Education wrongs

Via Longrider, a fascinating story on the BBC site that bears a bit of dissection. A school in Darlington has banned a 16-year-old pupil from attending the end-of-year-dance. Why? Because her parents declined the offer of extra study sessions on the basis that:

their daughter was already a high achiever who did not need the burden of extra classes.

Sounds pretty reasonable, unlike the response they received:

Headteacher Dean Judson then wrote to them saying their daughter would be excluded from any “other voluntary activities” at the school.

“Voluntary”? Not according to this man:

School chief executive Eamonn Farrar said the extra study sessions were made compulsory five years ago.

Really? So they took a unilateral decision to extend the school’s hours without any consultation? Then why ask for parental consent? Possibly because it’s not true, and they don’t mean ‘compulsory; they mean ‘coerced’. Bit of a difference.

Mr Farrar goes on to say:

“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.”

Given that the girl in question is already doing just fine academically, the criterion in operation seems to be blind obedience rather than anything to do with education, and ‘We will make you do as we say, even if our actions are unjustifiable’ sounds perilously close to bullying.

He rounds off with a real groan-inducing cut’n’paste from an early Blunkett speech:

“At the school we have standards and we extend these to the children. They have rights but they also have responsibilities too.”

Well, you know us, we’re happy to talk about rights any time. The school might want to take a look at Article 29 of the UNCRC. How does attending ‘compulsory’ and unnecessary lessons contribute to a child’s development? Prepare her for life in a ‘free society’? And how does such woolly, muddled thinking assist her intellectual development? One can only hope that the teaching that goes on in the school is of a rather higher standard than the thinking displayed here by its leadership.

The former UN education rapporteur reduced education rights down to a very simple ‘4As’ framework, presumably so that even the daftest could understand. Education should be: Available, Accessible, Adaptable and Acceptable to both parents and child. The extra sessions were not acceptable, so it’s the school that is breaching rights here. Maybe Messrs Farrar and Judson should pay a visit to the Right to Education site and do some extra lessons.


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