Although I no longer work in schools, and do not intend to in the near or distant future, these are issues I feel very strongly about, being the reason I left in the first place. I would like to encourage anyone who feels the same way about this to join me in writing to your MP to make your opinions known, either via the means of the website http://www.writetothem.com (formerly FaxYourMP) or directly. I have no desire for my children to grow up and be educated in a system where praise is meaningless, poor behaviour goes unpunished and exciting things for classes to do are cancelled on the grounds of "unnecessary risks" and fear of litigation. These are the specific issues which I personally am concerned about. Please feel free to comment and add to them below: * GENERAL BEHAVIOUR Poor behaviour in schools is out of control, and while action is supposedly being taken to combat issues such as this, it is being gone about in the wrong way. Teachers are blamed by OFSTED for poor behaviour on the grounds that their lessons are not "interesting" or "fun" enough, and pupils are often given ready-made excuses to defend their actions by the means of new medical "conditions" which seem to be "discovered" on an almost daily basis. Pupils should be held accountable for their own behaviour, not teachers. There are situations where pupils misbehave in class and no amount of intervention from the teacher will stop them. This is not "poor classroom management", it is a child behaving badly and refusing to comply with authority. Teachers should be given further powers to discipline children. At present, detentions do not work because pupils do not attend them, and in many cases parents back them up in this. If detentions are to work, then they should be tied in with the school's attendance policies and any pupil not turning up to a scheduled detention should be treated in the same manner as a truant. While corporal punishment is frowned upon by many members of the public now, it provided an effective deterrent. There are few, if any, deterrents against poor behaviour in place for children in school now. Expulsions and suspensions are completely ineffective, as the only effect they have is to get the children out of school, which is probably what they want in the first place. This lack of punishment in schools gives children free rein to do as they please, knowledge which they carry out into the world at large because the situation is often the same with the police. As a result, we are now in a culture where people walking down the street are genuinely and justifiably afraid of groups of youths standing on street corners. * CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR It is of great concern to me that criminal behaviour in many schools goes unpunished under the law. It seems to me that many school management teams would prefer that their schools are arenas which operate "outside the law", at least when it comes to the behaviour of children. Violent incidents go unprosecuted. Thefts go uninvestigated and perpetrators remain at large. I have two examples of this happening at my previous school: 1. A violent incident occurred in which a child with "emotional and behavioural difficulties", included in the class thanks to the Inclusion policy, punched a teacher in the face, causing bruising and bleeding. The attack was unprovoked, save for the fact the teacher had removed the pupil from a lesson due to poor behaviour. This is not grounds for a violent assault. 2. Some expensive recording equipment which I had brought in to school in good faith in order to make my lessons more "interesting" and "fun", and also to comply with suggestions from the departmental Line Manager to take more time to record assessment pieces, was stolen from my desk. When I expressed my anger and disappointment at this betrayal of trust, I was blamed for "not keeping the microphone in a secure enough place". It was in an unmarked box inside a drawer in my desk, in my room which was kept locked at all times except during lessons, which suggests that it was taken by a pupil during lesson time - in which case, having it in a "secure place" would have been little help anyway. When I took the matter further with the senior management team, they seemed remarkably unconcerned, and their main priority appeared to be that I had upset my head of department with my justifiably angry reaction. I was encouraged "not to contact the police, as it wouldn't be worth it". This microphone was already a replacement which the school had admittedly generously provided thanks to the original unit being severely damaged by pupils messing around. Incidentally, the damaged original unit remains in the possession of the school and has not been returned to me despite several requests. * PROLIFERATION OF "POLICIES" It seemed when I was working in schools that every other week a new "policy" was introduced. Very few of these made teachers' lives any easier, and very often they introduced new rules and regulations which seemed to serve little purpose other than to provide an ever-denser "paper trail" in order to track what is going on in school and how the school complies with the latest fashionably politically-correct suggestions. These policies range from the straightforward and relatively sensible (e.g. the consistent application of behaviour policies across the school - fine if they worked, unfortunately they don't) to the absurd (e.g. "don't mark in red pen, it's aggressive and/or offensive to Asian pupils"). * INCLUSION By far the worst policy, however, is the Inclusion policy enforced on all schools by the government. Few people have the courage to stand up to this publicly - since who would want to say "I'm against inclusion!", thereby implying they are for "exclusion"? The fact is, including children with more severe special needs and/or behavioural problems in mainstream education does far more harm than good. These pupils take up a lot more of the teacher's time, and as a result, more able or even "average" (which is a horrible way to describe someone) pupils are sometimes left by the wayside. This is particularly the case where the special needs in question involve behavioural issues. Teachers are not trained effectively to deal with many of these pupils, and while the defence to that is usually that the teachers are given support staff to assist them, the fact is that very often teachers are left on their own with these pupils, with no training and no specialist assistance. This inevitably leads to disruption. Pupils for whom English is not their first language are also put into lessons without any language support. I had a Thai girl in my music classes who spoke no English whatsoever and as a result was unable to take part in the lessons. Quite what the proponents of Inclusion believe she was getting out of the sessions is beyond me - I have heard the argument that she was "absorbing the culture", but to be honest, it looked more like she was bored stiff and frustrated that she couldn't take part. * NON-QUALIFIED STAFF The rise in "cover supervisors" is putting supply teachers out of a job, at the expense of pupils' learning in many cases, since very often these cover supervisors are non-qualified staff who are left to teach lessons in subjects they may not be specialists in. While it is good that a solution has been found for the "cover problem" - i.e. teachers having to cover absent colleagues' lessons, thereby eating into their already precious free time - there is no way an unqualified member of staff is an adequate substitute for a qualified teacher. It is simply a money-saving measure. * COMPENSATION CULTURE AND FEAR OF LITIGATION So many schools are now cancelling school trips for fear of "accidents" occurring and parents/pupils suing the school. This is a direct result of the obnoxious "compensation culture" we find ourselves in, and it appears nothing can be done without a "risk assessment". I was once "told off" publicly in front of other staff because I was taking four children to a local primary school which was just down the road to perform a concert for the young children. My misdemeanour? I had not filled out a risk assessment. I resisted the temptation to hand a form to the person demanding it with "don't be so bloody ridiculous" scrawled across it in large unfriendly letters. * TARGETS AND FIDDLING OF FIGURES Exam results are getting better year on year, or so we're told. In actual fact, the pass mark boundaries are being lowered each year and the questions are getting easier. To achieve an A* now is considerably easier than before. However, this does not stop schools focusing on setting targets for pass rates. The side-effect of this is that pupils are taught how to remember things (the school I worked at even brought in some "thinking and memory skills" specialists to do a workshop for year 11) rather than how to use their knowledge to work things out for themselves. Pupils are losing the ability to research things and are often copy-and-pasting from the Internet to produce their coursework. Many teachers are either not noticing this, or are being encouraged to "look the other way". This is not only immoral, it is having a detrimental effect on the intelligence of future generations. * * * * There are undoubtedly other points that I have missed - please feel free to add them below. I would encourage everyone who feels strongly about this to try and do something about it by initially writing to your MP and declaring in no uncertain terms that we are unwilling to stand for this any longer. It may not have an immediate effect, but you will feel better for making your feelings known, and also, the more letters in these terms that the MPs receive, the greater the likelihood that they will realise that something will have to be done about it. Beyond that, it may be necessary to take some sort of further action, the form of which I have not yet considered. If anyone has any suitable suggestions, please put them forward!