In The World Of The ‘Guardian’, Nothing Is Ever….

the fault of anyone but ‘the authorities’:

Most of these teenagers have missed huge chunks of their schooling, and all of them have now been excluded from their mainstream schools. But their presence here today represents serious progress. This scene may look purposeless – a small group of boys are hanging round the front entrance, chatting with fizzy drink cans in their hands – but actually, this is authorised chill-out time after a full morning of learning to use spreadsheets and working on a project about “Life in the Wild”.

Yes, following Monday’s ‘The riots were the inevitable result of not just handing the moon on a stick to our precious youth!’, here’s ‘Why truancy is all the fault of the educational system!’….

“Sometimes I used to just lie in bed and think, ‘Shall I get up today, or not?‘” says Dominique St Hilaire, the girl with the remote control. “School just seemed to pull me down, and make me depressed.

Awwww, poor baby! Quick, someone, pander to her!

Like all these teenagers, 15-year-old Dominique is now enrolled on a programme called Choices, run by the Rathbone charity as an alternative to mainstream school. And, along with several of her classmates, she has recently taken part in the first national survey of persistent truants, run by the charity. It asked 300 young people why they missed school and what types of intervention might have persuaded them to turn up regularly.

Which, if it sounds about as worthless as asking rioters why they rioted and expecting to learn anything useful from it, well, congratulations!

You’ve come to a realisation that appears to have escaped the ‘Guardian’…

Just over half those surveyed said their parents were aware they were truanting, and just under half said their friends encouraged them to miss lessons. One fifth had been stopped by the police while truanting, and 55% had been excluded from school at some point. A quarter had missed school to care for a relative; many were coping with chaotic family backgrounds, and most with the sense that school just really wasn’t for them.

Well, I can agree with that. School isn’t for them. How about Borstal instead?

Dominique, her thick hair partly dyed red and pulled back from her face, tends to look down when she talks, but underneath the awkwardness there’s a spark about her. Her secondary school never gave her a chance, she says. With seven half-sisters, six half-brothers and a raft of cousins, some of whom weren’t model pupils themselves, she thinks they just saw her coming; stamped her with the label that tends to get stuck on all the St Hilaires around here.”They assumed I was just thick, and wouldn’t get anywhere,” she says. “Most of my brothers and sisters and cousins went there, and most of them missed school, too. Quite a few of them had ADHD. When you’ve got a name for skiving, if you ask for help they just tell you to get on with it.”

You know, reading that list of familial relationships, I’m thinking little Dominique’s life chances were screwed long, long before the state education system stepped in.

Anyone else?

In year 9, Dominique started skipping lessons; going out in the mornings as if she was going to school, but then ending up at a friend’s house, or hanging out in the town centre. Then one of her half-brothers died, and her life went off the rails. She hated people at school asking her about it, she says. “My mum was always being called to meetings at the school. She didn’t like it, but what could she say? She did it herself,” Dominique says. Fines and court appearances were talked about, but she never believed in them: “I’ve never known it to happen. I didn’t believe in it.” And if her mother had had her benefits taken away? “I’d have said I was going to school, but I wouldn’t have. Anyway, my dad gives my mum money.

Really? Not the benefit system? Hmmm, I rather hope the DWP is reading this….

At Rathbone, they do have procedures for dealing with persistent absence, and theoretically they could end in court – but in the decade the centre has been open that’s never happened, according to its manager, Rechelle Boothroyd.

Heh! It’s like that quote from ‘The Simpsons’, isn’t it? ‘You gotta help us, doc, we’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas!’.

The main strategy here is to engage the children – about 30 of them at present – in a way their previous schools have usually failed to do. The basics are taught through projects and games, and lessons have been renamed “sessions” so the pupils won’t have their usual negative reaction to them. And to a large extent, it works – the attendance here is 70%, which, while not brilliant, is a lot better than most of these pupils were managing elsewhere.

Are you hoping for praise?

You are pandering to these kids, bending over backwards to fit in with them, and sooner or later they are going to have to learn that life’s not like that!

If they decide they just ‘don’t want to go to work today’, the company won’t set up a team to find out what the problem is, or rename their roles to make then feel better about themselves, they’ll be fired.

Luckily, the government is having none of it. At least, so far:

A spokeswoman for the DfE said it was up to parents, as well as schools, to clamp down on persistent absence: “Even one day missed from school without very good reason is one too many,” she said.

Parents must have a real stake in their child’s education, and they need to face real consequences if their children continually skip school. That’s why we’re looking at whether we should cut the benefits of those parents whose children constantly play truant.”

Hurrah! Bring it on!

But let’s hear from these poor misunderstood fledglings future ‘Jeremy Kyle’ audience once more, shall we?

Katie Holmes, 15

“I was OK till year 8, but after that the teachers didn’t respect me, so I’d swear at them and interrupt the class. If they sent me home, I wouldn’t go back the next day. I used to wake up in the morning and think I just couldn’t be bothered going to school. I think really I did it because I was trying to make myself look hard.”

Josh Jessop-Woodhead, 15

“I’ve got dyslexia, and that’s why I messed about and missed lessons, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Mostly I used to miss geography because my teacher talked to me like I was an idiot. The school used to ring my mum and she’d shout at me. I just needed a bit more help.”

Dominique St Hilaire, 15

“All my friends used to skive. Sometimes we’d go to school and go home at dinner time; sometimes we’d just not go at all. My mum used to tell me off about it, but she understood because she did that herself.”

Oh, yeah. Clearly the scientists and innovators of the future… *rolls eyes*

9 comments for “In The World Of The ‘Guardian’, Nothing Is Ever….

  1. Mudplugger
    December 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

    State education is not free – it costs taxpayers hugely. Any parent choosing not to avail themselves of that generous facility by allowing their child to truant should be compelled to repay the wasted cost.

    A simple approach would be first to display the ‘value’ of a day’s free schooling – currently around £50.
    Any day missed without authorisation would result in that ‘fine’ being levied on the nominated parent/guardian – extracted from benefits if necessary.
    Failure to pay would result in disqualification from any further free state education for that child.
    All those £50 ‘fines’ would be paid directly to the same school from which the truancy occurred.

    Initially, that may appear to ‘reward’ schools with a poor record but, in practice, it would provide additional funds for those schools then to improve their service, thus producing a more attractive offering for the pupils involved.

    Some pupils would still not fully participate, even if forced to attend under that threat of a £50 ‘fine’ – in which case, the money raised should be used to fund a separate unit within that school to keep those disinterested kids at least ‘contained’ during the school-day and away from the various criminal attractions outside. This would also benefit the other pupils by removing the distracting influence of those misfits from the regular classrooms.
    Such a unit could also provide useful employment for former service personnel, bringing a different approach to pupil management – it’s no longer about teaching, it’s about containment.

    • December 12, 2011 at 5:50 am

      “…should be compelled to repay the wasted cost.”

      Now, there’s an idea! Sadly, I suspect those on benefits would escape this as an almighty clamour would arise from the usual suspects about ‘punishing’ their siblings.

  2. stab11
    December 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I enjoyed the comment from poor Katie that she wasn’t “respected” as I have heard that word an awful that in the last few months. Someone in HR at my dear employers decided we should join a scheme to train long term unemployed young people (sorry yoofs). Most came with terrible time keeping ability and to be honest my cat has more social skills. But the worst of it has been that when challenged about their behaviour and told it is unacceptable in the work place we are told we aren’t “respecting” them. I have no idea what this means and when pressed they don’t seem to either. But I suspect that in their mind it means they can never be told they are wrong.

    Incidentally another mantra of these types is the phrase “you can’t touch me” repeated as a cult member recites their mumbo jumbo. A few years ago I grabbed a thief and held the little b*stard until the Police arrived. For 5 minutes as I held him in an arm lock he just repeated “you can’t touch me , you can’t touch me”. When the Police arrived and cuffed him he yelled it at them as they threw him in the back of their van. Speaking to the Police officer later he told me that this wasn’t unusual and they genuinely thought that no adult was allowed to touch them.

    • December 12, 2011 at 5:51 am

      “But the worst of it has been that when challenged about their behaviour and told it is unacceptable in the work place we are told we aren’t “respecting” them.”

      Clearly, no-one ever told them that respect was earned, not given as yet another ‘right’…

      • Maaarrghk!
        December 12, 2011 at 6:25 am

        I think you mean respek don’t you?
        You is obviously not respeking him man innit.

  3. December 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Maybe if the child is not made to engage constructively with society then society should cease to engage with the child – and withdraw all cash and housing benefits based on that child?

  4. David
    December 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Jeezus effing Christ!

  5. Maaarrghk!
    December 12, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Anyroad up Julia. Your first comment hit the nail firmly when you mentioned the “usual suspects” moaning about these brats being “punished”.

    That’s exactly the problem. There is no punishment. detentions, lines etc can simply be ignored and any child wishing to disrupt a class is free to do so. It is now the fault of the Teacher “not being good enough” and they are expected to invest extra time in pandering to the badly behaved while the whole class fall further behind.

    Thanks a lot anti-smacking nutters.

  6. Calanthe
    December 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I agree with most of what you say here mate. But the quote at the end from Dominique is tragic. My daughter is dyslexic, asked for years through the school to have her tested. Finally paid for it myself. Strangely after 6 years of being told that she is lazy and not very bright things changed after that. It is still a struggle, years of being told how dumb she is have taken their toll. I can understand the child’s wish for help, she needs it, and it is a failing of the education system that she wasn’t given it. Although much of the work done with my daughter is done by me at home cos I have a responsibility too.

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