Thursday, February 03, 2005

A bit of discipline....

A pre-record for Meridian's Sunday politics show. Subjects were school discipline and electioneering.

The school discipline issue is a very interesting one ( as well as an important one) and it seems to me that there is not a qick fix simple solution. I say this as someone who from the day I started school wanted to be a teacher. The ambition remained until I attended a forces boarding school and I realised that I was not sure that I would be able to teach those who did not want to learn (although I wasn't bad at enforcing discipline in my role as a school and house prefect).
I also spent quite a bit of time in the local primary school when my kids were young - helping with science which was new to the national curriculum at that time. I particularly got to know the kids of my daughters era and they were a great bunch but (even in leafy hampshire) there were early signs that there could be problems with a couple of children. I now know what has happened to many of them. There seem to be few real casualties but those that I know of could have been predicted but in the grand scale of things the children/families did not qualify for much in the way of help or support.

I therefore feel very strongly that the problems can be identified in primary school and we need to invest in some proactive work with these children and families.

Part of the problem though is that teachers do not receive the back up they deserve from some parents. Gone are the days when a child got into trouble at school and the misdemeanour was also punished at home. A more likely scenario in 2005 is that angry parent can't believe that little Johnny or Joanna is anything short of perfect and marches into school in a state of high dudgeon. Some schools have introduced pupil/parent/teacher agreements and whilst these are a step in the right direction there is still the problem of getting parents to completely buy in. Yet, it happens in the schools where there is strong leadership so I have come to the conclusion that these leadership skills are somethingwe should invest in.

OFSTED shows that 10% of schools have a discipline problem. That is 10% too many so we need to work with those schools to turn them round. It has been done before and is possible. It sounds hard (and this is not party policy) but failing Head teachers need to be pensioned off in the same way as failing chief executives of hospital trusts. We simply cannot afford to do otherwise and gambol with our children's lives.

I will also admit that the above will not help in 100% of cases. In those cases I do not see why children should have their chances spoilt by a disruptive influence and I do think there is a case for removing the child and working with child and family to attempt re-integration in the long term. The nub of the problem is that it is not helpful to remove problem children from society indefinitely because as adults they need to be able to integrate.

Not an easy subject and I do not believe there are easy one size fits all solutions but we have to try.