John Walker's Electronic House

We Do Need An Education

by on May.19, 2006, under The Rest

Ok, comments on this again.

For the last three years I worked with a number of the young people now affected by this stupid and irrational decision. One of the more awkward parts of being a youth worker, and occasionally working within the school, was while finding myself entirely agreeing with the teenagers’ assessment of their new head, I had to remain professional in my responses.

My main position was to encourage them to work together to protest any number of his ridiculous and draconian random-o-rules in an organised and mature manner that their headteacher appeared incapable of. If they were reasoned, he would look even more out of line. But I confess that on some of his more ludicrous new rules (a typical behaviour by someone who wishes to assume power without authority), I was unable to not splutter in surprise.

This latest, and hopefully last, action goes beyond all belief.

In suspending the entire Year 11, literally forcing 173 pupils out of the school grounds in the middle of one of their lessons, because of a few end-of-school pranks, Colquhoun has asserted his failure to lead the school. The innumerous new measures and rules he introduced over the last few years have all failed to demonstrate either an understand of the behaviour of teenagers, and more crucially, in no way listened to what the young people had to say.

The usual last-day-of-school-ever pranks were all it took. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t have the fire alarm set off in their final week, and usually an awful lot worse. To not be expecting it demonstrates ignorance. To not know who was responsible demonstrates poor management. Every pupil in the school will know who did it – therefore that not one teacher knows is extremely unlikely.

However, in this instance the bell was set off during Oxford entrance exams, which carries complications. Obviously there are measures in place for such an event – indeed, had there been a genuine fire, I sincerely doubt that people would be penalised for not burning to their deaths in order to qualify – but it clearly made the prank carry more serious implications. Unfortunately, rather than stop and think, the head simply lashed out, and has now caused the Year 11 to miss out on saying goodbye to their teachers, each other, and to have the last-day celebrations they’ll have looked forward to for years. The punishment he presumably intends. But more importantly, they miss out on the last two days’ worth of exam preparation, are unable to access their revision notes left in the school, and perhaps most significantly, are demoralised as a year group moments before their crucial exams begin.

In an astonishing display of the complete lack of thought or management behind his rash and cruel decision, Colquhoun told the furious parents and upset pupils, “Only six lessons have been lost from the original plans. We are not talking about a bodyblow to their GCSEs.”

Yes you are. You’re talking about demoralising a year group because of the actions of the few, due to terrible management skills (incredibly, he also said, “The school had become unmanageable”), refusing them access to their revision notes for no discernable or rational reason, and refusing them the right to those last six lessons of vital exam preparation. THAT is a bodyblow to their GCSEs.

21 Comments for this entry

  • Lewis

    Aww, but this was a good rant.

  • Maddy

    As I was saying…

    They were really upset that they couldn’t go to the leavers assembly because some of them were leaving to live abroad, or moving to a different school.

    Colquhoun has recently put up some MORE fences (to match with the huge blue ones that cage in the pupils) around the garden areas so that people cannot eat outside on the grass. He has also installed a huge clock on the side of one of the buildings, and put in a flagpole. The current flag is the german flag. And I am being serious…

  • Madeleine

    As I was saying…

    They were really upset that they couldn’t go to the leavers assembly because some of them were leaving to live abroad, or moving to a different school.

    Colquhoun has recently put up some MORE fences (to match with the huge blue ones that cage in the pupils) around the garden areas so that people cannot eat outside on the grass. He has also installed a huge clock on the side of one of the buildings, and put in a flagpole. The current flag is the german flag. And I am being serious…

  • Martin Coxall

    What did I miss?

    Was John being inadvisably bourgeois again?

  • Paul S.

    Oh. I missed it, and I like your rants. Can we have it back? Please? Pretty please?

    Also, almost the exact same thing happened to me at t’end of year 11. Spooky.

  • Defragged

    I had a (false) fire alarm go off during a GCSE science exam a few years ago. Great fun. We all had to make our way into the carpark and then stand in an outwards facing circle in an attempt to stop us from twitching eyebrows at each other in morse code or something. Not a major disruption at all. In fact, we all got extra time because of it.

  • Maddy

    There was a science practical that was interrupted. I don’t think they got extra time.

  • admin

    Then they need to complain as strongly as possible, as there HAVE to be measures in place for interruptions. As I say, if there were a real fire, would they penalise the students? Well, your head probably would…

  • DaveT

    I was talking after church to one of the teachers there (albeit having gone to the pub first)

    Seems that their school had been having problems with the year 11 end time for years. However, a new headmaster (I believe) came up with a cunning idea. Basically organise a huge leaving party, £20 to enter, paid a while in advance. Any poor behaviour led to exclusion from the event without a refund.

    Apparently this works very well. They haven’t had any trouble for years.

    (It’s some school in Bristol, no idea which though)

    Mysefl, since only about 4 people left the school after GCSE’s, no problem that way. A-level leavers was another matter. We’d always try to find something new, so fire alarms were out (As were maggots in the kitchen ). In the end we ended up giving a day off school for the youngest pupils. Needless to say, this didn’t go down too terribly well with the headmaster. And closed off various areas of the school with gas tape.

  • admin

    How did you manage to give pupils the day off school?

    The end of GCSEs was really the leaving day at my school, despite about 200 of the 300 in the year group going on to the sixth form. We signed shirts and generally celebrated the end of school uniform. End of 6th form and there was none of that – it all petered out into revision and panic.

  • Chris

    From what I remember about the “last” day at school for GCSE type people it was all the kids in years 9 and 10 that got up to hijinks, we were all to busy getting ready to go out later.

    Likewise for Alevels, exams were all modular, so the last 6 months was just a bit of a blur, admittedly cos a lot of it was spent in the pub. Certainly we were in the pub for the end of year assembly.

    Visited my old school with its new headmaster a few years back. What used to be lovely grounds bordering onto local woods, playing fields and the sport centre is now a dirty great big green cage. Not sure if it’s to keep people out or in. Talking to my kid brother he makes AS levels sound like working in a call centre with all the silly rules the new head imposed (targets, bonuses, etc based on attendance, handins, good behaviour) I can’t help but feel it’s not really giving the kids much sense of responsibility.


  • David

    I think one of the more inventive (6th form) ones was a few years ago when they led a cow from one of the nearby fields up the stairs and into our hall. Apparently, cows have joints that make it tricky to walk back down staircases.
    Then there were mildly dangerous see-through tripwire in the corridors and egg-and-flour fights.
    Surprising given the excrutiatingly dull nature of our school, most of the time.

    Back to your point though, you would have thought that they could’ve just found out who did these things and punish them instead. Obviously I’m not well versed in teaching procedure etc. but punishing an entire year group does seem a teeny bit panicked.

    Ooh – I’ve just remembered the myth of laxatives in the lunch water jugs.

  • Clare

    There are measures in place for exam interruptions from fire bells etc. The school should contact the exam board and let them know what happened so they can take it into consideration when marking. If the school hasn’t done that the sixth formers taking that exam should pressure them to.

    If Yr 11 can’t get to their notes – which is just maddness – then maybe those students or their parents should contact the exam boards individually, have their candidate and school centre number ready, and report it. If hundreds of candidates complain about one school then they surely can’t ignore it, and even if they can’t get their notes back, there is a chance the markers will take it into consideration. The school are acting crazily…maybe the exam boards will have more sense. (That means placing faith in EdExcel though, which is a scary prospect).

    If that doesn’t work I guess the only thing left is to complain to the LEA. To ban pupils from the school is not ‘starting study leave two days early’ – during study leave all pupils should have access to the schools resources, libraries, IT rooms etc.. It is permanently excluding them. Any permanent exclusion has to be approved by the governors and the LEA notified. Hundreds of permanent exclusions at once should warrant investigation!

  • Maddy

    They were told that they had 10 minutes to leave the school grounds, otherwise further actions would be taken.

    [DaveT – which teacher?]

  • DaveT

    (To Admin)

    After 8 or so years in the school we knew what the official letters looked like really well, so we spent a fiar while of free periods etc painstakingly recreating a school letter saying something along the lines of “For so and so reason, all pupils in the junior school have the day off”. The letter looked absolutely convincing and used the correct school language. We then managed to distribute them somehow (I don’t know how, I wasn’t involved in this)

    All in all it went fairly well. Apparently quite a few were convinced, even more were convinced except a notice appeared in _big_ letters on the main noticeboard saying that the letter was a hoax. But this only appeared after school on the penultimate day, so many may have missed it.

    The school did seem a bit emptier the last day (and we then went for drive by shootings with water pistols and the like, was great fun)

    Our school had a great history for pranks. If it was clever/good natured, they would generally turn a blind eye. Partly due to this, the general level of behaviour was good. (But probably mainly due to the school fees) In this case, they managed to find one of the boys responsible, as he had a deleted version of the letter on his hard drive, and gave him a rather large warning (“Anything more and you won’t be allowed back for exams”), due to “Forging of the headmasters signature. Afterwards, many teachers came up to congratulate him in an unofficial capacity though.

    (To Maddy)
    Paul Welch. He’s a general dude an’ all.

  • Lewis

    Incidentally, is Brian on study leave?

  • David

    Been kicked out.

  • Graham

    We had a water balloon fight on the last day of school. Inside, too.

  • Chiarina

    As grilly may or may not remember (he’s not so good at remembering things sometimes). the night before our last day of school before GSCEs, someone sprayed the war memorial in front of the staff block with red paint; rumour quickly got round that in fact those responsible were a couple of boys who had been ‘asked to leave’ the school the year before; however, after we had all been assembled, first thing, in the hall, and been told off thoroughly by heads of year/ headteacher, all our celebrations were cancelled and we all spent the day in our classrooms, doing nothing – in my case, with our form teacher Mrs Jones crying because she felt so wretched about how we had all been treated. I don’t even remember what we had planned, but it caused a terrible amount of bad feeling.

  • Tediworrier

    At the end of our Lower 6th Summer exams we met in the veneing and went to a pub. we were all “almost 18”.
    Before we could by a drink some male teachers came in and told us to leave.
    The next day we were summoned to the Head Masters study who told us how we had let down the school.
    All 8 of us were carted off to the Physics lab from where we we were individually interogated.
    Our parents were summoned to see the Head Master. My mother and another father shredded the Head’s ego, telling him that we were not in uniform, it was not in school time and we had not broken the law so what exactky was his problem.
    He said that we hads broken a school rule. They asked to see the rules and were told that they were unwritten.
    The result was that we would not be expelled but we would not be made prefects.
    Probably to rub it in, we were the only Upper 6thformers not to be prefects.
    Result: every lunchtime and every Breaktime we did not have to stand on stairs being insulted by First-Formers ….. BUT … I was not able to put “PREFECT” on my Universities Clearing application …. but on the other hand neither could I put Headboy nor Captain of the Hockey team. ….never seemed that much of a punishment …..except that I did have the burden of shame to bear, apparently.

  • Tediworrier

    I suspect that they gave me enough A Levels to get me out of the place without having too much to celebrate …. but then I have always believed that they gave me degree to get rid me, too