Simple solution is always wrong one

6th December 1996 at 00:00
The chief inspector's recent facile pronouncements about the rise in exclusions provide an excellent illustration of the truism that to every complicated question there is a simple answer - which is invariably wrong.

From his ivory tower, he sees the reason for the problem as simply bad teaching and poor management - again! His blatantly reductionist view is that because increased exclusions cannot, he says, be linked to the single issue of variable resourcing, the increase must be due to the single cause of ineffective teaching and management.

Even if we leave aside his rather bizarre and unproven statement that resourcing is not relevant to the issue, those who work in schools know that there are many inter-locking reasons why there has been an increase in exclusions.

No amount of attempted high-quality teaching and sound management would decrease the number if parents are unsupportive, if teachers are demoralised, over-worked and exhausted, if heads are over-pressurised in a crazy competitive system totally unsuitable for schools, if local authorities are powerless to provide back-up services, and, of course, if resources are insufficient to allow the problem to be solved sensibly.

The chief inspector is right about just one thing - poor teaching and unsound management would contribute to the increase in exclusions, but to suggest that this is the main cause is naive and ill-informed.

On Radio 4 last week, he ponderously quoted a head who said exclusion is a failure, as if heads and teachers didn't know this, as if they needed Chris Woodhead to tell them. Of course exclusion is a failure, after trying every other means of solving the problem of a seriously disruptive child.

Does Mr Woodhead still not realise that the exclusion of a persistently disruptive pupils is the last resort of a head who wishes to ensure high-quality teaching for the other pupils in the class and has tried every other means first?

Exclusion is protective rather than punitive, protective of the rights of children to an undisturbed education. Whereas the teacher suffers the disruptive child in a primary school for one year, the children in the class have to put up with the detriment to their education for year after year. The Manton parents understood this, even if the chief inspector doesn't.

JOHN McNICHOLAS

Orchard House

Rolston Road

Hornsea

North Humberside

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