Grim ghosts;Talkback

29th January 1999 at 00:00
At the end of last year an 18-year-old English girl died in Spain, killed in a jet ski accident. I had taught her in Years 10 and 11; she was the student you hoped would be the future.

With the death of one student you think of the others who have died or who could have died. During my career I have had to check whether certain students recovering from anorexia were eating meals. At another school two students were suicidal; one after incest. These were pupils for whom I, as their classroom teacher, held responsibility.

And what of the impact when a student kills himself because his grades are not good enough? The experience of such a death still haunts me. We concentrate on results and target-setting: his death was the logical end of such emphases. I am part of the process that kills people; so is the Government.

These are some of the ghosts that haunt me after 20 years' teaching, ghosts that aren't mentioned when you start to teach.

Alastair Gunn is a senior teacher in a Hertfordshire secondary school

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