I’ve been getting some very interesting comments from a “Parent with Standards”. These comments have have been relating to bullying, bullying and good behaviour.
I agree with many of the points made in these comments but I’m intrigued by a couple of things to do with the choice of pseudonym.
Are you suggesting that there are very few parents with standards? or
Are you suggesting that we – in education – don’t have standards?
Either way I think you underestimate your peers and the teaching profession. A recurring point you make throughout your comments is the need for Consistency. You will be pleased to know that this is the first principle of our 5Cs which should characterise our approach to education in East Lothian – the others are Consistency; Collegiality; Creativity; and Collective Reponsibility.
You obviously have strong opinions about education and about bullying. Can I suggest a couple of options?
1. Why not start keeping a blog on exc-el – we only have one parent at the moment see guineapigmum; or
2. Contact me and we should meet to discuss your concerns.
Lastly – we do adopt a zero tolerance approach towards bullying and you should be complaining to your school if you feel it is not being tackled properly – or alternatively complain to me. You might be surprised but we actually welcome complaints – it’s one of the key ways in which we can improve our service.
I’ve been reading some of these posts from the shadows and feel I must comment. I was bullied at school (a long time ago) and my child is currently bullied at an East Lothian primary school.
Firstly, your office may well pass down a zero tolerance policy to the schools but it is not what happens on the ground. Bullying is tolerated in the sense of ineffective warnings issued to the culprits and the problem grinds on for months and years.
But, and it’s a big but, it sounds like the debate and the policy is simply misdirected. Bullies exist for various psychological and sociological reasons related to their home environment. The education department can’t and shouldn’t try to address the issue from those directions, it’s overwhelming and will not solve the problem.
What goes wrong in school is that the bullies are given the opportunity to bully. There are few examples of bullying in class when the teacher is present. It’s in the corridors and the playground where it all takes place. This is the problem, lack of supervision.
I know there are posts for playground supervisors and I know that these posts often go unfilled. That’s the reason but schools seem to treat it as the end of the story, “sorry, can’t fill the vacancy, nothing we can do.” What happened to the school’s legal duty of care they have for each pupil? Does someone have to die first, as usual?
So Don, here’s your real mission. Fill those vacancies OR find an alternative other than doing nothing. Bullies don’t compassionately take a break when the school doesn’t monitor the playground and corridors.
You should join me and start an Excel parent blog. Whilst it might not solve your immediate problem, you could guarantee yourself a wider audience to raise and discuss the issues. I am a firm believer that bringing issues right out into the public domain is one of the best ways to promote change.
Thanks for you comment. I’m going to post a reply about bullying on my blog.
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I am a parent myself and also a teacher in a school in East Lothian where we have difficulties sometimes with children getting along together. I really feel for you, because I know how I felt when my child was struggling at school. I would like to reassure you that if parents keep reporting bullying incidents something will get done about them. I would hate the parent of one of the children that I teach, to feel that we just shrug our shoulders and blame lack of playground supervisors. Sometimes it helps if there’s a collection of evidence, so keep on telling the school when there’s a problem.
Best wishes, Jane.
A picture tells a thousand words!
There is great debate in the blosgsphere which is wonderful to see and I am grateful for your support.
To answer you former post Don. My choice of pseudonym was random: “I am a parent”, “I believe in standards of behaviour”, thus the pseudonym was easily chosen.
To answer your questions: “Are you suggesting that there are very few parents with standards?” No, I am not suggesting this for the vast majority of parents out there, however for a small minority, definitely yes.
“Are you suggesting that we – in education – don’t have standards?” No, I am not suggesting this collectively. Where discipline and standards of behaviour are concerned, I feel standards have slipped with the demise of the cane and strap – and there is no effective or proven strategy available – an interesting summary from The Guardian on Tuesday January 9, 2007 is worth reading: http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,1985221,00.html.
Your 5Cs strategic profile has a clear-cut and compelling tagline. Clearly there is focus from the East Lothian Education Department, however theory aside, it’s the application which is crucial here otherwise it will be difficult to communicate and become muddled at ground level. I would like to see what this involves on a practical level.
With regards to our son, the school have been very helpful in assisting us and we are grateful for their understanding support. Our concern is with the punitive measures available to the school. The amount of time and effort required by many parents and teachers to pursue incident after incident with the ongoing ever-present threat on a daily basis is frustrating.
To be more specific, football privileges are lost for a couple of days; they are put on “Black Clouds”; they lose “Golden Time”; they lose the privilege to attend the residential week course which is then reinstated if they demonstrate that they have been incident free. In essence, as soon as they have gained this privilege back, bully and sidekick will be bullying my son and his friend again.
The amount of unnecessary activity in not dealing with these disruptive children involves a mountain of paperwork for the teacher, the school, the social work department and the parents who have to record these incidents and write copious letters. Equally, our son’s understanding that authority will protect him is eroded as he views our efforts as futile and his teacher’s efforts as weak. On top of this is the loss of teaching time, the loss of our time rescheduling work commitments and using holiday time to attend school meetings. This is all unnecessary stress. I can only conclude that there is a fear in confronting bullies, power has been given to them and the education authority vacillates between one approach and another.
Why can’t we move bullies from one school to another within the Education Authority, keep them moving, keep them unsettled, and keep their parents inconvenienced instead of us? Another thought, why can’t there be one class within each primary school where all bullies and disruptive pupils are sent to and looked after by a strong teacher. They remain in these satellite classes, undertake their daily year work and have different playtimes and lunchtimes and are kept separate from their peers. They will then be required too earn the privilege to join their peers and join school society. Some ideas thrown into the ring. I am sure there are many teachers out there and parents as well who could proffer better ideas to solve this problem on a practical level.
The last paragraph there makes me think of the Stanford Uni experiment (later made into a really disturbing German film, Das Experiment). They took around 20 or 30 male students from the campus at random and then put half in prison uniforms and half in guard uniforms. They left them to it. The experiment had to be called to a halt because each group had adopted the behaviour they thought they were expected to have: the prisoners meek but secretly militant and desperate to fight back, the guards assuming more and more brutal power and, without realising their transformation, becoming socially unacceptable.
This is what happens to youngsters if they are constantly in ‘bottom sets’ or ‘special classes’. It reinforces the very behaviour we are trying to educate them not to copy, whether they are copying that behaviour from home, the street or somewhere else.
We are here to educate every child, give all children our unconditional positive regard and support to do the best that they can do. That goes for those who struggle the most and those who could excel a lot more than they currently are. Segregation is certainly not the answer. The answer is far more complex, though, than this already long comment can handle. I feel a post coming on… 😉
Stanford Uni Experiment page: http://www.prisonexp.org/
Thank you for responding. I have been reading your blogs too.
Interesting point you make – the experiment you mention is in the question “What happens when you put good people in an evil place?” You have to question who the good people are and where is the evil place in the school scenario?
I assume you are questioning satellite classrooms as an ineffective behavioural/educational model. Are you touching on inclusion here too? You say that segregation is not the answer and that giving all children unconditional positive regard is what is required.
Every child is different. You have to have separate classrooms to address some of their needs. If you lump children altogether you address a mass audience; you leave many at the fringes straining to get ahead as well as those lower down frustrated at underachieving.
My first son is moderately Asperger and very intelligent. He is very focused on his school work but because the bullies in his class have not been excluded, he is subject to their attentions which is a significant drag on his progress – quite apart from the physical abuse that he has to suffer.
My second son is Dyslexic and also extremely intelligent, yet he is in the bottom sets for language and maths. They get only one hour of satellite classroom work each week – which is tragic.
So, just considering my two sons, you can see why satellite classrooms are needed. Satellite the bullies and offer more help for dyslexic pupils.
Parent with Standards
I can see your point and it makes me think there’s a vicious circle that needs broken… somehow. It’s not the place that represents the ‘evil’ here, but the role which has been assigned or assumed (which one is the question). I’m now reading Blink from Malcolm Gladwell where he reports on some other social experimentation based around the cues which we receive from others and how, even when these cues are over in milliseconds, they can heavily affect the way that individual operates. The same point was made with the ‘broken windows’ analogy of New York’s graffiti ridden trains in ‘Tipping Point’.
What tends to happen in the ineffective classroom is that the most unsubtle anti-social or anti-learning elements are removed fairly quickly, but the low-level poor discipline, including what might be bullying, either goes unnoticed or the teacher can feel, rightly or wrongly, that picking up on every instance is actually more destructive to the learning of the class than pounding through and ‘getting to the end’.
This last way of dealing with the issue is not one I would choose, and I know many great teachers who choose the ‘zero tolerance’ interpretation of current policy. I don’t think the zero-tolerance approach is uniformly adopted, though.
Where does this leave us? It takes me back to the New York subway example. There, the mayor insisted on complete zero-tolerance to graffiti – if it were found it would be washed immediately, even if that meant that there were fewer trains on the lines and people would be delayed getting home. No train would leave the hangar until it was clean again. Ticket dodgers, who individually were only creating a minor loss to the city, actually collectively represented the main reason there was not enough money to improve services. By setting plain-clothed officers at ticket turnstiles and lining up the guilty in long lines before bussing them off to the precinct for fines, a very visual and relentless deterrent was set in place, even though this in itself drew officers away from the ‘firefighting’ on the underground itself.
Did it matter? No, because after some minor loss of service and discomfort, the firefighting approach was no longer needed – things had got cleaned up in all sorts of ways.
Is there a lesson in there for schools’ management and teachers, and what is the relative role of management in this?