What is the point of going to school?
It’s a question I’m forced to face on a regular basis. Not in a deep philosophical kind of way.
More in the ‘it’s-the-last-week-of-the-summer-holidays-why’ve-we-got-to-go-back-Mum?’ kind of way.
But sometimes it’s worth a bit of the philosophical too.
Particularly when it’s revealed this week that 13,000 kids were ‘offloaded’ by their schools in the weeks leading up to GCSE exam day to ensure they didn’t drag down their school’s results averages.
These were 15 or 16-year-olds suddenly kicked out of schools because head teachers were more concerned about their ratings in the local papers than they were the future of the kids they’d been entrusted to educate.
And then you do wonder what education is all about…
Because trigonometry, Chaucerian prose, tectonic plates and melting biros on a Bunsen burner are all, I’m sure, vitally important.
But equally important is learning that vital life lesson that if you work hard and play your part in a team you can achieve anything you want. Doesn’t matter what God gave you in the brains department, it’s having a go that counts.
Except these kids – those at the bottom of the class, those who, if we’re honest, maybe do get into trouble more frequently than the smart kids – have now been taught just the opposite.
They’ve learned that actually, society would rather they could be totally erased from view.
A friend of a friend’s son was one of six kids kicked out of his school in the month before GCSEs.
The options were for his parents to pay to do the exams privately or to complete them at a referral unit.
Beyond the practical trauma of finding somewhere to sit the exams was the emotional blow of being written off at just 15 by more or less everyone in authority.
I’m all for tough discipline for kids who don’t behave and disrupt lessons for an entire class. And sometimes excluding kids is the only option for schools.
But this is exclusion on industrial levels.
Last year 9,000 children were kicked out in the months before GCSEs – this year it had increased by almost half again.
You can’t tell me that kids have become that much naughtier. They’re not. They’re just being siphoned off because their faces – or their mental capacity – don’t fit.
Instead they’re completing their exams at referral units widely regarded as recruiting units for gangs, and helping fuel the rise in violent youth crime.
I don’t believe any teacher goes into their profession choosing to write off kids rather than help them get on the right path in life.
But our teachers and pupils have been left to drown in a national obsession with league tables.
And until we put teaching our youngsters to be kind, decent, hard-working members of society at the heart of our education system, we are really wasting our time with all that trigonometry stuff.
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