Letters extra: Bog standard comprehensives

23rd February 2001 at 00:00

I left the school in which I teach at 8.30 this evening only to discover that I need not have bothered wasting my time. Tony Blair says it is only a `bog standard comprehensive'.

(Thank you, Tony! I did not renew my membership of the Labour party when they elected you as their leader. My reason was that you spoke like a Tory. What foresight I had!).

I, like many other teachers, choose to work in a non-selective school. Like them I obtain as much satisfaction from the maximum potential of a non A-C grade pupil as I do from the A*.

Like teachers generally, I believe in the education of the whole person and not just the kudos of an exam result from a naturally able pupil. Just call us old-fashioned.

Schools like ours cannot refuse behaviourally problematic children excluded from selective schools, children straight from war zones, children who require personalised treatment in a smaller community before coming back into mainstream schools.

Effective sanctions have been taken away from us. Children can inhibit the learning of others, abuse teachers and then merely go up `levels' which are meaningless to the child's mind and which give them a false sense of security in their misdemeanours.

Children learn by example. The example is that `anything goes'. A child who is finally excluded permanently can easily take the matter to court on legal aid and return to the non-selective school because the government must be seen to be keeping exclusions down. A fine example that is!

Schools like ours do not fail. Governments fail us by their selfish use of education as a political tool and by their cowardly refusal to risk being unpopular by taking our society on board. They and society have created a Lord of the Flies situation in too many schools.

Worse, the governors of the school, who give their services voluntarily, are now the ones who must go to court to argue the case, not the teacher who knows the pupil. Will governors now leave in droves? Governments are nurturing negative attitudes in potentially find adults.

Frighteningly, they are also creating a passive society of powerless, onlooking children as teachers do their best in increasingly difficult circumstances. Governments have turned teachers into child-minders. They know the real reasons behind teachers leaving the profession.

Like the school bully they have become too complacent in thinking that their victim will not revolt. The pittance of money they have offered will not be enough. Money alone is not enough.

Society, the media, commercialism, call it what you will, has failed our young in its rejection of its responsibility for them. Childhood was once respected, treasured and nurtured.

Now, it is an almost extinct word. Children have not changed deep inside. Money cannot be made in developing the child. Sacrifices of time, popularity and self interests have to be made instead. We live in indulgent times and are losing the magic which fabricates the whole process of life and development.

Concern for our children should breathe through family and carers, through neighbours, the media, entertainment, the stores - in which children are allowed to do as they please rather than upset the customer in charge of them - and through society generally.

Children are our future. Why then is the media ignoring what too many schools are having to cope with? Society is teaching a violence to children that is now permeating schools because schools are where children spend a great deal of time.

Schools are afraid to speak out because they will most certainly be labelled `failing' by the media, just as children blame the parent rather than take responsibility for themselves.

We know that when a teacher is reported in the news as being injured just outside their building that this is not the first incident. We are all wondering who it will be next and if it will be in our school.

The school in which I teach is considered a comparative holiday camp by teachers with current experience of others (and by some pupils who have moved on). Yet we, too, no longer have the odd fisticuffs by pupils to contend with.

We now have an alarm bells system as other schools do. How many other occupations would expect its available workers, man and woman, to race to the battlefield of knife wielding intruders and trespassers?

An argument on a bus is all that is needed to bring in the gangs from other boroughs, mobile `phones assisting, and to involve teachers patrolling the streets to protect the pupils. This is not our duty but we do it, only to run the risk of inquiry and to be labelled a `FAILING' school.

I can proudly say, 'I am an Old Notre Damian'. The many, lovely, hard-working children in our comprehensive schools who aim to succeed with their parents'carers' help and who thought that they had good teachers to enable them to do so can only say, I'm from an old bog standard comprehensive'.

Thank you, Tony, for the further disempowerment of our pupils and for the destruction of their self esteem.

M Davey
(full address supplied)

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