of achievement.

He is, of course, right (though not necessarily about the names) and the effect of this in a school where the majority of children fall into this group can be very demoralising.

However, to condemn youngsters to the scrapheap because some of them are not going to reach national norms - which are, after all, an average level of achievement measured for thousands of children - is wrong and worse because it suggests a lack of hope for the role of education in providing us all, individually and collectively with a better future.

Each teacher a child meets during his or her education has an influence of some sort. If it is not a positive influence, then we are probably doing more harm than good, and if so what are we doing in teaching?

It is every teacher's fundamental task to use their influence to enable their students to reach their full potential. There are young people who reject what we have to offer them, and who demonstrate this rejection in a number of ways - underachievement, disruption, aggression, truancy.

If we write them off and reject them in turn, who else is going to do anything about it?

I hope Mr Turner became a teacher at least in part because he had a sense of idealism that said education can make the world a better place. I hope also that he, and the many colleagues who share his sentiments, will reflect and see if some of that idealism can be resurrected. Or am I still, as I have been accused several times in my career of 22 years, naive and unrealistic?

I hope not. If, as teachers, we give up on the young people in our care, then there is nothing left but disaster for the education system, and for the future.

STEVE RICHARDSON Headteacher John Lea School Doddington Road Wellingborough Northants

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