He's in the army now

28th February 1997 at 00:00
Glenys Guthrie does not think a cadet corps would do her nightmare pupil any good.

Today, while getting ready for work, I heard about the Government's plans to offer all children a place in a school cadet corps. It would encourage them to have more respect, encourage self-discipline and team work, make them more socially aware, said a minister. Make them better members of society. Then I went to work.

One of the students in the first lesson I supported was Roger. He came in late, moaning that "the bloody bitch", his head of year, who'd pulled him up about his uniform - or rather, his lack of uniform. No tie; non-uniform coat; non-uniform jumper; undone, over-sized trainers. He slumped down at a desk, his back to the teacher, and declared that "uniforms suck" and that "teachers are sad". For that, he earned a lunchtime detention and a "demerit". His refusal to move earned him a second demerit, and an extension of the detention to 45 minutes - leaving him only 15 minutes to buy and eat his lunch.

I met Roger again in the last lesson. Now more subdued, he was not pleased when the head of year came in to say that, as he had not bothered to attend his lunchtime detention, a letter was going home, telling his parents that he now had an after-school detention, and also telling them, in some detail, why. The letter had to be sent because Roger is well known for destroying letters that should go home. Roger did no more work for the rest of the lesson, but sat at the back, swearing quietly to himself.

I have known Roger for six years now. I have taught him on a one-to-one basis, in small groups, and in whole-class sessions. I have taught him in both his middle and upper school. I think I can say that I know him quite well.

Roger is a thief. If it isn't nailed down, he'll have it, even if it belongs to a friend. If he doesn't want it himself, he'll sell it. Roger can be philanthropic. When he overheard me telling a colleague that a book was expensive, he asked me which shop the book was in, and offered to get it for me - "for half price". I declined his offer. When other students were telling each other how much they had to spend on Christmas presents, Roger was confident that his shopping would cost him nothing. I'm sure he was right.

Roger is not beyond a little mindless vandalism. Church hall windows just ask for a brick or two, don't they? Rulers were meant to be snapped; pencils broken; rubbers and paper made into pellets and thrown or spat at people. Fences, hedges, street lamps, gates, gardens - all ask to be damaged. Why does he do it? It's fun. Would he like it done to his belongings? Just let anyone try!

Roger is not a bully. But if anyone makes the mistake of annoying him, he will hit them. Hard. It doesn't matter if they are smaller than him, or a girl, they will get a "good thumping".

Roger drinks, not only alcopops, but any drink he can get his hands on. He also smokes, both tobacco and cannabis. He freely admits to taking ecstasy. It is said that he has taken other drugs.

I can just see the Government minister saying: "Yes! This is just the type of boy who would benefit from a spell in a cadet corps!" I might agree, except that I happen to know that Roger has been a member of the local cadet corps since he was old enough to join.

Glenys Guthrie is a special needs support teacher in Dorset. The names in this article have been changed

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