The last chance

22nd December 2000 at 00:00
THANK goodness for Joanna Mitchell's forthright letter (TESS, November 24) about pupil exclusions. There may be underlying reasons for bad behaviour, but she is undoubtedly correct to point out that including these pupils in a conventional mainstream setting is grossly unfair to their teachers (extra stress) and to their fellow pupils (academic damage).

Exclusion must remain a

sanction, exercised autonomously by heads; it is not an end, but an opportunity for the

child's needs to be fully assessed and addressed. This may not

be in mainstreamconventional education.

Options exist: special schools, secure units, home tuition - or, perhaps, a small boarding school in a remote village in southwest Scotland: Cademuir International School?

Here the majority of pupils are those who did not survivethrive in conventional schools, both UK and European. A few children are gifted, needing only wider opportunities to flourish; some are dyslexic (contrary to general opinion among parents, "dyslexic" and "gifted" are intersecting, not interchangeable, terms) and thrive with the specialist help available; several, hwever, have been expelled from one or several - schools already. For them, this is the "last chance" school.

Cademuir's high success rate with all three categories of pupil is perhaps most dramatic with the last-named group - the excluded. Partly, a good staffing ratio and flexible curriculum accounts for this. However, the unquestioned right of the headteacher to exclude pupils underpins this success.

Pupils are not allowed to bully, to vandalise, to assault or threaten staff - they are suspended if they do so - and it this insistence on acceptable standards which sees these pupils improve, behave decently and succeed academically. Most go on to higher education.

Having previously taught in a prison, where roughly a third of my pupils were teenage "lifers", I would endorse Joanna Mitchell's viewpoint that compromising - morally or educationally - is a short - term solution and a long-term disaster.

Politicians naturally think of the former; teachers need to be fighting against the latter.

Helen Wilson

Teacher of mathsclassics

Cademuir International School

Moniave, Dumfriesshire

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