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Discipline in schools

One of the good things about working for JOLF is that they allow you 3.5 hours each month to spend on charitable and community activities. I use my allowance helping out at local schools with things like industry days, careers talks, mock interviews and so on. Today, for example, I gave a mock interview to a girl from one of the poorer schools in Plymouth who really wanted to be a music journalist. And she was really quite good. I don't know a lot about how you get to write for 'Kerrang!', but I hope I was able to offer good avice about getting relevant work experience. I suspect with that kind of job, that it would be work experience that matters most - I told her she should take every opportunity to write reviews and get her work published.

Anyway, I digress. What has prompted me to write this post is an event I helped out at in another one of Plymouth's weaker schools (the one named after a biblical scholar). This was a business game where the pupils run a pretend t-shirt wholesaler. They work in teams, have to design the t-shirts, negotiate with suppliers for the basic items, negotiate deals with retailers and keep basic accounting records. (I was a retailer.) Half the year (14-15 year olds) did it in the morning and half did it in the afternoon.

Normally, these kind of games are very popular. I've done several similar ones and I've actually done this exact one before. This time, a lot of the pupils were getting into it. The trouble was, in each group there would be two or three pupils who were either messing around or just sat there and did nothing. Which inevitably spoiled it for the kids who wanted to take part.

The thing that really annoyed me though was that there were about ten teachers in the hall while this was going on. And not once, not once did any of them attempt to impose any discipline. I spoke afterwards to one of the women who runs the organisation that runs these events (Tamar Education Business Partnership) and she was livid. I've done events like this at other local schools and you there hasn't needed to be a single teacher in the room.

It shows that there's no such thing as a 'bog standard comprehensive' any more. In fact there probably never was. (Actually, they all seem to be called 'community colleges' nowadays, at least in Devon.) I went to a 'bog standard comprehensive', but it was nothing like this school.

What I want to know is this:

Is this school typical or is it bad?

Little things that shocked me (that would never have been allowed at my school, admittedly 19 years ago):
* Not a single boy had tucked his shirt into his trousers
* All the girls wore trousers (not allowed in my day; strangely you go to other schools in Plymouth, especially the two girls only schools, and almost all the girls wear skirts)
* A lot of the boys had long hair, or 'surf' hair
* Boys with ear-rings (admittedly this is a generational / snob thing - like in that email circular, I'm someone who remembers when it was macho to have a moustache and gay to have an ear-ring)

This is by no means the worst school in Plymouth. That would be one in Devonport. One of my fellow 'retailers', a guy who owns a chain of shoe shops, was telling me about an event he did there where the guests had to be escorted around the school (for safety) and where the event was counted a success because only one person got hurt (a female pupil slammed a male pupil's face into a desk).

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyofastolat
Mar. 20th, 2007 08:19 am (UTC)
I don't have experience of schools for older children, only primary schools. However, I've got the impression from talking to people who are in High Schools that:
- A lot of young people have a lot less respect for authority than they did 20 years ago
- There are more and more restrictions on what sanctions a teacher is allowed to enforce
- The government's inclusion policy means that really awful pupils, who ten years ago would have been excluded or put into a special educational unit, are now in mainstream schooling, to the detriment of everyone else's education.

In my experiences in Primary Schools, they very immensely. I can go in and read to a group of 5 year olds, and they sit perfectly for half an hour, as good as gold, with their teacher actively joining in and encouraging them to engage with the story. I then go into another school (often one in a similar area) and the class of 5 year olds have an attention span of only a few minutes, and the teacher is at the back of the class noisily tidying up, ignoring me utterly.

I feel very sorry for the children in the latter type of school. Schools are very definitely not all the same. Which, of course, is why parents take such effort to get their child to the "right" school.
helflaed
Mar. 20th, 2007 10:37 am (UTC)
Yup- parents will jump though all sorts of hoops to get their child into the right school. Our local comp gets a lot of "problem children" bussed in. To be fair the teachers seem to be doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. The average A-C pass rate is now almost at the national average. Some children can do extremely well there.

Nevertheless, I would have serious qualms about sending either of my boys there, not so much because of the teaching, but because of the other children. Harsh, unfair but true.

In some ways I think that this particular school would do a better job if it were turned into a special school, as it is not only ideally located but also has a very good teaching staff.

But of course, that wouldn't be inclusive, now would it?
bunn
Mar. 20th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)
Even then, there is surely a big difference between a school that has problem pupils, and a school that has problem pupils *and is prepared to just let them wreck things for the others*.

I've only done one of these industry day things philmophlegm mentions, which was at a sort of mediumish kind of college: the organisation was quite poor, but one did at least feel the staff were trying.

Sadly, I had the impression that many of the children were considerably brighter than the staff. Schools should just not be run by dimwits! Events should be organised by capable, energetic people, otherwise it all falls apart. It really annoyed me, and I felt that many of the children I talked to were capable of so much more than they were being given to do.
the_marquis
Mar. 20th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
In my view it is partly what the others have said above: schools let down by dimwits; inclusitvity (often at the cost of having some kids who patently need a different type of teaching making things difficult for everyone else); the prizes for all ethos of modern government (that it seems intends to make things a lot worse rather than go back to streaming by ability, or even a grammar/secondary divide). And two generations of parents who are either both in work and so spend little time with their kids or who're both out of work (often long term) and who don't realise that parenting is more than buying kids food, clothes and presents: admittedly this often through not knowing, or being taught/shown, any better rather than a deliberate lack of caring.

That said the overall good behaviour reported is a better reflection than what the media will give us, or my sister (a teaching assistant) will tell me. An example being a kid bringing a ball back to the office where it is stored, bouncing it on the floor as they come in: on being asked not to bounce it as they're in an office they loudly reply that they're "just bringing it back'. This is then repeated at every instance of "I only asked you not to bounce it" without any apparent ability to comprehend what has been said, let alone stop, beyond it being seen attempt to restrain a pleasant activity: kiddy tantrums "Wah! Want sweeties!" spring to mind, except this is a secondary school. Whereas when I was a kid answering back was not on then menu; other than, "Um, sorry, but I'm suppposed to bring it back, Miss" in this situation.
chainmailmaiden
Mar. 20th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
Not a single boy had tucked his shirt into his trousers

I don't suppose they had, unless they wanted to be laughed at/beaten up. I constantly have to remind Bacchus to untuck his shirt so he can look cool like the rest of the kids in Chavland ;-)
philmophlegm
Mar. 20th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
I think that you're confusing the concept of 'cool' here.

Like I said with skateboarders a while back, ask yourself this:

Who is more likely to walk around in an untucked shirt:
a) Daniel Craig
b) Jude Law
c) Brad Pitt
d) a spotty teenager from Plymouth?
chainmailmaiden
Mar. 21st, 2007 12:48 pm (UTC)
Personally I'd prefer to have Brad Pitt walking around with no shirt ;-)
philmophlegm
Mar. 21st, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
Oh behave.
philmophlegm
Mar. 20th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC)
I am often surprised that schools have uniforms, but not uniform shoes. Most schoolboys nowadays seem to wear trainers to school. School uniform looks really stupid with trainers.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )