Z asks awkward questions

It’s now around 10.45 pm and I’m just sitting down with some cheese and biscuits and a dram of Scotch, having just got back from a governors’ training meeting. One of the best presented and most interesting I’ve been to in a long time, in fact. The last one I attended, the Local Authority person presenting the session started it by saying “I hope you all know that this is no longer to explain the new system, as the Government has put back its implementation by a year.” No, I hadn’t known, I had done this training twice in the previous few years and it would have been nice to have been told in advance.

I amused myself by asking tricky questions, based on my in-depth knowledge of the subject. You can catch ’em out, you know.

This one was on behaviour and anti-bullying matters. There is a new Education Act, being implemented in April and he was telling us about the new jollities within.

I drove through Lowestoft. I lived in Lowestoft from the age of 3 or 4 to 32 and now can hardly find my way about the town now. New roads all over the place. It’s good, actually, they haven’t dealt with all the congestion caused by having a town that is cut in half by a bridge, but they have improved it considerably. However, I did find myself driving down a road I hadn’t known existed. I didn’t lose my bearings, so I wasn’t very late…

I was bored stiff within the first three minutes. He asked for the general principles one should be considering when drawing up a school’s Behavioural Policy. The usual jargon was mentioned. ‘Whole-school ethos.’ ‘Respect, not only from pupil to teacher, but from pupil to pupil, pupil for him- or herself, teacher for pupil.’ ‘Work ethic’ .. and all the rest. Worthy and true, but we’ve been there before, so many times. But, skilful instructor that we had, he spotted instantly that we’d all been there, done …… I’ll spare you the cliché. He had his Powerpoint presentation, but skimmed over whole pages – “don’t need to tell you about that, it’s in the hand-out. Let’s talk about what it really means.”

Two and a quarter hours (no one minded that it overran) well spent. I found myself asking lots of questions and stating quite a lot of opinions/facts (hey, with me, aren’t they the same thing? heh heh), some of which were really quite pertinent. I also asked my nasty question, which was ducked the last time I asked it (which I mentioned).

“If a pupil has been excluded from one school and you have a place available, the Local Authority can compel you to accept him/her. However, what is the legal position if the exclusion has been for physical violence against another pupil or member of staff, and the Governing Body fears that it could happen again?” He replied that the LA can still oblige the school to take the pupil. “What if it happens again, the parent or teacher finds that there was a demonstrable risk and sues? Whose is the liability.” He did a bit of sensible fudging. “So, if the Head and the Governors refuse to take the pupil, but are overruled, they are in the clear? It will be the LA that will be sued?”

He said, for a definitive answer, that it would be necessary to consult the legal department of the LA. I apologised for asking a mean question, said that my school has been well supported by the LA and they only do what the Government tells them.

My speciality is in being absolutely horrible and then being awfully nice. Wrong-foots people. I’m good cop, bad cop, all on my own.

At the end, I gave him a top-notch evaluation (we have a Sheet of Judgment to fill in), except that he didn’t give out the hand-outs until the end. I said that I can see why, he doesn’t want us to read rather than listen, but it means your notes are on a separate piece of paper, rather than against the item they are relevant to. I also said the room was too hot, but that was on a different evaluation.

Another full day tomorrow, a meeting all morning, shop all afternoon and Women’s Institute in the evening. I’m doing the table flowers. I’m sorry to say that I will probably buy four pretty flowering pot plants, rather than spend an hour arranging flowers.

11 comments on “Z asks awkward questions

  1. Anonymous

    what always amazes me about the UK’s educational system is that it has tried (at its best, id like to believe) to always cover not just the academical development of the kids, but the other things that are often ignored by others but are actually very critical to a child’s growing up process.
    i am speaking to the extent of how i compared it back here. but then, im live in a third world country.
    i guess, to that extent, it is not comparable. – maggie

  2. Imperatrix

    Good questions, z. I think you need to be the good cop/bad cop if you want people to answer your first question well, and then answer any subsequent questions rather than ignore your hand!

    BTW, I think the potted plant idea is very good. No dead flowers later…

  3. Dandelion

    Of course they shouldn’t give out the evaluation forms until the end. Otherwise, people might fill it in before they’d heard the whole thing, and that wouldn’t be fair on the speaker.

  4. Z

    Hello Maggie – you accidentally posted your comment twice, so I deleted the second one.

    Yes, you’re right, and I think that we undervalue that. It is necessary to get the right balance and there is a tendency on the part of government to be very prescriptive and overload the requirements made of schools, so that nothing is done well enough. There are proposals coming out now that could radically change things – for the better if they are well handled but it could herald a vast and disastrous experiment. I’ll be writing about that soon.

    Imperatrix – that particular one arose from a situation two or three years ago when the governors’ reluctance to take on a particular pupil – and we’re not the sort to do that lightly – was overruled. I’m afraid the pupil was, subsequently, permanently excluded again because, despite loads of support and attempts at really practical strategies, the behaviour was too detrimental to the rest of the school.

    Sorry, Dandelion, I didn’t make myself clear. I meant that, at the end, we were given all the information sheets, which he had put up on the screen and we’d discussed. I made notes on the discussion, but if I’d made them against the relevant point, they would be much easier to refer back to. Yes, I could write them all up, but I bet I won’t get round to it. Most lecturers give them out at the start or at the appropriate part of the session.

    Evaluation sheets always are handed out at the end, as they should be.

  5. Imperatrix

    I think in most cases, overruling the ones “on the ground”, so to speak, is a bad thing to do. At the Consort’s University, the Environmental Studies Program were starting up an Eco House (and the Consort was on the selection committee) and rejected one of the applicants. The Housing Office, a few months later, let the rejected student take a room in the house (one more rent fee, dontcha know). Well, he’s been such a fiasco (can a person be a fiasco?) that the two students who were most “eco” in the house moved out, and hte experiment has been called a failure by the Housing Office — but it was *their* fault for overriding hte committee!

    i would imagine that a physically violent younger person would wreak even more havoc in a school.

  6. PI

    I hope you are as tough at the WI. The sheer inane waffle at TG caused me to call it a day after twelve years. Someone like you would have livened things up.

  7. ldbug

    My mom was a school teacher for many years and the main problem she encountered time and again was no-one bothers to listen to the teachers. All the administrators and gov officials think they know best. Really, teachers need more of a voice.

  8. Z

    Our school has a very good reputation for supporting children with ‘issues’ and deciding to refuse a pupil was not done lightly.

    To be fair, the Local Authority has done a great deal in the past year or two to support schools to enable them to find a way to manage these pupils. It’s all a matter of what you call it – an *alternative curriculum* is now the way of keeping them out of trouble.

    Pat, we’re all a pretty lively bunch at Denton WI. I’ve had a lot of fun there over the years. The main rule is that we don’t sing ‘Jerusalem.’ And we do really good food, no tea and biscuits for us. Last month, it was home-made soup. I usually skip dinner on WI nights.

  9. Z

    Hello, Ldbug, thanks for dropping in. That is exactly it, and for quite a few years the government (one after another) kept changing things, which was unsettling for staff and pupils.

    There are some very interesting proposals coming up and time will tell whether the Powers That Be have the courage to let go and encourage schools to choose their own way of implementing them.

  10. Dandelion

    Aha! Now I understand. Thank you z.

    In the light of That Previous Post of yours, I can’t help wondering whether there’s been an increase, say, since my day, in the numbers of “difficult” pupils and exclusions? It feels like there has, but I’ve no idea if it’s true.

  11. Z

    Yes, Dandelion, there has been an increase and some of the reason is that the government has had a policy of closing ‘special’ schools in the name of inclusion. This has its good points, but of course they couldn’t resist the temptation to save money too and have not given it all to schools for support in looking after children with problems, whether physical, mental or behavioural, or a combination. For example an autistic child can have a range of different problems.

    This is the reason Ruth Kelly has been so greatly criticised for sending her child to a private school because his state school cannot cope with his dyslexia. She, as education secretary, busily closed the specialist education units, saying that ordinary state schools could cope.

    Having said this, a school like mine goes to great length to support children, even those with quite severe handicaps or serious difficulties with coping socially or educationally. Some of them can cope in mainstream education and not all of them behave badly, of course. Unfortunately, all learning, behaviour and physical problems are lumped under the same heading of Special Educational Needs.

    Blimey, I have been doing this job too long. I’ll shut up now. As lovely John Ebdon (before your time) used to say, “if you have been, thanks for listening.”


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