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Including Troy and excluding Troy – Britain’s current education policy

Natalie Solent links to a typical education story from education.guardian.co.uk.

A six-year-old boy has become one of the youngest children to be permanently excluded from school, following an 18-month reign of terror that left some of his classmates psychologically traumatised.

The boy was thrown out of Ashton Vale primary school in Ashton, Bristol, after worried parents wrote a letter to governors demanding his removal. They reported him urinating on fellow pupils, stamping on children’s heads and scratching classmates’ faces. One parent claims he bullied her son to such an extent he needed speech therapy, while another victim began wetting the bed through fear. However, his father, a BBC technician, yesterday blamed the school for exacerbating his son’s bad behaviour and not acting quickly enough. “I think they’ve gone the wrong way about it,” he said. “At home he’s as good as gold.”

What’s this? The Guardian making a BBC employee look like an idiot?

He did, however, admit that his son had been given “more than enough chances” and had “taken it too far” at the school. “He’s always been naughty. He fights everyone all the time but doesn’t know when to stop – he just carries on.”

The boy was known as a trouble-maker at nursery, but the frequency of violent incidents has risen steadily and he has been suspended numerous times.

His father fears his unusual domestic environment may have had an effect on Troy’s behaviour. He has split from boy’s mother, but they still share the same home, despite the fact she is now expecting a baby with her new boyfriend, who lives in the Birmingham area.

Yes, that doesn’t sound good.

But to get more serious, here’s what Natalie says about this boy’s expulsion.

This sort of thing is ineradicable from state education. It comes from the obligation to pretend to educate every child, whatever the real harm done to other children such as the rest of the class in this disturbing story. Some children should be abandoned by the education system.

I take a certain angry pleasure from writing things like that. What usually happens is that people make hesitant criticisms of the cult of “inclusivity” or of “no fault” programmes that purport to deal with bullying and then a representative of The Blob lashes out and says, “Ooooh, riiiight, you are willing to just abandon children, are you, just do nothing for the most vulnerable members of society?” and the wimps backtrack. So I might as well short-circuit the outrage. Yup. Abandon them. You think that’s unethical? You educate them, then: I’m not stopping you.

I have a rule about putting something, however lame, up on my Education Blog every calendar (clock?) week day, Monday to Friday, week in week out (weekends optional). Sometimes that has meant doing something at 12.05 am and then the next something at 11.50 pm nearly two real days later, but I have so far stuck to this rule, even when abroad.

Because of this rule I have often gone trawling through “national” education stories such as the one Natalie linked to, the way I wouldn’t have done in the normal, Education Blogless course of my life. (Which was part of why I do an Education Blog, and why I do it the way I do it.)

What I’m getting round to saying is, I have recently, despite finding the subject pretty boring, been paying quite close and regular attention to what passes in Britain for education policy. And I can confirm that Natalie has identified one of the absolute central idiocies of our present government’s education policy.

The state can either include every child in its education system, or it can, in its crude and insufficient way, educate most children but not all. It cannot do both. It simply cannot. It doesn’t matter if every single MP in the House of Commons is New Labour and agrees with Education Minister Charles Clarke about everything he and his assistants ever say or ever do. Reality remains reality. If a boy like Troy is in a class and can neither be removed from that class nor beaten in to submission, then that class will be about begging Troy to behave and Troy not behaving. It cannot also be about teaching any of the other children anything except about the idiocy of their school’s policy, and their government’s policy, with regard to Troy.

Our present government does have an education policy, after a fashion. This policy is completely ridiculous, but here it is. It is to command this week that Troy shall be included, but, next week, that Troy shall be excluded. This is called government by initiative, and it is driving the teaching profession to premature senile dementia. It is making it literally impossible to be a state employed teacher. Yes, the government is recruiting record numbers of teachers. But ask yourself why? This is because record numbers of teachers are also saying to hell with it, often within a few days of joining, and going off to become financial advisers, or ditch diggers, or unemployed wrecks.

My, we’re in a cheerful mood here this weekend, aren’t we? Thank goodness for the Ireland/England rugger game, which kicks off in about three hours. If England lose, I don’t know what I’ll do. War, and economic meltdown, and plague, and this, and then, on top of all that, that. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

I think I just wrote a Brian’s Bleat.

7 comments to Including Troy and excluding Troy – Britain’s current education policy

  • Interesting story. My grammar school did have a boy (bright enough to get an Oxford scholarship) who, as a small boy had dropped a heavy object on his smaller brother’s head with serious results.

    In a curious moment when we were both sixthformers, this lad did once come into a room where I was, not his formroom, and without warning wave a jagged metal chairleg round my head for a few minutes as a bit of a test – rather like the swordsmanship scene in Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.

    I got an intrigued response the other week from friends when I suggested raising private money to fund a charity boarding school whose goal would be purely to accept limited numbers of unteachable children rejected by the state sector.

    Motivation: to create a deliberate ‘sink’ school as a model institution and thus prove that selective entry is not the real reason private education works better. Nearby local authorities would be given quotas (such as ten per year) and be allowed to choose which ‘students’ to send to this charity sink. A sort of worst-case experiment. I bet a charity institution could do better than local-authority ‘secure units’ for example – a last-chance stage where violent boys go before prison. The secure unit in one London borough a friend worked at in the 80s had five boys and eleven male teachers.

  • Ja, leuk, meki — maar, warum heb je precies hier gepostet?

  • In case samizdataists are tempted to deluge meki (the Nederlandse peacenik above) with a right telling off, he just replied to me in Dutch quite thoughtfully promising to think over “agreeing to disagree”.

  • State-run schools have always been and will always be subject to these pathologies and much worse. It’s a matter of institutional sociodynamics, a sociological analogue to Gresham’s Law. Any institution that deals with its participants through quasi-uniform policies will be shaped by its least acceptable members. A state-run school, which must accept every child, will be characterized by its morons, its juvenile delinquents, and its opportunists (e.g., drug dealers).

    The amazing thing about all this is that C. S. Lewis foresaw (and foretold) all of it back in the Fifties, as his prescient Screwtape Proposes A Toast indicates.

    Natalie is following in a mighty tradition, God bless her. As are you, Brian.

  • I’ll bet his father is telling the truth about his behavior at home. I’ll also bet his father uses corporal punishment.

    Not that I’m advocating corporal punishment in public schools. I would have to support their existence first.