A proposed free school in Oldham has become the latest of Gove’s flagship school model to hit the headlines, and this one raises serious concerns over what our society thinks education is for.
The proposal for the Phoenix free school in Oldham involves the school being run entirely by current or ex-services personnel.
This includes the headteacher (the proposed candidate is a captain who has been on tour in Afghanistan), all the teachers and any other staff. There is currently no requirement for free schools to employ qualified teachers.
The rationale for this school is, according to the proposed headteacher, having a zero-tolerance policy for poor behaviour. He says an “official warning” will be given to pupils that talk in class.
This is because “we have got to a point in modern behaviour management where the emphasis is on negotiation between the student and the teacher”.
I’m left asking, why is negotiation a problem? Unless of course you see children as beings that should be seen and not heard, or in fact beaten (physical or not) into submission by adults.
Even more telling, the school’s aims are quoted as being that no student leaves the school with an “inflated sense of self-worth.”
As a teacher, I am quite clear that one of my aims is creating a sense of self-worth and personal security in every child. Why then the idea that our children (or more accurately the children of working-class communities ) should be militarily controlled?
A similar response was seen in response to last August’s riots — demonisation and draconian measures instead of answers to social inequality.
Crime, gang culture and behaviour is an issue in working class communities. But the solution is not to deprive young people of expression and self-worth, when largely they are missing this to start with.
Is education to develop critical thinking, expressive, confident young people with life chances? Or to beat working class kids into submission?
Keep the military out of our kids’ education!