Here’s the latest from the government, and from Beverley Hughes, the children's minister, on tackling teenage gangs and violence:
"There is a false dichotomy that schools are there to provide education only, and not for the welfare of the whole child. If they don't tackle these problems they are going to compromise educational objectives. Where there is a culture of fear and uncertainty in a school, it is something that not just the school, but youth services and police have got to grapple with.
"It's not schools taking this on alone, but they are in the unique position of being the eyes and the ears of the community; they see young people everyday." She added that areas had been identified where schools were being heavily affected, including London boroughs, and inner-city areas including Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. "It's very localised in these areas ... for some schools this is a big issue."
Pretty breathtaking hypocrisy really. Here’s a government made up of a group of ignorant, arrogant politicians that has done its best to turn schools, especially in inner cities, into miserable results factories, and they’re suddenly concerned about the welfare of “the whole child”!
Welfare! They mean they want schools to provide them with intelligence on the kids they suspect are violent gang members, since schools are assumed to be the ‘eyes and ears of the community’. Snoops. Spooks. Grasses.
“False dichotomy”? “Educational objectives”? Whose? Not mine, pal. My first educational objective is for kids to enjoy being in schools where there’s a stable, settled and well motivated staff who put the well being of the child at the very top of the agenda. Which is not happening. What they mean is they don’t want bullying to get in the way of swatting and preparing for tests. They’ve bullied teachers into bullying the kids into doing more homework, more ‘booster’ classes, and more ‘literacy’ at the expense of the broader curriculum and their enjoyment of school, and now they’re worried about bullying.
“Culture of fear and uncertainty”? It’s this wretched government that has created a culture of fear and uncertainty in staffrooms up and down the country, in our inner cities especially. Fear of the league tables. Fear of Ofsted. Fear of the Year 6 children not getting their Level 4s.
Uncertainty? No-one’s certain any more what the fuck they’re supposed to be doing. It seems they shouldn’t be providing “education only”, but on the other hand we’ve been bullied by people who insist that getting those Level 4s and GCSEs and getting the schools up the league tables IS the only thing that matters.
Only now it isn’t. Schools have to get those government targets, but they also have to be the eyes and ears of their communities. And we all know what the crims will do to anyone they see as a grass. This is nonsense.
Of course schools should concentrate on education, and of course teachers should be educationalists, first, foremost and above and beyond all else. They should concentrate on the education of the whole child, and not allow themselves to be operatives in results factories chasing meaningless and counterproductive government targets.
They should be helping children reach their full potential in every aspect of their development, which means in terms of emotional intelligence, social intelligence, spiritual intelligence, instinctual intelligence and physical intelligence, as well as academic intelligence. If we sort out these intelligences then by and large we won’t need to concern ourselves with providing the police with intelligence.
I once had a teacher who reluctantly agreed to take a Year 6 class but did so on the sole basis that she would not compromise her beliefs about providing a broad and balanced curriculum that developed all of each child’s various intelligences and encouraged creativity, imagination and a love of learning. Not that I was trying to get her to do otherwise - but she recognized the way things were going, in most schools. If only all teachers were strong enough to take a stand, and stand up for the rights of children.
Personally I have no issues with cooperating with the police where it’s clear that there’s criminal activity taking place. I don’t want the crims to get away with their activities, and I don’t want them hurting and bullying other kids.
But neither do I want idiot politicians and idiot bureaucrats to get away with their efforts to turn all schools into soulless results factories at the expense of real education - the kind of education that helps to prevent angry and disaffected kids from hating school, hating teachers, hating themselves, just hating . . .
Personally I’m sick to my soul with a nasty, soulless system of schooling that exists mainly for its own sake and its own survival, and cares not a jot about the criminal underclass and its sick children. And I’m sick and tired of the fact that so many schools exist only for the more able children, and for the purpose of reaching academic targets.
Teachers are not trained to develop the intelligences that stop kids getting into trouble in the first place. We have geography teachers, literacy teachers, teachers of science, teachers of maths, and so on. We don’t have teachers of children because we don‘t train them to meet the real and urgent developmental needs of our children.
We don’t educate children - we school them and we cram them and we haven’t a clue how to instill in them - especially the less academically able ones - any liking let alone love of learning for its own sake.
Teachers are entitled to tell Beverly Hughes and her ilk to fuck off and only come back when she’s persuaded her Cabinet colleagues to start showing some caring about real education and stop wittering on about their targets and driving up standards, to start showing some understanding and caring about the real needs of children and their families.
It’s incredible that in a supposedly civilized and enlightened country we’re still so ignorant about how to deal with the causes of madness and violence, and how to prevent children going off the rails. It’s unbelievable that we go on trying to ’drive up standards’ at such a cost to children’s well being, and we cling to 19th century paradigms as to what education is all about. “Give these children facts” indeed. It’s infuriating that we sow the seeds of disaffection and violence, and then try to crack down and punish children when they can’t cope, can’t control their fear and anger, and simply crack up.
We should be ashamed that we tolerate poverty and its effects on children and families. The only correlate of low achievement is not skin colour or class or gender or inexperienced teachers - it’s poverty.
But schools can make a difference, in the long run, provided they are allowed and encouraged to be places where children feel valued and happy and where they enjoy learning. English Primary schools used to be renowned world wide for being such places, by and large. But not any more.
English children are now deemed to be the least happy of any in the industrialized world. They struggle with childhoods that are toxic, and they grow up in schools and neighborhoods where their basic human rights are threatened and denied. Life for children in this country has been getting steadily worse, not better. Their quality of life has diminished, even if their test scores have risen, thanks to more and more drilling, rote learning and cramming.
We should all feel thoroughly ashamed. We should all be like that young teacher and from now on take a stand. From now on we should do what’s right by children, not do what’s right by a fucked-up, inhuman and ridiculous system.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said yesterday "The reality is that schools are an oasis of morality in a world that does not otherwise give many young people guidance and role models of good citizenship." Mr Dunford’s being a little optimistic if he imagines that there’s any substantial “guidance” taking place in schools. It takes a lot more than “guidance” to develop high levels of social, emotional and spiritual intelligence.
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Something needs to be done. Schools aren't just dealing with the culture in schools, but in the culture of the wider community and culture of society.”
The problem is that everyone knows that ‘something needs to be done’, and many of us know what it is that needs to be done, but the people who have created our current system of education with its regressive and repressive and ignorant approach to ‘driving up standards’ patently haven’t a clue what needs to be done, they aren’t capable of listening to those who do, and they aren’t about to do a U-turn and admit they’ve been getting it wrong all these years.
They want quick fixes and they want to tackle the symptoms of the sickness we see all around us, increasing day by day. They're not in the business of finding cures for the causes of the sickness. They’re so far from enlightenment it’s laughable.