How an earth do I get myself into these situations, I’m not entirely sure if it is because I care more than most or if I’m just unlucky or just stubborn but I have become one of those people I always swore I wouldn’t. I have become the interfering, grumpy old man.
I’m going to give a bit of background information here before I launch into my full blown rant mode.
My older son the Monkey Boy attends a day nursery which is located within the grounds of a local high school, this high school is publicly funded but privately run as a business and here lies our first problem, they have targets to achieve in order to continue to receive the government funding required to make them profitable.
Anyway that’s the very basic background of why I have become involved in a local high school so I’ll go into my story of why I am shocked and displeased with the education system.
I didn’t know much about the school or academy when I decided to send my son to the the nursery, they are unrelated to each other in any way other than sharing the same premises so didn’t think it all that relevant.
The school itself is undergoing extensive renovations so large parts of it are closed off while they knock down old buildings, erect new ones etc and the administration block and a percentage of the classes are taking place in prefab temporary structures and there is a large presence of site traffic and builder types.
None of this is a major issue other than The Monkey Boy’s obsession with diggers, which he will shout repeatedly whenever he sees one and if they leave his vision or he thinks about them he will instead shout digger gone or digger all gone which is actually quite sweet even for the millionth time. His vocabulary is now expanding daily and the digger obsession is easily distracted by something else he sees now anyway be it a neenaw (fire engine) or copter’ (pretty much anything in the sky but better if it is actually a helicopter)
I’d initially been quite impressed with the school with staff on the gate in the mornings checking the state of the students uniforms and contents of their bags etc. etc. but since this current term began I have been forced to report two instances of groups of pupils fighting outside of the nursery block and then on Monday morning having dropped off The Monkey Boy and about to head back to the hospital to look after The Bug (see my previous post) that I witnessed a young man and he was a young man well over six foot and although gangly not a kid by any stretch of the imagination punch a female pupil in the face.
I was incensed, I was enraged, I very nearly punched him on her behalf but instead what I believed to be common sense prevailed, note the use of the past tense there. Anyway I instead frog marched this young man across the playground in front of all of his friends berating him on his behaviour and handed him over to a member of the faculty who I later learned was called Mr Northern County, well he isn’t but it’s close enough and will do for the purposes of this narrative.
The following morning with The Bug still in hospital and my blood still up I decided to make a formal complaint to the school which I did and asked for the head teacher to contact me to discuss what was being done about these levels of violence. Remember I am on school premises for a maximum of twenty minutes a day and only walk through the very public areas. I dread to think what is going on in the quieter corners of the school. The school secretary assured me that she would pass my complaint on the headmaster Mr Litebeer and he would be in touch to discuss my concerns.
Later that morning I received a call from Mrs Dragon, Mr Litebeer’s PA, she began getting my heckles up by saying that Mr Litebeer was too busy to call me personally but that the school had a policy of restorative justice which you can read more about in that link and that because the pupils were confined by the building works etc. etc. they are going to play up and that once these building works were finished they would become sweet and lovely children and that they were not doing anything different in this time as it was all going to be hunky dory once the builders were gone and all the kids would love each other and become decent and upstanding members of society.
Rather impolitely I explained to her that she was talking bollocks (I know I don’t normally swear here but I’m really angry so sorry) and that Mr Litebeer had better call me with a better explanation as to what his plans were to get his pupils under control or I would take my complaint further.
Surprise surprise, by the following morning Mr Litebeer had still not bothered to call me despite me following up again the previous evening so on my way to the school I called and said that I was on my way down and would like to meet with Mr Litebeer and that if he couldn’t find five minutes to call me then I would be forced to knock on his office door and interrupt his very important meeting with my complaint.
Instead of this happening though I was met at the school gates by a very nice policeman who we’ll call PC Fred again a psuedonym but you’ll notice not an unflattering one, PC Fred walked with me while I dropped off The Monkey Boy and then invited me to his office to discuss my complaint further. Office, OFFICE, OFFICE I hear you ask, yes his office, PC Fred is permanently based at the school.
PC Fred explained some more background to me, he is not a school spokesman and in reality wanted more info on my complaint but we spoke for an hour or so during which he was extremely frank, fully agreeing that when he first joined as a beat policeman it was the good old days and misbehaving kids were given a clip around the lughole by the Local Bobby which actually gave them respect and fear for the constabluary something that is sorely lacking from todays youth culture. PC Fred being based at the school is copied in on all communications relating to violence and other potentially criminal behaviour at the school. He explained to me that the school had originally been a government school funded by the local authority but had been so unsuccessful that a contract had been given to a private company to try things differently.
All of the senior management had been replaced and this profit making took over changing the school name, it’s uniform but not it’s nasty pupils which it ships in from all over South London and not just the local area. The School is set targets by central government and has to adhere to them in order to keep it’s contract. Key to these targets is they need to reduce the number of permanant exclusions that the local authority had to make. In order to achieve this they use different measures of punishment and have different policies to more traditional schools (read they don’t exclude the kids because that costs them money) and instead do things like separate problem children into a different part of the school and onto different timetables etc, they also as mentioned regularly search the students not only for contraband but to ensure that they have their stationary, books etc as required and ensure they are in the right state of mind to learn.
PC Fred explained to me that as an independant he could not force Mr Litebeer to call me but did agree to attempt to chase him on my behalf. He also obviously had little belief or faith in the softly softly methods employed by the school (which the schools PR Team call “Tough Love” by the way) despite him on the surface backing up their policies. He explained to me that the punching I had witnessed the previous day had been dealt with by the school but that as both parties had independantly denied anything other than horseplay taking place they were unable to place any sanctions on either child despite there being an independant complaining witness.
He did say that the school was meeting with both pupils and that they would be undergoing the afformantioned restorative justice sessions where they would have to sit and explain to each other how they feel about the incident and hopefully prompt an apology and feelings of guilt from him to her. I have my doubts of course. PC Fred also showed me the schools incident report which included the charming quote from Puncher, “why is this man even getting involved it’s none of his business, she kicked me so I pushed her it was just messing around, stupid man” The girls report was similar but said that they had just been messing around like they always did and it was no big deal.
I know I have already said it but this is not what happened, she may or may not have kicked the puncher as I didn’t see it but the punchee received a severe fist punch to the face, why does no one care what I actually saw.
Surprise surprise Mr Litebeer again did not phone me and I placed a call to the schools head office (they run a number of schools for the government around the country) speaking to the HR Manager for the south east who again promised to follow up on my behalf. She agreed with my assesment that it was unlikely that someone could be so busy as to not have five minutes to spare in their day to phone a concerned and upset member of the public, not to mention the welfare of the children.
I also left further messages with Mrs Dragon requesting that Mr Litebeer contact me as soon as possible. One of the above methods obviously worked though as first thing (before 8am) the following morning Mr Litebeer finally saw fit to call me and whilst not apologetic for his lack of earlier response he did take the time to listen to me rant and does agree that the current position is unnaceptable. He still cannot place any sanction on either child because they both deny the incident but he will be adressing an assembly on violence and meeting with both students to discuss the incident further.
He agreed with me that perhaps there can be further consequences for their actions without official sanctions being placed, I have suggested that perhaps letters of appology and even essays on the problems with acceptable violence in youth culture may be appropriate especially given the recent events in the town in which we live. He said that he will consider this and has also agreed for me to meet with him and the pupils concerned in the near future. An appointment has been made for next week and I will report back my discussions with both Mr Litebeer and the puncher and punchee once this has occurred.
I fully intend to be bluntly honest with the students and Mr Litebeer that the actions of the students and Mr Litebeer are unnaceptable to a civilised public and that I am dismayed by the lack of courtesy shown to me as a visitor to the school both by the faculty (by Mr Litebeer in his failure to return my calls in a timely fashion) and the students themselves in thinking that it was acceptable in engage in acts of violence in front of members of the public.
I realise that this post has been longer and more disjointed than many I’ve been composing it in dribs and drabs over the last few days between hospital visits and short breaks in my day, but I’ll come back to my original point that there has to be something wrong with modern society when the government can take control away from a local authority and give it to a profit making business who achieve results by fudging the books to make them money and the government look better with reduced school exclusions because they instead just don’t take any actions.
This school has a police officer permanently based on the premises for gods sakes, I know that I just sound like a cumudgeonly old man but why not bring back proper punishment and teach these kids that there are consequences to their actions, what happened to every action has an equal and opposite reaction, I certainly learned that in school. Yes I fought, I realise that kids do, but I never hit any girls, and if I was caught doing anything wrong, which I innevitably was as the schools were run properly by proffesionals, there were consequences.
I have no objection to running schools as profit making organisations, every school I went to was a private one and yet ahead of these profits there was a deep underlying care for the welfare of the children and how those children in adult life would become better people and in turn bring their kids back to make them more money, as well as reflected glow from high flying pupils who went on to greater things. Now I realise that they largely failed in my case but that doesn’t change the fact that their ethos was right and that this current way of thinking in my mind at least is grossly wrong.
I have ranted on for long enough now, I’ll let you know how I get on next week.
Mr Bunny Chow