Month: May 2014

It’s relationships we need to build in schools, not metal detectors and scanners

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As a teacher in the 1980s I was assaulted and threatened by pupils and parents. In the most serious incident, I was attacked with a bicycle chain by an ex-pupil inside the school – a boy I had never taught. In all cases there was, thankfully, no injury to me or any of the pupils in my care. The tragic case of Anne Maguire is unique in this country, a dedicated teacher attacked and killed in a school by a pupil. But we must take care in the aftermath not to drive a wedge between pupils, teachers and parents. This dynamic relationship is the key to behaviour in schools.

The recent report from the University of  East Anglia which showed behaviour as a major, underreported issue generated many headlines. Other reports of 1,000 children being caught carrying ‘weapons’ in schools, some as young as 8 years old, resulted in an outcry. Without diminishing the tragedy that occurred in Leeds, we must however reflect on behaviour in schools with some sense of perspective and context. There are 8.2 million children attending schools every day. The figure of 1,000 caught carrying weapons in the past three years, while shocking, needs to be unpicked a little. The actual number reported was 981 (rounded up to 1,000 for media purposes). This was just for one police area in the West Midlands, but for this to be a major issue the actual national figure would have to be many times higher. The weapons reported included knives, a machete, razors, a stun gun and an axe – again all shocking. But we must think about what constitutes a weapon – a knife taken from the school canteen? A penknife on a keychain? A letter opener? Without details and context figures on their own can easily be misinterpreted. There’s no excuse for a machete, axe, razor or stun gun and it’s impossible to explain away why a pupil was carrying such an implement in a school.

Of the 981 pupils caught with weapons 329 were charged with having an offensive weapon 0.004% of the pupil population. The issue now is not about the proliferation of ‘weapons’ being carried by children in school, but ensuring that media hype does not demonise young people. Some media reports are already stirring controversy by saying that this tragic incident has now started a ‘national debate’ on security in schools. Calls for airport style metal detectors to screen pupils have been made by some. It is this type of sensationalism which clouds reality and threatens to turn a one-off tragic incident into a wedge driven between teachers, pupils and parents.

The key to discipline in schools lies in the relationship between staff and their leadership and the school and its parents. Teachers must build effective relationships with pupils and as the professionals charged with being ‘in loco parentis’ they must also have the support and backing of parents when it comes to enforcing discipline. Teachers and parents must also trust in the senior leaders of the school to provide backing and support in enforcing the discipline policy.

Bad behaviour in the classroom is not the ‘fault’ of the teacher. A teacher cannot be wholly responsible for the way in which pupils act or react in lessons. There has to be collective responsibility. Being bored in class, often used as an excuse for bad behaviour, is no excuse for the pupils either. Sometimes work is boring, yet necessary. School is not a circus with teachers as performers out to entertain all day every day. Teachers will make things interesting, fun even, when they can, but the job of the teacher is to teach, the job of the pupil is to learn.

When there is a strong, healthy partnership between home and school, bad behaviour can be tackled and solved. It cannot be solved through airport style security screening or American style lockdowns. No teacher I know wishes to work in fear of the pupils, the parents or the senior leaders of schools. Building that partnership is the key to prevention, not just of teacher assaults, but also the much bigger issue of pupils assaulting each other outside the school gates, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Follow James on twitter @edujdw


What Swedish free schools reveal about social segregation

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School-based education is undergoing significant changes across much of the developed world with private providers increasingly taking over the delivery of education from public providers. In both England and Sweden, independent schools have been established which are privately owned but publicly funded. Known as academies and free schools in England and independent “free schools” – fristående skolor or friskolor – in Sweden, these new types of schools are raising questions about social segregation in the education system.

  1. Anne West

    Professor of Education Policy, Department of Social Policy at London School of Economics


What Swedish free schools reveal about social segregation.

Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

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Reblogged on my blog space.
There are important questions too answer about this ITT review, in particular the why ones; why now, why this chair why just those questions?

John Howson

The quote at the head of this piece came into my mind when I read the announcement by Michael Gove that he was establishing an independent review of teacher training courses led by a Surrey Primary head teacher with 26 years experience in one school. The DfE gave the aims of the review as:

  • define effective ITT practice
  • assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT
  • recommend where and how improvements could be made
  • recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods

Now these seem suspiciously similar to the task of Osfted inspectors when they look at teacher training provision. So, will the review team just read Ofsted reports, collate the findings, and publish a Report? In view of the time frame; a Report by the end of the year, from a group yet to be established, means that it will…

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