High ideals but help for pupils needs funds

14th September 2007 at 01:00
The article on the report of the Assembly government's Behaviour and Attendance Review Group (TES Cymru, September 7) makes interesting reading for many of the participants listed who are serving teachers.

However, we were only part of the working groups (consulted for one day each) and not the steering group. In fact, there are only two members of the steering group who currently work in mainstream schools.

I agree with the analysis of the context and with the principles outlined in the report, and with the later reference to the rights of all children to learn unhindered by the inappropriate behaviour of others.

However, this should have been one of its core values, and the inequalities of funding and support to secure this are under-emphasised in the body of the report.

The group is probably right in its conclusion that behaviour is generally no worse now than in the recent and medium-term past. But there is a quite widely held perception that those pupils who are most socially disadvantaged andor disengaged with school are further adrift now than in the past and that extreme behaviour, while still in quantitative terms no greater than it has been, is possibly more extreme.

The report also fails to recognise adequately that more people (not just pupils) are prepared to challenge schools' authority.

The section on leadership suggests that a major factor in addressing inappropriate behaviour is a lack of skill or knowledge on the part of the school leaders rather than a lack of resources, which is more often the case.

The variable effectiveness of pastoral support plans is largely attributed to schools' lack of skills, again with little regard for the extent to which external support is available.

I am both confused and concerned at the possible implication of the section on the concept of permanent exclusion. Does this mean that an end to permanent exclusion is being advocated? This could only happen if all the resources necessary to modify pupils' unacceptable behaviour were available and were sufficiently effective to render permanent exclusion unnecessary. Otherwise, pupils would become trapped in schools that could not cope with them.

It may be that the section on serious assaults is just badly written, suggesting as it does that responsibility for dealing with them would be passed to the police without sanction from the school.

There is a real tension here between the need to avoid exclusion where possible and the need to avoid criminalising children. Many schools would feel uncomfortable with imposing no sanction for such a serious offence, and staff who were the victims of assault might feel greater need to ask their unions for support.

There should be no interference with the right to exclude unless and until all children can be guaranteed that their needs can be met and successfully addressed.

The penultimate paragraph looks as if it has been written by people who haven't spent much time in school recently. I look forward to the ideal world in which we can all look through their "different lens" at pupils who do not need punishment but can all access help. While I was a consultee I was not one of the report's authors and there are some parts of it, as it is currently written, with which I would not wish to be associated.

See page 6

Neil Foden headteacher

Ysgol Friars, Bangor

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