12 April 2007

Conscription in Action

A fine example of educational conscription in action, displaying a considerable degree of both mean-spiritedness and confusion about what the words 'voluntary' and 'compulsory' mean. The BBC reports that

An A-grade pupil has been banned from her school prom because her parents refused to allow her to attend extra revision lessons.

Kayleigh Baker, 16, has also been thrown off the netball team at Hurworth School, near Darlington, County Durham, as punishment for the decision.
There seems to be a certain amount of confusion about the status of these extra revision classes; according to the report,
A school governor has quit in protest but the school insists the tough line on extra study benefits pupils.

It says teachers have the final decision on who attends the classes,
which makes it sound as if these sessions are reserved for those whom the teachers think really need them and who won't revise unless they're forced so to do. However, it transpires later on in the article that
The row started last June when the school asked all year 11 parents to sign a form allowing their children to attend the sessions.

Kayleigh's parents, Kay and Ellis, did not sign, saying their daughter was already a high achiever who did not need the burden of extra classes.
The Daily Telegraph explains,
The issue first arose last June when Kayleigh, a prefect, brought home a contract requiring her to attend revision classes. After a family discussion her father amended the document to allow her an element of choice, and then returned it with a covering letter.

The school's head, Dean Judson, wrote back to say the teenager would be precluded from attending all other "voluntary" activities.

These have included next month's school prom, and her role as a volunteer on a school trip to Wales for younger children. Kayleigh was, however, allowed to attend an achievement ceremony where she collected five awards.

Mr Judson, who in successive school reports has lauded Kayleigh's academic performance as "brilliant", was unavailable for comment.
So here we have a situation where the girl's parents -- who would, of course, be able to give their permission for her to get married -- don't think she needs the extra classes, not least because she's apparently over-working herself anyway, and the girl herself -- whom the school must think is pretty responsible since they've made her a prefect -- clearly doesn't want to attend them, but she's to be punished, nevertheless, for declining the opportunity.

The school's 'Chief Executive' (a post distinct from that of Head Teacher, it seems) rather lets the cat out of the bag when he explains,
the extra study sessions were made compulsory five years ago.

He said: "If we were to give the children the choice of attending the extra study sessions, what do you think the response would be? They wouldn't attend.

"At the school we have standards and we extend these to the children. They have rights but they also have responsibilities too."
Bloody funny sort of rights, if you ask me. Seems that the girl's meeting the necessary standards -- A grades, five awards, made a prefect and so on -- so what rights are these to which this Chief Executive wallah alludes, other than, perhaps, the right not to be punished if she does what the school tells her to?

The Northern Echo has further and better particulars;
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills yesterday declined to say if the school will face action over the move.

"We don't want to discuss hypothetical situations about whether the school will be penalised or not," he said.

"It is a matter for the school, but after-school revision should be voluntary.

"If revision classes are held during school hours they can be mandatory, but if they are held after school hours, they should be voluntary."
I don't see why the school shouldn't be penalised; after all, they seem to be the ones stepping out of line by punishing the girl for not taking part in a 'voluntary' activity. Nevertheless, says the Northern Echo,
there was support for the school from [the local MP] Tony Blair's office yesterday, as the Prime Minister's constituency agent, John Burton, defended the school's stance.
On quite what grounds he defended them I do not know, since he isn't directly quoted, but here's what the Chief Executive chap had to say to The Telegraph
"We know what is best for the children, and that is why we make them go to these lessons. If one child doesn't go to them it will have a massive effect on the other children. It might affect their life chances".
It's certainly had a massive effect on this poor girl; The Northern Echo quotes her;
Yesterday, Kayleigh said: "I have only got 18 days left of school and now I can't wait to leave."


Fabian Tassano said...

Extraordinary case. Highly illuminating about current educational ideology, methinks. Poor Kayleigh.

Paul said...

"We know what is best for the children, and that is why we make them go to these lessons. If one child doesn't go to them it will have a massive effect on the other children. It might affect their life chances".

Talk about tipping one's hand! It also sounds as though that last sentence was an afterthought.

And "life chances"? Would that be the same as "career prospects"? Why does it sound more like "life expectancy" or "likelihood of survival"? ...Yet another example of emotive linguistic mangling.

Roger Thornhill said...

I had a go at the term "life chances" recently.