I’ve been told by one of our Thanet teachers that in the absence of special schools, the provision for ‘special needs’ places in several of our local schools will increase significantly this year. This demand being driven by the introduction of children from outside of Thanet by Social Services.
As a note of caution I can’t confirm this independently but I suppose it’s worth noting too that The Sunday Times reports that a quarter of children still leave primary school having failed to achieve the required standard in reading and maths, despite the fact that the literacy test has got easier. Under the present government, poorer children have suffered; the proportion of pupils qualifying for free school meals who get five good GCSEs is less than one in three.
Since Labour came to power, independent schools have prospered because for many parents they offer the only route to a decent education.
Research by Professor David Jesson of the University of York demonstrates just how badly the schools once described by Alastair Campbell as “bog standard” fail the brightest and best. The key influence on performance, Professor Jesson found, was peer ability. An able pupil in a class of low achievers gets dragged down to the level of the rest. Even the brightest child will be corrupted by being in a noisy and disruptive class, full of fellow pupils who do not care about learning and whose parents don’t care, either. Put that same pupil in a class of equally bright and eager students and his or her performance is transformed. When 20 pupils from the most able 5% were put together in the same class, their achievement at GCSE averaged seven A or A* grades.
Intuitively, I believe we all know that when children are put in classes with troublesome and low achievers they suffer. I’ve observed this myself, both as pupil and one-time teacher and I worry that in areas of Thanet where children with a track record of problems may be artificially “introduced” into the community, the numbers with behavioural problems may further hurt the chances of children who are already struggling.
Perhaps some of teachers who read this weblog can comment. First is it correct that certain schools are having to absorb more than their “fair share” of children with learning and behavioural difficulties and secondly, if it’s true, should we then, as a community simply accept this as necessary, a fact of life in our welfare society,that Thanet is one of the places best-suited for the re-location and education of a minority that should be welcomed rather than challenged?
On a different note, teachers in England will soon be given the right to discipline unruly schoolchildren outside the school gates. Behaviour on buses and trains will also be targeted under government plans to clarify and extend teachers' powers. The new 'right to discipline' will give teachers and support staff a clear legal right to restrain pupils with reasonable force and confiscate 'inappropriate items' outside schools without fear of repercussions. Officials say the aim is to reduce the, 'You can't do anything to me, Miss,' attitude in and out of the classroom..