Take the fizz out of them

26th September 2003 at 01:00
It's the start of a new school year so, not unnaturally, ministers have dreamed up yet another initiative to sort out the education system.

This time the plan is to parachute "behaviour consultants" into schools.

There will, we're told, be a national network of these experts out there, somewhere, to give us mere teachers top tips on how to control anti-social behaviour. Lucky us!

Call me cynical but I have a few questions. How, for a start, will we recognise them, let alone get hold of them to tap their fount of knowledge? Will they be patrolling the corridors in case there's an incident, lurking in camouflage by the lockers? Or will they operate a booking system? Can I make an early request now for them to stand by for Year 9, last period on Friday, please?

Alternatively, maybe we'll be able to text or call them as an incident is taking place. Very 21st century. "Oh hello Behaviour Expert, can you give me a tip to stop Pupil X climbing out of the window of my room please? I'm on the second floor. No, he was trying to escape from Pupil Y, who was strangling him with his sweatshirt. Oh, something to do with being disrespectful about his mother."

Yet has anyone stopped to wonder why pupils' behaviour is in need of control? Bad behaviour doesn't begin and end in the classroom. Where, one wonders, will the experts be at 3.20pm? Helping with crowd control at the bus stop? Can't see it myself.

As David Bell, the chief inspector, remarked recently, too many children nowadays receive a "disrupted and dishevelled" upbringing. They are eating sugar-rich food affecting not just their waistline but also their behaviour.

Chips for breakfast, four cans of fizzy drink, no water all day, chocolate and crisps for lunch. Fluid deficiencies and sugar rushes abound. Headaches and mood swings every afternoon. Watching six hours of TV is average. No wonder some of them lack the communication and social skills required to behave themselves in the classroom.

Has not a single minister thought to connect these disparate elements? Thought to ask us in the behavioural front line, Charles? Be radical! Drop the behaviour experts into children's homes and kitchens. Replace some of them with cooks. Throw out the fizzy drinks machines from schools and install water dispensers. Enlist Jamie Oliver to give school dinners a makeover. Get them to switch off the TV and encourage parents and children to talk to one another. In other words, attack the cause of the problem not the effect.

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