Thursday, 19 March 2009

State Schools - Satisfaction (not always) Guaranteed

I was reading the Daily Telegraph last night after a long and tiring day of worrying about Josh and the problems he's had with being bullied at school and happened upon an interesting article by Professor Tanya Byron entitled "The Fear of Young People Damages Us All". It's a well thought out and carefully considered article and well worth a read. It can be found at:

I felt moved to post a response to her article (which hasn't yet appeared in the "Comments" section of the web page). My response was as follows:

"I'm not at all scared of young people and, indeed, I agree with much of what Professor Byron has to say but I am the mother of a bullied child and I do feel that an increasingly faddish education system is letting down not only the children who misbehave but also those children who are on the receiving end of the bad behaviour. Schools don't seem to have mastered an effective way of imposing sensible boundaries for children and sadly, those children who need such boundaries, are unlikely to have any at home either. In my experience, greater emphasis is placed on enabling bullies to become "better people" at schools rather than helping an often traumatised bullied child to feel secure in the school environment. Exclusions and suspensions don't appear to be a deterrent to children who misbehave and I wonder if Professor Byron has any suggestions to help those kids AND to minimise the effect of the bullying on kids who don't misbehave and whose education is continually disrupted by the poor behaviour of their less well-behaved school mates."

While I was busy writing the above, DH called me to say that Alistair Campbell was discussing State Schools with Matthew Bannister (who's standing in for Jeremy Vine) on Radio 2. I tried, too late, to get through to the show and to speak to Mr Campbell with whose views I also broadly agree. I ended up by sending an email to the programme and wanted to ask what the solution to disciplining badly behaved children should be as, quite patently, the current faddish regulations of not being able to truly discipline a badly behaved child and the situation of teachers trying to keep order with both hands tied, isn't working.

I'm interested to know if either Professor Byron or Mr Campbell have a solution and if either of them do, please, please do tell me what it is!


  1. As someone who comes into contact with young people in North Bournemouth as part of my day job I empathise with your views however whilst I agree that exclusions only seem to serve the wrongdoer in a less than positive way many schools try to correct behaviour and especially bullying by taking a Restorative Justice approach. This might at first glance be seen as a soft option however I have seen this method bring the bullies (and their parents) to tears (not crocodile) when confronted with the true effects that the bullying has on the harmed person and can be a very effective way of confronting this type of issue without further stigmatising any of the parties involved. So powerful this method is deemed to be that Dorset Police are shortly introducing it for many juvenile offences. I'm not sure which school your child attends but it might be that you could suggest holding a RJ conference with parties, parents, school representatives ? Regards

  2. Thanks very much for your comment. My son's school contacted me yesterday to suggest just such a restorative justice session and to which I agreed wholeheartedly with the caveat that my son had to agree to it himself. He's not been so much physically hurt by the events of the past couple of months as traumatised by them and I feel that he must make his own mind up whether he wishes to come face to face with the perpetrators.

    He's quite a mature little chap for his age and is extremely articulate so I have no doubt whatsoever that he will reach the right decision and also be able to put across his viewpoint in a very sensible way.

  3. I've read Prof.Byron's article and wholeheartedly agree with your response. I sometimes get the impression that the authorities (and that includes the legal system) are more concerned about the offenders' psychological well-being than the victims'. On the other hand I know of course that the whole issue is highly complex and that there are no simple solutions.