It's a crime

20th November 1998 at 00:00
I fell out with my new director of education recently. He implied that I and my kind must accept some responsibility for the crime wave in society, so I took offence. After all, I'm a teacher, not a drugs baron.

We'd been thrust together on a Baker day. He'd come, he said, because he wanted to meet as many teachers as possible. He addressed us and we sat in silence: this was in-service training.

Naturally, he began with the authority's action plan. It was especially riveting because our head had already gone through the school's action plan. For me, there's nothing more fascinating than a good action plan. Or two.

Our director said that recent pressures had come because the Government has top priorities of "Education, education, and education". As a bureaucrat, he probably believes that. He continued, explaining what the authority needed to improve, how the number of permanent exclusions would have to fall . . .

I'd been daydreaming about what I could have been doing just then if only Mr Baker's parents had remained childless, but suddenly I jolted back to reality. You see, whenever an exclusion is announced our staff rejoices:

"Another one gone! Improved teaching! Better results!" So I asked him what the authority would be doing to help us if we had to keep the hooligans in school. He said resources would be made available. I was not convinced; there was no mention of straitjackets or tranquilliser darts.

I said that as a parent, I'd rather have troublemakers out of school, so my children could get a better education. I didn't add that as a teacher it would make it possible for me to do my job properly and avoid a breakdown.

"Ah," he responded, "but would you feel the same when you got home from school and found your house had been broken into?" There was audible disapproval from the staff.

He noticed. "Perhaps it's something we could talk about later," he said. Then he finished and left - without talking later.

Nevertheless, he had been very clear: schools are here to keep crime figures down, to restrain and detain troublemakers. Society has failed them and the police can't control them, so we must keep them off the streets until they're old enough to leave and become full-time criminals.

Although he pledged a fresh start, he delivered a message that has come from politicians for years and has sickened anyone who knows what really happens in schools.

Mr Baker would have been proud of him.

Keith Brindle teaches in the northof England

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