School Diary - High jinx along the road to low exclusion
Our headteacher remains determined to maintain the school's record of non- exclusions, now standing at eight months. As Mrs Slater never tires of reminding us, an excluded child is an admission of our failure to engage with that child, not to mention the fact that HMIE and our authority view a low exclusion rate as a high indicator of quality, while a zero- exclusion rate positively smacks of a school in the "Brilliant" category.
Thus it is that Douglas Kennedy (IN) remains unexcluded, despite the most iconoclastic start to a secondary school career that I have ever witnessed. Fights, outright disobedience, spitting in class, verbal abuse of teachers: the list of misdemeanours is endless, but Kennedy still gets away with it as long as he continues to attend restorative justice seminars for each crime committed. Unsurprisingly, he spends more time in these than in lessons, which is, frankly, a relief to those whose classes he is supposed to be attending.
Our local authority has a new director of education. Or, rather, it doesn't. We now have a Director of Lifelong Learning, Empowerment and Global Localisation, as explained in the council newsletter so copiously distributed on the staffroom coffee tables.
"My God!" exclaimed Frank O'Farrell of social studies. "That's a hell of a long job title to put on his passport, isn't it? And what d'you think his job is anyway? It says here in his mission statement" - here he snorted - "that he looks forward to leading a department that will follow a rights- respecting global awareness programme in a localised context wherein all employees and customers are made to feel valued community members, able to contribute life-enhancing experiences as part of their daily interfacing.
"My God," he continued, shaking his head, "I think even the Lord Jesus Christ might have had a hard job living up to those claims."
"Well, you can be certain of one thing, Frank," chipped in Davie McManus. "He won't know a bloody thing about schools, or education. This guy came from social work, and his appointment's the latest in a line of local authorities cutting the balls off as many education departments as they can. So, as far as I'm concerned, the sooner schools are taken out of local authority control, the better: at least we might be able to spend some of the money poured into the councils on things we really need for the place, rather than paying this tosser's over-inflated salary, not to mention the rest of the troops up at City Hall."
They looked set for a lengthily negative discussion, so I melted away and hurried to my next class.
I have discovered the secret of our success in the no-exclusion stakes, after the appearance of two new pupils, Nathan McBride and Josh Jones, in my class yesterday: frankly, they looked frighteningly unpleasant and aggressive. But while their presence was a worry, the absence of Aaron Austin and Terry Cooke was a huge relief - especially as I learned (from their classmates) that they have moved to one of our neighbouring establishments, Whistleforth Community High, which is, by the way, the school from which Nathan and Josh have arrived.
"Honestly," I complained to Frank O'Farrell at lunchtime, "I wish we were told these things before new students arrive."
"Ach, it would probably be an exclusion-saving quickie, Morris: Aaron and Terry were on their last discipline warning, and by the sound of it, the two new ones that we've got are from similar criminal stock - so Rosemary Slater will have been on the phone to Mike Wordsworth at Whistleforth, and they'll have arranged a swap. Puts both pairs of pupils out of their comfort zones, and - crucially - they've been transferred, not excluded, so we don't figure in those pesky statistics. They call it the Exchange of Prisoners . ".
Good grief. It's not only cricket that's subject to corruption.
The educational press is full of excitement about the Scottish Learning Festival. Alas, the excitement hasn't cascaded to the front line at Greenfield Academy, where Mrs Slater has forbidden attendance by any staff, owing to the complete absence of funding for cover - or even for purchasing any of the doubtless attractive materials on view at the accompanying resources exhibition.
She feels it would be akin to the Victorian equivalent of sending a child into a sweetshop without any money, and I can't say I blame her. I wonder if the powers-that-be would consider diverting the cost of running the event into frontline classroom resources .?
We have had our first exclusion of the session, so Mrs Slater's "transfer of prisoners" has been to no avail. Douglas Kennedy has gone beyond the boundaries of the restorative justice system, even if it has taken a physical attack on Ms Bradley to make the breakthrough. Apparently, their respective height differential didn't stop him attempting a "Glasgow kiss" (she was bending down to restrain him from pulling Sandra Fitzgerald's hair at the time), and Ms Bradley had to retire to the sickroom while Kevin Muir restored order in the classroom.
Kennedy was at home by lunchtime, although it didn't stop him logging into his Glow account from home that afternoon, when the rest of his class were having a modern studies MSN conference with a school in Thailand. Alas, our school exclusion policy hasn't caught up with the brave new world of the internet yet, so it was with some alarm (lest some sex tourist had joined the forum) that Mr O'Farrell saw the nickname "Shagger Dougie" post a message on screen. It was but small relief to discover the actual identity of the poster to be Kennedy - and less relief still to read the content of the message.
Mrs Slater is rewriting the exclusion policy as a matter of urgency.