Massage the problem? Yes it is
A London education authority recently spent Pounds 90,000 on two reflexologists to massage the feet of disruptive pupils. I couldn't help imagining how this came about ...
"Ah, welcome to the meeting, everyone. We thought you might be the ideal people to take this matter forward.
"Teachers in the borough are fed up with bad behaviour. Children as young as three are swearing, beating up other pupils, breaking the equipment.
"The department is worried because equipment is expensive to replace. I'm the senior education officer, so I need to get you people devising a solution."
"How bad is this behaviour, Barry?"
"Well, as a senior education officer. I don't actually go into any schools. I mean, that sort of thing is way down the hierarchical ladder. But I can tell you, we have sent our schools lots of documentation about getting children on board - personalised learning, deep drilling, targeting and tracking, hourly assessments of incomes and outcomes, the pupil as stakeholder, and so on."
"Isn't this the problem, Barry? Schools are swamped with this stuff. They don't have time ...".
"Let me stop you there, Deirdre. Valuable though your opinion as a teacher might be, we have some important thinkers in the room. Anthony, you're an educational psychologist. What's your view?"
"Thank you, Barry. I think we've all heard of Gumbert's Rings and their relevance to patterns of behavioural decline? In my view, intensive training for teachers on observation of partitional nodes in first category incidence would lead to improvement at base level."
"Thank you, Anthony. That certainly gives us something to think about."
"Sorry to interrupt, Barry, but I do have some personal experience ...".
"Everybody in this room does, Deirdre, but as a class teacher you are a mere practitioner. We need to think outside the box, run ideas up the flagpole and see who salutes them. Anthea, you're a practising school nurse. Any ideas?"
"Ritalin works well, Barry. Couldn't each school be issued with a weekly Ritalin voucher? Or Mogadon?"
"Great thinking, Anthea. Perhaps a combination of both would work well. Would have to means-test it, of course. A school with swearers would receive less than one with multiple chair-throwers. Swearers are more cost-effective in terms of broken equipment. The ratepayers would like that."
"William, you specialise in behaviour therapy. How do you deal with these kids?"
"I don't deal with any actual child, Barry. The education authority employs me to visit classrooms and observe. I make lots of notes, and then advise on ways forward. Unfortunately, I've been off sick because a child threw a shoe at me. Would anybody be interested in my book on behavioural strategies? I wrote it on sick leave. I've got copies with me."
"Later, William. Time's getting on and we haven't come up with much. Now, I had an ankle problem last week and the doctor recommended a first-class chap who massaged it and cured it completely. Calmed me down, too. I wondered ...".
"Massage! Splendid idea, Barry. That'll calm them down. Could we give it a trial first? I've got an ache in my thigh ... Could we get Daniel Craig?"
"Remember the rate-payer, Anthea ... Deirdre, as an infant teacher, what's your take on this?"
"You don't need it, Barry. You see, I've discovered something that works. I told a naughty child off yesterday. Firmly. He was quite taken aback. It costs nothing. This could be the way forward."
"Oh, that's dreadfully old-fashioned. Ratepayers like to see councils moving forward. Let's go down the reflexology route. In fact, let's employ two of them."
Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London.