Talkback

5th May 2000 at 01:00
Dave Mania, my Year 10 with a PhD in Attitude, is at it once again. He is giving it some at volume 11. "Tell her, Sir. Get that old bat off my case." Dave is irked. He is being irked by Ms Limpet, the counsellor.

"Tell her, Sir, otherwise I might have to do something." Dave has been incarcerated in the inclusion unit - dismal, if pastoral quarters - because some dark compulsions have made him do something or other. Again.

He has been internally excluded. Probably his permanent condition, but this time it's official. Dave appears to have slipped into the Bermuda triangle of education. The poor boy doesn't know if he's coming or going.

He's going, actually. This is his last chance saloon. Next time it will be the red card. External exclusion. Dave Mania will join the ranks of the expelled.

Dave has always been coming and going. Ever since his mother dragged the infant Mania screaming into the nursery, Dave has been dragging himself out. She can still recall with a tear the idiot savant chucking the alphabet across a wall.

I have been chucking him out of my class for years. He has lurked outside my door pressing his disrupting hooligan visage against my window to the low mirth of the inmates. So I let him back in to be chucked out. For years he has been missing in educational action.

Dave has never been on stream, on target, on task, or on message. He has always been on his feet, on heat, on amphetamines, in the corridor and on a hiding to nothing. He has had to see off New Age strategies, evere Freudians, Mozart, curfews, and electronic tags. The cello therapy didn't take either. He returned to the classroom in a murderous mood and initiated a comprehensive programme of playground atrocities.

There have been times when Dave flirted with a learning environment and nearly signed up, but the national curriculum did him in. It seemed a blizzard of unsolicited insult. The only levels he zipped through were the five that got him statemented.

So Dave might soon be banged up in an off-site mobile classroom, or worse: finally out of sight, mind and hair. He might join those already beyond the educational pale, but I hope not. Anyway, until then, we've got internal exclusion - and Ms Limpet.

And Mr and Mrs Mania, who have just been summoned. It is their first visit to a school since they left one. They weren't aware that Dave was AWOL. They are exhausted with what they have sired. It wasn't meant to be this hard. I explain internal exclusion to Mr Mania. He thinks I am joking.

I recognise Mr Mania. I taught him once. Well, I didn't - he bunked. It's a family tradition. Mr Mania suggests extreme violence upon his son. Ms Limpet suggests that this would be less than helpful. Mrs Mania is weeping, perhaps thinking of that distant infants classroom when Dave Mania was a clean slate. And Dave sits stony-faced.

If they expel him, he'll come back. He'll flog mobiles or worse outside the school gates. He won't go away. He needs us.

Ian Whitwham teaches in a London comprehensive


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