Wednesday, 25 November 2009

THE LUNATICS ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM

There is a school in Bournemouth which was, until a few years ago, a “Boys’ School”. It didn’t have a very good reputation – and deservedly so.

Then it changed its name. It became an Arts and Media College – and some of us “fell for it”. I am the proud mother of a hugely artistic son. I’m not proud for pride’s sake. My boy is very talented and has been published. He lives, eats, drinks and breathes art – it is quite simply “who he is”.

When the time came, a couple of years ago, for us to choose his secondary school, his father and I scratched our heads and worried a great deal. Bournemouth is rather better known for catering to an aged population than it is for its merits in either primary or secondary education. It would have been a “nice thought” to have my son crammed for the Grammar School entrance examination. He isn’t very good at Maths. The thought crossed our minds but I worried about what would happen when the “cramming” ended – and, to be honest, the Grammar School isn’t “grounded” in the Arts and our son needed a place that would help him to channel his talents.

I “did” the Open Day circuit and ultimately decided that the school that had the best facilities for an artistic kid was the one called an “Arts and Media College”. Everything that a child with a leaning towards the arts would need was PHYSICALLY there. I couldn’t fault the Arts studios, the state of the art drama and stage equipment nor, indeed, did the Radio studio seem to be too out of date.

My son started at the Arts and Media College at the beginning of Year 7 in September 2008. And the dream ended.

He was SO excited on the morning of his first day. The occasion was special enough for both his father and I to take him there – he was just a bit nervous ... but so was I on my first day at “big school” and who wouldn’t be? It wouldn’t seem to be quite right walking into a new environment cocksure and brimming with abundant confidence, would it? But some kids did. His father and I sat in our car watching what seemed to be a very vulnerable little boy walk in – thankfully – with a friend from primary school who’d arrived at the same time – but other boys hurtled in, charged in, blustered in and barged in – were they older children? No – the first day of each school year is for Year 7 children alone.

When I collected him in the afternoon, my son was quiet. I asked how the day had gone and he told me that he was in a class with only one other boy he’d known from primary school and most of the other boys in the class seemed rough, unfriendly and “bullish”. Some of them had older brothers at the school – they, apparently, were the ones who were the roughest.

Day 2 was less “special” than day 1 and on collecting him when school finished, I have to say that I actually felt quite intimidated by the raw, pubescent aggression that tumbled out of the building at 3 o’clock. My son, when he got into the car, was even quieter than he had been the day before.

Fast forward 18 months.

Every school day for the past academic year and a half my son has PLEADED with me to be allowed to stay at home. And every morning, I felt as if I was being the worst mother on earth by insisting that he WAS, indeed, going to school. If only I could have been just slightly reassured on collecting him each afternoon – but I wasn’t. Each day, it seemed that worse things were happening to him. He is a child who likes to learn. He is eager for knowledge. Each day, his “legal right” to a decent education seemed to be a completely alien concept for the members of staff at the Arts & Media College to get to grips with.

I am not, by nature, a molly-coddler. I know EXACTLY who my son is. He’s an artistic kid but no angel – quite capable of naughtiness and there are bits of me that punch the air in glee about that. I was no “angel” at school, myself ... fortunately I had an “air of innocence” that got me out of many a scrape.

He is an artistic child – not a wimpish one. He has a tendency to be a “thinker” and one who tries to rationalise the actions of those around him. I can’t blame him for doing that ... I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong, but I do it myself.

He has spent the last 18 months trying to rationalise the actions of lunatics – and for his efforts in so doing, he – as one of the more studious children at his school, was shouted at by his teachers when he required explanation about a lesson because his “teachers” – who often weren’t teachers at all, but teaching assistants, were so busy trying to keep the levels of aggression down in their classes and the “easiest” kids to shout at were the ones who wouldn’t shout back.

In 18 months, my son had 5 pieces of homework. Not 5 pieces of homework per night or per week. No; just 5 pieces of homework during his ENTIRE time at the school. There were some subjects in which he never had the same teacher for two consecutive lessons. The school appeared to be staffed by supply teachers and under-qualified teaching assistants. How wrong of me, I am leaving out members of staff who seem to have strange titles such as “Achievement Coordinators”. Their role, it would seem, is to smooth things over when the crowd control of the supply teachers and the teaching assistants fails to work properly. They don’t actually seem to do much about “achievement” at all. And I mustn’t forget the congenial Acting Headmaster whom, if a parent writes to him, fails to respond unless nagged ... rather a lot. On the last occasion when I wrote to him, I did – after many enquiries about whether I was going to get a reply – actually receive a ‘phone call from him.

He told me that the two days I’d requested for my son to be absent from school were authorised and that he’d had a very amiable chat with him about the various and very real grievances that I had written about. He also told me that he intended “consulting” my son on a frequent and regular basis because it was very useful for him to know what was happening in Year 8. I pinched myself quite hard and, with as much dignity as I could muster, asked him if it was not HIS job to know what was going on in his school with the help of the teaching staff rather than relying on a pupil to tell him of such. The fact that the pupil was my son is neither here nor there but the “legal right of a child to a good education” should not, in my opinion, include being a “lookout” for the Acting Headmaster.

Well, at least I was safe in the knowledge that the two days that my son would be absent from school had been authorised by the “man (not very) in charge”. I was stunned to receive a letter from one of the “Achievement Coordinators” a few weeks later asking me to justify why my son had been absent as his absence had NOT been authorised. I responded in writing, citing my conversation with the Acting Headmaster and expressing disbelief at the communication between the various staffing departments within the school. I delivered the letter by hand to the school one morning after dropping my son off. I saw (with my own eyes as opposed to borrowed ones) the School Receptionist open my letter. I heard no more until 10 days ago when I received a curtly worded text from the school DEMANDING that I give them an explanation for my son’s UNAUTHORISED absences. I blew.

During his 18 months at the Arts & Media College with really very excellent facilities for an artistic child, my son has been subjected to physical bullying and appalling mental intimidation. I do not believe he has learnt anything at all. I drove – with my husband – to the school and exercised my right as a parent to take him out of there. I asked to see the Acting Headmaster but he was apparently in a Disciplinary Meeting. Why wasn’t I, in the least, surprised? Instead, I was apologised to by two “Achievement Coordinators” who sent a timid looking boy (whose education appeared to comprise being at the beck and call of the School Receptionist) to get my son. My son arrived in Reception and I asked him to go and collect his PE kit. He did – and WE TOOK HIM HOME.

I am home educating him until the end of this term and next term he starts at a new school in London. It doesn’t have “Arts” or “Media” in its name – it doesn’t have to ... it has a reputation for absolutely no bullying at all, an ethos of celebration of children’s achievements and very close ties to Chelsea Art School. Well done, LEA – we are selling up and taking a severe downgrading in housing and monetary well-being because you are unable to provide our child with his legal right to a decent education.

A few weeks ago, I read in the Bournemouth Echo that a great deal of money had been allocated to refurbish schools in the Dorset area. Hello! LEA – are you listening? Get a load of this:

You do not need to refurbish school buildings. You need to spend every available penny that you have on employing some decent teachers who aren’t afraid to take charge of the children in your care, provide those who need discipline with it and impart your knowledge to those children who want to learn rather than shout at them, because they’re the kids who you know very well “won’t answer back”. You need to be in charge of the asylum – because currently, the lunatics are running the show and you are NOT – repeat NOT – providing the children in your care with their legal right to a decent education. You do, dear LEA need to get your act together.

170 comments:

  1. Hi Karen - I follow you on Facebook. Have just read your blog and how very sad it was to read. How sad that you have to move to better your son's education. I lived in Bournemouth with my 2 daughters for almost 19 years - they both went to local schools - to which I didnt think they were anything special. We left Bournemouth about 2 and half years ago. We moved to Ireland, at the time my husband was in a very stressful job - very target driven and it would have ended in him having a breakdown or ending up thumping someone!!!! There are things that I miss about Bournemouth - mainly my very good friends - but my husband loves it here - for him it was the best move we have done. You will miss things from Bournemouth thats for sure - but I admire what you are doing as this is your son's future at stake here. I wish you well in your move and hope it all works out for you all.

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  2. Balanced, controlled and so unfortunately accurate these days. I am a great believer that politics has intruded into education for far too long. I also believe that we have lost the plot when it comes to preparing our kids for the real world. It's not just about the money. I've seen better education going on in Sri Lanka in corrugated steel shacks and blackboards rather than Powerpoint. I implore every politician and education department minister to watch this lecture from Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

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  3. I am speechless, Karen I knew things were bad for Josh but honestly this is beyond appalling.School days are meant to be the happiest of times - mine were and to be faced with feelings of horror everyday is vile. Poor Joshy and you two for having to see your son go through this. I hope that the move and that his new school will see him flourish and restore his faith and indeed yours in the school system. Well done for making a stand and well done for having the guts to change your life for the sake of Josh's education - I know how stressful this has been for you xxxx

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  4. Dear me, is this what 'education' has come to. We all complained about the standards in schools when we went through the system. I went to Winton Boys School. Granted they never had any money for equipment, books, and one of classrooms was held up with a stick (I shit you not),But the teachers for the main part...cared. With the amount of money swilling around now, there is no excuse for this today.

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  5. I'm at a loss as to the words I need to write. I'm so very pleased your son has supportive parents. I'm sad that it has had to come to this for you to get the education that is your son's right. We're 18 months away from this scenario, but I fear we may be purely repeating your footsteps. Sending you good wishes.

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  6. Karen,

    An excellent article and one that sadly reminds me of the bullying I suffered at school, silently. I know your Son will do well, but I also trust that your article reaches those that can make a difference at the Arts and Media college. As a Guv at my childrens secondary school, I would question the abilities of the Board of Governors at the School. They should be bringing the Senior Leadership Team into line.

    @Andyqsmith one of your many Twitter friends

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  7. Shocking. And kind of puts the moans and groans we have about the education system here in Greece into perspective. We may not have all the mod cons at the state schools you'll find at equivalent schools in the UK but at least there does seem to be some emphasis on actually educating the kids...
    ...Having said that, things are a very long way from perfect. But at least we haven't reached the point where ignorance is displayed as something to be proud of.

    Hope things work out for your No.1 and Only little artist.... he certainly deserves better than what he's been through in the past year and half.

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  8. As a teacher can I just say that this to me appears to be a failing school.

    I work in a school in the NE that has the majority of its children from low income households and many are from homes where the social services are involved. Our kids are not saints, but with strong teachers and good leadership, we have few discipline problems.

    We set our classes high standards both for their academic work and for behaviour and both are met. How do we do it? By building a relationship with the children, we laugh alot, but we work hard.

    Most importantly the vast majority of our pupils parents fully support the schools aims. Without parental support a school does not function.

    The other key element as you quite rightly point out is staffing unfortunately there still are many teachers out there who can not teach and are in the profession for the wrong reasons.

    Children need permanent, regular faces teaching them. Teachers and pupils need to know the Head is leading the school, not being led by it.

    I really hope everything works out for your son at his new school.

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  9. This is not the fault of the LEA, but is a symptom of a system in which there are not enough teachers, while those there are are overworked and underpaid.

    It is not a problem confined to Bournemouth, but is apparent across the UK to anyone who has come through the state education system.

    As to the causes of the teacher shortages, private schools have to take some of the blame for taking the best teachers out of the state system by paying them twice as much as they could expect to earn otherwise. This 'skimming' of the best teachers by the ever-increasing number of private institutions means that the only ones left are either incompetent or newly-qualified.

    Thus, the increase in private schooling creates a two-tier system within the UK, with those who can afford it sending their kids off to the cuddly environment of a private school while the have-nots are failed by a system stripped of its best staff.

    It is a win-win situation for the private schools seen as the only option to provide a good education, as it is in their interests for the state funded system to fail.

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  10. I am very distressed to read this as I recognise the school of which you speak - our daughter goes to the one next door - and we had been considering sending our son to the Arts & Media College. He too is intelligent, sensitive and extremely creative.

    Thank you for the heads-up.

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  11. There are schools in inner London which have multiple playgrounds separated by skin colour. The pupils separate themselves this way, and the school has no choice but to supervise the 'black' playground with black staff and the 'white' playground with white staff, otherwise severe disruption occurs. That this, and situations like the one you describe, can be allowed in 21st Century Britain is staggering.

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  12. While I believe my own school isn't as bad as this, I see some of the things you describe regularly. The real trouble-makers are not tackled early enough or with sufficient seriousness. The result is the layer of kids that misbehave because they see others doing it - and would stop if their examples were excluded - remains. And yes, the easy targets are often picked on by some staff instead.

    I am a teacher. I regard myself as a professional, but the institution that is Education clearly does not agree. I teach in a culture of blame - it's not 'the management' that's at fault, it's those of us at the chalk face. I suspect all the 'good' teachers left the school you refer to a long time ago, probably fed up with the same thing I am.

    As a teacher, I apologise on behalf of my profession for the treatment your son received. I feel ashamed to be associated with the profession that has let you down so badly.

    The saddest though of all, though, is that it could all be so very, very different.

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  13. Bravo, bravo. We have privately educated our six children; to give them what we feel is a decent education. I don't believe in private education, there should be an equal choice for every child but there isn't. One can have principles but when my own children are involved, I'll not compromise their opportunities for my beliefs. Sadly, many parents are unable to buy out of our education state system. It isn’t fair. You have made house and lifestyle sacrifices; we have made sacrifices too; it is so wrong.

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  14. As a teacher (working and living in The Netherlands) I am touched by your honest story. I teach primary school and really try to have happy, eager-to-learn children in my class. Your story makes me realise (once again) how important my profession is.

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  15. It's not just Bournemouth, this is happening in Cheshire too at the school my son goes to - ironically also an "arts and media" one. We also have an "arty" son but he also has mild aspergers (3-5/10 if it could be scaled) We might, as a family be emigrating in the middle of next year...I cannot wait

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  16. It's a shame some educators ( I use the word because nothing else springs to mind) are only interested in containment. Shame on Bournemouth a university town as well!

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  17. What a well balanced piece. Thank you for writing it. Sadly, I am sure yours is by no means an isolated story, it's just that you've had the nouse to write it and top marks for doing it in such an unrestrained way. The education system (not to mention many other state "agencies") is full of these non-jobs: people masquerading under inflated but meanlingless job titles when in fact they are hiding from the real job at hand. Yes, it is partly all these government targets , aka political intervention, but ultimately it is weak leadership at every level - local government, LEA, schools, governors and so on.
    It's time we did something about all this bull***t that, as you found, is affecting your son's right to a basic education.
    Only by naming and shaming can we hope to get anywhere
    Thanks again. I hope the local media, BBC Solent and 2CR (Heart) in Bournemouth, to name but a few, pick up on your story and challenge the school in question, live on air.

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  18. Totally disgraceful, I don't know what else to say.

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  19. Truly shocking! I work with teenagers in a national uniformed voluntary youth organisation and have done so for about 12 years now. The kids (13-20, so not really kids) are fantastic, but this organisation is being administrated out of existance due to the "modern demands" of targets, introduction of mandatory NVQ qualifications (and the demands they introduce), H&S, CRB and associated fears for adults of actually getting involved with helping young people "just in case", mandatory training for volunteer staff, National Governing Body qualifications required for all activities, centralised IT etc etc. The organisation is becoming less and less about young people and more and more about perception, smoke and mirrors, and making the adults in charge feel good. Its worse than work, its no longer a hobby.

    Young people are just treated so badly in this country now.

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  20. Well done for responding so well to a dreadful situation, working through all the alternatives and then having the courage to uproot and move to get what your son needs. The success of a school comes down to the quality of the leadership team and the teaching staff - if you get that right then investing in better buildings & resources can be very worthwhile, but without that nothing else matters. As a London parent at least we have a large number of schools within reach - of course getting a place in the preferred one is another problem, but we found that nearly all the schools we visited were "acceptable", just some matched our daughters' needs more than others. Good luck with the move, hope it woks well for you and your son.

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  21. I know lots of artists, and for me the most heartening thing is they create because they have to, and they love doing it. Despite the rocky start your son will be fine. He's lucky to have parents who are so passionate about supporting his success.

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  22. as so often is true today "follow the money"

    and add to this you have to wonder what bleeding heart liberals are behind this on-going dumbing down of education and who set them up!

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  23. I have just read your blog and I am not surprised. I live in Surrey and fortunately my children go to nice state schools with anti-bullying policies (not always upheld)but there is one school in particular that has had 23 million pounds of state money spent on it. It still has the same poor level of teaching and the same quality of clientèle. Many children are shipped in from other areas, as their original schools have expelled them, and then dumped into
    this super school on the Greater London/ Surrey borders.
    It is scandalous to think all this money is spent just to make something look good rather than fix the underlying problems of respect and discipline. What a sad state of affairs.

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  24. Thanks for Sharing Karen, it's so sad to hear about situations like this... This is exactly the reason why I'm becoming a teacher. We want to spread inspiration and help those minds evolve, not shrink in like old wrapping paper in hope for days when (real) teachers will take them serious. Hope your boy is doing better!

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  25. I have a 12 year old as well and have been struggling almost since kindergarden with the same sorts of issues as it seems your son is facing. Sadly it's not confined to the UK - he started his education in Canada, then Scotland, and now Ireland, and has had nothing but trouble from each school he's attended. Bullying is rampant, and despite supposed 'zero-tolerance' policies, nothing has been done about it. It was even suggested by the headmaster here at his current school to get the police involved over an incident, but the teacher overruled him! Unbelievable, really.

    He still refuses to attend school yet refuses to tell us anything when we ask, acting out when we press the issue. I'm disabled so it makes me feel even more powerless when trying to deal with school officials (or anyone, for that matter) and getting help is like getting blood from a stone. Impossible.

    It's sad that this is happening to you and your son as well and I wish you the best and hope you can get more support from the LEA over this.

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  26. I sincerely hope someone from an education board reads this blog and I urge you to forward it to as many politicians as possible. It is a true reflection on what has become of our schools. My children, 13 and 11 are currently being "processed" through our local education system. It seems to me that the schools like to attract as many children as possible into their web only to churn them out 5 years later with little more than a desire to win xfactor or similar so they don't have to go to work. Don't get me wrong, our local school has some very good teachers and excellent facillities but I think they forget that they are dealing with individuals and not numbers.

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  27. Fantastic article! Directed by Mr Stephen Fry to here, I would follow him to the end of the earth! haha

    Anyway, I'm one of those supply teachers, freshly arrived from Australia with a few years under my belt and a sense of freedom to supply teach. I ended my first week with a stiff drink and let go of the breath I was holding in for the whole week.
    Wow. Didn't expect the utter lack of discipline, planning and chaos that I've so far seen at EVERY school i've been to.

    My only slight objection to this very real piece of writing is when you mention about teachers who arn't afraid of taking charge. While I am only speaking on my behalf as a teacher I can see in this day and age when panic and pandemonium about our children's safety is at ridiculous level, teachers hands are, literally, tied behind our back.
    I was warned, do not touch a child not even if they are in danger when I went for my interview. Excuse me?! I haven't followed that advice, especially in the half or dozen times so far I have physically squeezed myself in between two boys out and out fighting in the classroom and pulled one off the other.
    I think the problem is, there is an absolute disrespect for teachers and the job they do. Students fight back with you, say the most horrible things to eac other explode wit anger at the smallest thing and constant endanger themselves and others with vicious fights and taunts right in front of my face. Now as a supply teacher I take it with a grain of salt, I mean everyone knows when your "proper" teacher is away its time to play, and I employ EVER behaviour management technique in the book. Most of the time it works, once or twice though its been shaky and then what?
    Its hard to control a child's behaviour when he has no respect for the situation or te boundaries, when they would rather hurtle themselves in a blind fit at another student in the class over them answering a question before they could.
    The pent up anger and agression that is shown in students is a very worrying thing for me to witness, and I think before we worry about test scores and multimillion dollar equipment and classrooms we need to look at what sort of support can we give these children, and what sort of home are they coming from.

    I as always feel sorry for the half or more of the class who have to sit and deal with this daily occurance, and think what is it like for you??

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  28. I have just read your comment after Stephen Fry (Twitter) said to - and am so glad I did. My heart goeas out to you, your family and your son. I am (was) a teacher but found that many of the schools that I did work in it was just as you had described - crowd control and prevention of fights or breaking up fights. I loved teaching but due to physical health problems could not cope with 'THAT' kind of teaching so I now work in a bank!! I so wanted to teach those that wanted to learn - who had a thirst for it and an ever inquisative and enquiring mind - children who constantly questioned - these are the children who needed me - not the ones who could not be bothered or had no interest. And unfortunatley the blame lies - not only with the school but with the parents and carers of these children. There should be more parents like YOU!

    I wish you all the very best of luck - especially to your son who - maybe- in a few years we will all hear of him!! :-)

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  29. In reply to Andy Smith, do the governors actually know what's going on on the ground? Or are they relying on sanitised reports?

    A tale that's probably all too common.

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  30. Karen, that sounds just awful. I started my career in teaching, and left, having become fed up with political interference and the constant dressing down from the media. The passion that is required to be a good teacher was dissolving all around me.

    Fast forward a few decades and schools have become "specialist" monoliths - too big to manage effectively, or harbour the sense of community that is essential for good discipline. Most of the country's secondary schools have been come so large that even the staff don't know each other, let alone the pupils. Economic efficiency has been crowd king and almost everything else has been laid waste.

    Yes, there are still good schools out there, and many schools do try exceptionally hard, but the metrics that matter (league tables and LEA reporting) aren't compatible with those who want to focus on the humans developing in their care. The good staff leave.

    I hope that things work out for Josh, and yourself. It's a sorry state of affairs when a parent has to move house to get a decent education for a decent child. Surely not quite what was meant by "parental choice". I'll point my MP at your blog (he's Michael Gove - shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families) - I'll be asking him about it when he comes knocking at election time.

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  31. What a dreadful story of mis managed education! I am so glad you have posted this story. I work in education as a teaching assistant, - although in a primary school and have never worked beyond y6 and frankly wouldn't want to. Classes need teachers in front of them, it's pretty basic really isn't it? More than that though they need good teachers, who are committed to learning and the well being of the children in their care. I am lucky to work in a school where, I believe, the children get a pretty good deal. I am also a governor of another local school, because as someone who grew up hating school, and feeling miserable, and has somehow ended up working in a school for nearly 20 years, I think it is so important that education establishments manage to work for all the children in them. Well done in deciding to home educate your son, and the best of luck with it and the new school.

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  32. What a fantastic, revealing blog.

    I hope that now Stephen Fry has Twittered about it, action will be taken against this school.

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  33. Hey Karen, found your blog through Stephen Fry's twitter... I am appalled for your family and your son! I'm from Ireland, and attended what my parents were avidly told was an excellent secondary school, and it was in the top-10 in Ireland for many years! I left after 3years as, like your son, it was full of nothing more than bullies, poor staff and a headmistress who was a nun and could not tolerate her own staff let alone children. It was an all girls school, and I had a passion for science, which made me subject to harassment and abuse from both students and teachers alike at times. Thankfully I met one teacher, who I now owe my Masters in Science too, who nurtured my love of the subject. However the rest of my education there was forgettable and I spent most of my time being yelled at for failing but never advised on how to succeed. As a result my marks suffered badly from fear of actually doing well, a habit I carried with my into college sadly and no one of authority in the school seemed to want the blame... To them the issue lay at home and my parents were to deal with it there... Which is when my mother pulled us all out of house and home and moved us to the other side of the country to a small village just outside of Galway.

    It was possibly the best thing she has ever done for me [short of giving me life of course :)] And I commend you for having the bravery to make that sacrifice for your son. I hope his talents truly blossom and that you all find some peace in your new home!

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  34. After 12 and a bit years of "education, education, eduation" this is a sad indictment of the system. Great blog, though. Hope it works out for you and yours in London....

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  35. I have a 6 year old and a 4 year old: we are just babies in the education system. Your article, so beautifully written and with the gritted teeth it must have taken to be so measured, so painfully obvious, has made my blood run cold.
    Your son is lucky: he has you. But the other boys?
    I wish you and your family all the best in the world.

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  36. Hi Karen what a sad story, i am a 45 year old man with two boys of my own,and it is only now that i realise the sacrifices my own parents made to give me a good standard of education.My father was a police constable and my mother a telephonist(this was pre the big wages the police eventually got)so money was tight but they managed to send me to a private school in edinburgh as there was not any half decent school in the area and now it is paying the benefits in my own life but the sacrifices were great.
    You sound very like my mother and like her would have done anything for her only child,it is not molly-coddoling or a mothers love it is just DOING THE RIGHT THING and it is a pity our countries education system is in such a state of disrepair.I wish you and youre family the very best in your new home and the artist in the family excells in everything he does,hope all your dreams are fulfilled
    all the best
    Steve& family Edinburgh

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  37. manatrue on twitter25 November 2009 18:59

    I had similar problems with my daughter 10 years ago in a north london school. She was thier star pupil but they were all so afraid of the school bully, who was in a chineese gang, that they would not discipline the bully, so she ran the school.

    It ended when I collected my daughter who was barrackaded with a teacher in the gym, at her request, and I did not recognise her as she approched the car.

    My daughter never went to school again. She went to a unit for 6 months, then to college, To be honest she educated herself to A level standard, she could go to university, but she will not and I think its to do with the bullying.

    My daughter has a good job, which continues to educate her. Her school pleaded for her return making all sorts of concessions and threats to prosecute me, our only terms were the removal of the bully.

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  38. Blimey thats a sad story. I have nothing but praise for the schools I have worked in and my kids goto in yorkshire.

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  39. I have been guided here by Stephen Fry on Twitter and am so glad I did - I am appalled at your experience.
    I am (was) a teacher and I loved it however the schools that I worked in all seem to be exactly as you have described - I did not go into this vocation to break up fights and do 'crowd control' unfortunately due to physical ill health I had to give up and now work in a bank.

    I sincerely hope that you and your son have a much better experience with his new school.

    It is a shame that the blame must lie with the school, its teachers and the parents but I believe that a large part should be aportioned to the Government as well. We need to remove politics from schools and let GOOD teachers do their jobs and get rid of the dross. As someone else has already said the school needs to be led by the Headteacher not the Headteacher led by the school.

    I wish you all well and hope to hear about your son in the art world in the future :-)

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  40. I understand fully what your son was going through, from the moment I went to (the then best) highschool in my area I was bullied for being overweight. I put up with being beaten up over my sexuality, teased for my weight, and being humiliated by both staff and pupils alike for having my hair cut. I had teachers make me cry over it, the headmaster called me 'Rupert' several times and when I asked him not to, he informed me I shouldn't have a boys haircut. It may not seem like much now, but when you are 14, and there is nowhere for you to turn in school then its bad. I ended up getting good GCSES nad for the most part it ended once I had entered 6th form. There are schools like this up and down the uk. Kids are no longer afraid as they know the only way they can be punished is sent home from school to play videogames and hang out on street corners terrorising old ladies. We need tougher action being taken in schools. Then opefully we wont have situations like you had with your son. I hope everything works out for you.

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  41. Hello Karen, we moved about two years ago as we did not want our daughter to go to the local school, after a few months of heartache as my daughter missed her best friends things settled down.

    Two years on and wow what a difference, had parents evening last week and to here teachers taking real interest in their students was fantastic, I was even compelled to email the Head to congratulate him and his staff, I had 15 pesonal emails from staff thanking me for the positive feed back.

    Best move my family and I have made with no regrets.

    Good Luck !!

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  42. I'm sorry, but did you (or any other of the above commentators) actually do their research about the school in question? I just did a quick (30 second) Google search and read the Ofsted reports from 2005 and then the follow up report from Summer 2008 (both prior to your son starting at the school).

    Highlights of which include "Statutory requirements are not met in religious education, ICT and art and design." and that there "are not enough opportunities for students to work
    independently and develop their own thinking" and "are not enough opportunities for students to work independently and develop their own thinking".

    Need I go on? Did you really think this was the right choice for the high-standards you clearly want for you son?

    And correct me if I'm wrong (I'm 23 and work in the private sector) - but don't Arts Colleges generally just have to jump through a few hoops and tick a few boxes in order to qualify for this status and in turn, are guaranteed a level of funding to IMPROVE standards. After all, a school having any kind of "status" nowadays is not exactly exclusive and prestigious is it?

    When did the school in question get this status and therefore begin receiving funding? It can't have been that long before your son joined?

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  43. Thank you for posting this story. I got the link via Stephen Fry.

    I work as an FE Tutor. Education is no longer about getting the most out of individuals but meeting reams of targets to measure 'success'.

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  44. May i ask how far you've taken your campaign? Have you got in touch with the local authorities and media?

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  45. Karen
    Thanks for this great article, though really sad subject matter. I am a few years behind you, and am currently negotiating the primary school application process on the Hackney/Islington borders. It doesn't seem a lot to ask that there be a local school which can provide education in the basics in a safe and relatively polite environment. But apparently it's too much to hope for.

    Your son sounds lovely and I wish him all the best for the future.

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  46. Wow. So sad. I was very lucky to have a good education, and it deeply saddens me to think that our country is failing to do its most important thing: teach the next generation. Well done Karen for writing this, and thanks to Mr Fry for sending us here.

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  47. Well done you for taking control of the situation. I applaud you. Too many people don't realise what their rights as parents are and, too often, many don't care.

    Brilliant article, good luck to you all in the future!

    (Again directed here by Stephen Fry)

    Drea

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  48. I hope your son flourishes in his new environment, and doesn't bear lasting scars from the 18 months of nightmare schooling. That you've had to take such drastic steps is a travesty.

    I think this clearly demonstrates that Political correctness has taken out the guts of the school system. For a successful education you need the headmaster, the teachers AND the parents to work as a team.

    If parents send their children to school with no respect for the teachers or other students, and the teachers have no way of dealing with that unruly element, then good teachers don't even want to be there, and all students suffer horrendously.

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  49. I cannot believe you waited 18 months before removing your son from that school.
    Yr 7s have been removed from my son's school after one term up to one academic year, but it's usually pretty obvious within a couple of terms which ones aren't fitting in, but it often takes parents a lot longer to pull their finger out and address the problem it's often parents who dislike disrupting their routine with a school move.
    Not evey kid can be expected to fit in, and it makes no difference whether they are in the class with no friends from primary school or with a load of classmates from their previous school. Often it is the ones who were mollycoddled at primary school who fail to thrive, or the ones who were top dogs at their previous school and now find they have no idea how to make friends and so trail around after old classmates who've moved on and simply don't want to have anything more to do with them. Parents should listen to their children and move them if they are not coping.

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  50. Good luck to you as a family, you all deserve better. I applaud your decision to move to where your son can relax, be himself and learn, but am sad that it has had to come to that, good education should be a right wherever you live. Best wishes, Lois x

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  51. I am a teacher in a state secondary school and am fortunate in that it is a successful school with mostly happy students. It upsets me to read your blog entry as I feel so strongly about money in education being poured into showboat specialisms and countless new initiatives that we never have enough time to implement properly before the next one comes along. Senior management are often made up of 'career' teachers who rise to the top without enough years at the so-called 'chalkface' to really understand what life is like in the classroom in the midst of all the red tape. Your son was a victim of a lack of interest in the old-fashioned concept of 'education' as opposed to crowd control, by the sounds of it. With money and interest invested in the recruitment and retention of good, strong teachers who are commited to the classroom, rather than the career ladder, schools like the one in your blog would be tackled effectively and each of the students might feel valued and achieve their potential. I wish you all the best in your move.

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  52. thank you for taking your child out of that school. i am a young person who endured very similar circumstances, but was left there because my parents were unable to utilise any of the educational alternatives. i belive my time at senior school scarred me emotionaly and socialy, an as a result am suffering in later life. i sincerely hope your son does well at his new school, and that he is happy. :)

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  53. My brothers went to this school and both had bad experiences with serious bullying and poor teaching standards. Unfortunately there is scant choice when it comes to 'good' secondary schools in Bournemouth.

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  54. I couldn't agree more. I am dismayed at the billions of pounds being spent on new buildings for schools, when what is needed is much smaller classes, 'bouncers' to deal with discipline while good, academic teachers get on with teaching and good pastoral care. I have just moved my second daughter to a small independant school as she was dismayed at the poor level of behaviour surrounding her in year 7. As adults we would find it stressful if we were to go to work every day into an environment where we were being shouted at because of the actions of a few trouble makers, where we couldn't get on with our job properly as the office was too noisy and where there were a good percentage of people working with us who had little motivation, manners or respect. Why should our well behaved, dedicated children be educated in this environment?

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  55. Hearing this makes me incredibly sad, seeming as I went through a similar ordeal at a C of E school (that was as unholy as anything) and ended up ill for four years or so after. I wish you the best of luck to you, your son and the rest of your family.

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  56. And in addition to my earlier comment, I wish Stephen Fry wouldn't do a hit-and-run such as this i.e promote this blog, whilst generalising it UK wide. He of all people should realise his power and influence over such issues.

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  57. I know how your son felt, completely. I went to the Arnewood school, which at the time was one of the best in its area. But by my second year the pupils, the teachers, everyone seemed to have given up. In fact, I don't think anything I 'learnt' during those years came from the lessons.
    There was just no way of concentrating when you've got girls throwing ultrasound pictures at each other of their latest foetus and boys spitting and swearing and generally trying to be cool.
    I ended up joining in with the apathy, just for something to do.
    You're absolutely right, it is not fair on those who want to do well and learn that they have to be held back by others. It is not fair on teachers who want to teach to have to 'babysit' selfish children. The system is failing everyone because they continue to pander to 'equal rights'.
    B****y earn those rights first.

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  58. Hello. I too was guided here by Stephen Fry's Twitter page. It was an unhappy reminder of what I ran into during my daughter's education and it began in the Primary School levels!
    The entire attitude within the ranks was that it was nothing what so ever to do with those who were running the school/s.
    I was frankly shocked and especially when my daughter had been kicked viciously, when I went to the school in question, to be informed that ultimately the parents are responsible for what happens with their children at school! I was stunned to say the least that it was justified in this manner, and pushed under the rug so to speak!
    How on earth is it not the responsibility of those who teach and run these schools?
    Parents are not present and therefore cannot be held responsible for what happens to their children in their absence! Surely those who run schools are responsible for what goes on while those children are under their care?!
    The child who had done this vicious attack got off without punishment of any kind, and my daughter's self confidence was shattered, not to mention my faith in the adults who were running this establishment.
    Years of bullying and so forth was to end by seriously effecting my daughter's health when she developed problems with eating. She was medically diagnosied with an ulcerated esophagus due to the stress levels from attending school!
    I wish I still had access to the blog I wrote at the time on conditions at these schools because I got
    nowhere with intentions to deal with the `pass the buck' attitudes from those in the ranks.
    My daughter didn't want me to intervene at all, due to the extensive "retaliation" that went on.
    Of course, this situation fostered a back off on the part of students, who would rather not speak at all of the bullying for that reason.
    In the end, the retaliation was so marked on my daughter's mind she begged me to not say anything.

    I am appalled by what happened with your son, but not surprised - it seems this is a world-wide situation.
    Thank you for posting your blog.
    I will search for the original post I wrote on just such events.

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  59. Having just resigned my post in a Secondary School ( I was a learning mentor), I can sympathise with you. Many of the pupils where I worked were out and out bullies, and any of the pupils who wanted to work and learn found themselves in the position where they couldn't.
    The staff I worked with were more concerned about protecting their own backs and the pupils just suffered. I spent 30 years as a Police Officer trying to make a difference and felt that being a learning mentor would follow that.
    Nice pupils are few and far between and the system now is get them in, get then five A to C and keep Ofsted at bay.
    Education? No Exam factory with staff that don't care and pupils who in my last job I would nick.

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  60. I must take umbrage with some of the private school bashing from earlier...

    "As to the causes of the teacher shortages, private schools have to take some of the blame for taking the best teachers out of the state system by paying them twice as much as they could expect to earn otherwise."

    I have worked in private education all my career. Had I followed my fellow PGCE students into state education, I could well now be one of these so-called 'achievement coordinators' mentioned in the original - brilliant - blog. If that were the case, I'd be earning considerably more than I am as a middle manager at a private school.

    I didn't go into private education for the money. I went into private education for the ethos and the opportunity to be able to indulge my passions - drama, cricket, debating - sharing them with children who are genuinely motivated and want to learn.

    The problem is NOT with the private sector, but with a state sector beset by government targets and a fear of failure, and with a society which seems to have lost any respect for authority. Like the original blogger, many parents - and granparents - of children at my school have had to make enormous financial sacrifices so they can send their child to a school where education is so much more than what goes on in the classroom.

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  61. Hi Karen

    I am a secondary teacher currently having a break from it all, and I was saddened to read your blog.

    There are 2 strands that I see that make an effective school: Strong Leadership from the Management Team and good teachers AND support from home.

    Where do these boys get the impression that it is ok to rampage the corridors at school and act like imbeciles? Poor classroom management will not help, but there must be some parental responsibility in this, and their feral behaviour must be condoned or encouraged at home somehow.

    I worked in a small LEA, which is selective, and the school I worked in is the last on the picking list for refurbishment - mainly because it is Catholic, and the LEA's expect at least 20% funding from the church. Plus it was a secondary modern, and all the Grammars also command more funding.. (another argument for another day)

    The other underachieving schools have had fabulous new buildings built for them, and their results have improved, but so have all the other schools in the area. All I can see is that they are getting shiny new surroundings, but until the home/school partnership can be improved, behaviour is still an issue. My old school has also improved, it has designated Arts status, but that is because the Head worked hard on building a team of competent teachers and building links with the parents. All in buildings rapidly heading towards a status of "Not fit for purpose".

    It is notable that a newly designated Arts college such as your son's former school, already has an Acting Headmaster. In a lot of schools, in my opinion, some teachers need to develop a spine and challenge bad behaviour - but make sure the school has the system to back it up.

    If you haven't already, write to the Governing Body and the LEA and ask for a meeting. I know you are leaving the area, but you have a right to challenge this, and make sure other parents do not suffer the same fate.

    In addition - have you considered state boarding school for your son? They are charity status, but are excellent for Arts. Perhaps you may not have to move home to improve his education. It worked for a friends daughter. (who was on the verge of being excluded for behaviour) She is now on course to be a dentist.

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  62. Hi there, I am saddened but not surprised by your post. I commend your obvious devotion to your son and his education but cannot understand why you feel the need to use school based education at all. Your son is currently being home-educated - why not just continue with this? He is obviously eager to learn, with natural artistic talents, and the son of an educated, loving, proactive couple. You can educate your child far better than any school at the moment. There are masses of organisations and web-sites that can give you support and information, for example "Education Otherwise" and "HEAS" amongst the more organised and thoroughly knowledgable. If you are worried about "socialisation" - would you rather your intelligent and thoughtful son mix with a crowd of bullies or yourselves, your friends, the other interesting people you will encounter, friends from primary school, extra-curricular groups and other home-ed kids? If you are definitely moving to London you will have access to all the wonderful educational sites there, but in school hours, so they won't be full! And even if your son would prefer to have classes with other children, he could defer his 'formal' education until he's 16, then go to College to do GCSE's, A Levels etc with much more engaged "children". I feel strongly about this as I have home-educated my 3 children and they are thoroughly wonderful (although I may be a little biased!!) If you would like to discuss this further I am more than happy to talk.
    Best wishes with your sons' education, Hayley

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  63. Like all those who have posted before me I am appalled by what I've read but unfortunately not surprised. My son has just commenced at the local secondary school and, though by no means an angel, has been shocked by the behaviour of the Yr 7 children he has encountered. Both my daughters have attended the school before him and I can see an distinct slip in the standards of discipline and direction. That said the educational results are still well ahead of the average. I would echo some of the points already made that the teachers have little they can do in terms of sanctions for the rebellious and this situation has frustrated many to the point that they have left the profession...a sad indictment of the government's policy on education.

    The schools failure to address this problem and the LEAs apparent lack of interest are not unique as I hear from many other parents. I hope that your raising this issue, the obvious recognition of the problem from bloggers/twitterers across the country and the support of Stephen Fry will raise this in the public and ministerial consciousness.

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  64. I moderate a regional home ed list and sadly your experiences are FAR from uncommon. We get a lot of enquiries from parents whose children were doing fine at school until they transferred to Secondary. In some schools bullying isn't just not dealt with properly, it's endemic, part of the school culture! Meanwhile what does the government do? They try to make it harder to home educate, effectively cutting off the only escape route that most parents can provide.

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  65. Hi
    We moved to France for exactly this reason, plus plenty of others.
    The education in France is second to none, and there is no behaviour like that over here, it is a completely different environment.
    One where children flourish.
    Best of luck in the future.

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  66. I moved over to Italy because I was growing tired of the way England was being run. The school system, which is the future of the country has become a joke. I have friends that work in schools, some as teachers, some in admin and they all say the same things. The children arte becoming spoilt and the teachers can do nothing but tolerate their behavior because even pushing a disruptive child out of the classrom can result in leagal action! I am so sad when I hear of parents, that try to do the right thing, bringing the child up to have respect for others and have at least an idea of wrong and right, see their hard work ruined because teachers are not able to do a decent job for fear of finding themselves out of work and out of pocket.

    Oh and thanks to Mr Fry for pointing me towards this informative blog.

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  67. Like others have said if it weren't for Stephen Fry I would have missed your excellent blog.

    I went to school in the '80s and I too suffered from bullying, both physical and mental.

    I really don't know what I did to warrant such abuse.

    The teachers as a rule apart from one didn't want to know about it I was told on one occasion 'to get over it'.

    I am shocked that in this day and age this attitude is still going on.

    I hope that by changing school your son's school life improves and that he doesn't suffer anymore abuse.

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  68. MauriceMevissen25 November 2009 20:21

    Hi Karen,

    Thank you for sharing.
    Truely an eye opener (even for a Dutch native living in the Netherlands). We often find ourselves blind trusting the institutions. The few times we do dare to chanllenge them we tend to get dazzled by the many promises, pretty words and vaque commitments. Though I belief in the majority of institutions mean well and really want to do good, it is clear that we as parents should guard over our children.

    Keep on blogging ;)
    Maurice

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  69. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  70. Sadly, this is not something new. This story could have been written about the secondary school I went to from age 12-15 in the early '90s. I was bullied for 2 years, just for being studious and actually giving a damn about my education and trying to better myself. I hated every second I was at that school and believe it significantly damaged my self-confidence, not to mention my exam results (thankfully my parents then moved out of that hellhole to a village, at the other end of the country, with a great school when I was 15).

    I now have a young daughter and will do everything within my power to ensure she never goes through what I went through but it feels like the decent, hard working folk are powerless to influence the system and it seems to be getting worse year-on-year...

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  71. Exactly my experience re-entering the state system at 11 after a couple of years in a (small, poor) independent school. In 1980 I found myself in a Secondary Modern where the teachers bummed fags off the kids during lunchbreaks. I learned a lot there about the art of how to disappear completely, or in a flurry of fists and boots. (Anyone stuck in that hell reading this: keep your head down, life gets much, much better in a few years' time :) )

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  72. Karen,

    I read this post with some prior knowledge of what was coming as you know, but even so I found myself shocked again reading all of the events of the last 18 months spread out so baldly in one "stream of consciousness" essay. Poor Josh and poor you and OP.

    Well done for taking the final decision to remove him - I know how motivated he is and how he will thrive anywhere where he is not being shoved headfirst into bins and threatened for being complimentary to others.

    In response to the comments left by "James" I would like to add a few notes: Firstly I know that Mr Fry has met your gorgeous son and that therefore his interest is more than just "hit and run". I also would like to point out to James that given the breadth and depth of comments posted following this blog, it would seem that the nationwide spread of this problem is indeed as you fear - and not some figment of Mr Fry's imagination.

    Secondly, I am sure that you, as a concerned parent, will have read the Ofsted report for that school. I also know that when presented with a choice of schools all with similar statements, one picks the one that conforms most closely to the ideal - even if that falls very far short of said ideal. I also know that from my years of teaching, Ofsted can, and does, make mistakes. They come in and view a lesson which is being taken by a teacher with a terrible cold and attendant lethargy and use that "snapshot" to inform their view of that teacher and subject as a whole. It's an imperfect system. This is why schools hold Open Days in order to allow prospective parents to see the school for themselves and make their own judgements.

    Thirdly, not wishing to disparage James' experience, but at 23 he is not yet perhaps completely "au fait" with all the different facets of education although I am sure he will go on to become a highly respected and thoughtful teacher as time goes by.

    I also make the assumption that he is not yet a parent. If this is the case then he does not perhaps understand the conflicting emotions that we go through before making any decisions regarding our children, and particularly ones of such magnitude.

    As both teacher and parent, I applaud you for the way you have handled your dealings with the school and the eventual line you have taken in removing Josh from a situation which was not being dealt with effectively.

    Best of luck and much love.
    L xxx

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  73. I hate to hear these stories but "overworked and underpaid" O please. The average wage of a teacher is 21k. A police constable only gets 22k. The final three years of my school life was mostly spent at home while teachers were on strike. They dont care about pupils and need a good shake up.

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  74. This is exactly the sort of story that I saw all around me at a supposedly decent secondary school over twenty years ago when I was a kid. I learned literally nothing for 5 years, (I had attended a small private school for the 5 previous). In fact the maths I learned at 8 and I do mean learned, where not addressed until I was 13 in the state school. Although I had periods of pleasantness I understand now what a truly vile experience my time there was. Moreover what a completely useless time it was, there really was and clearly still is a total lack of connection between staff and students, there is no sense that any of the staff have a vocation and that's why they're there. I now live in America and even the most average of schools around me in CA have such a strong sense of school spirit and achievement, after school programs are abound and expected, and part of the majority of the children's life.
    I left school at 15, completely unqualified and directionless, one of Thatcher's children as I have since heard us called, once I became adult I grew to realise my potential and now have a Bachelor's Degree, have travelled the world. But I am completely self educated. That being so, my point is that secondary school gave me nothing, it was an ordeal to be survived, and surely that is the antithesis of it's role.
    Stuart http://www.myspace.com/santadamiana

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  75. (previous anonymous commenter adding a postscript)
    IME the teachers' responses varied; most did their best to cut down on violence in the classroom, but then retreated to the staffroom (and no wonder.) One - Miss Lea-Wilson, where are you now? :) - did take me discretely to one side and say "I know you're getting bullied really badly, if you tell me about it I can help". My response was proudly perverse refusal to cooperate; I denied everything, and left feeling resentful and even angry with her for - well, caring I suppose, breaking the Rule, making life riskier for me (she HAD been noted pulling me aside, and of course I was interrogated afterwards) and probably at some level I assumed I must deserve it anyway.

    The point I'm trying to make is that it's damn hard for the teaching staff to help. The psycho kids' home environments formed them. And so the wheel turns. I frankly don't see any answers, just a bunch of things that might help a little bit. Of course we should do what we can... just don't assume fixing the problem's straightforward. If it was easy, some government or other would have stumbled over it by now.

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  76. Hi
    I have just read your blog and I want to say I am sorry that you and your family, espessially your son have been through this failiure in the education system.
    As a child care worker myself i just want to say that teaching is a difficult profession to work in. They are overworked, underpaid and underapritiated. They are restricted by constant change in government policy and conflicting ideas on how to be a good educator. With increasing cuts in the child care service I am sad to say that your experience will become even more common. Teaching should be a rewarding carer educating young minds into society but is being crushed by failure in our government. You are absolutly right when you say that your child's rights to an education has been overlooked and ignored.
    Hannah xxx

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  77. Dear Karen, I was also redirected here by Stephen Fry on Twitter and I'm glad I was.
    I applaud your persistence, courage and love for your son. I live in Surrey with my husband and 2 children. My oldest is now in year 8 and when the time came to choose a secondary school for her we realised we didn't have much choice. Her primary school is Church of England so the natural progression would have been to one of two C of E high schools. But, in order to get her in there we would have had to have been on every committe and in every group at our church. Simply being committed church goers wasn't enough. So, what then? Well, our nearest state high school is only a short walk away so should have been ideal. But bullying, terrorising and violence has been quite normal there so we ruled that one out. The next one, close to her primary school, was marginally better, but only marginally. The third one was the worst of the lot with a C to A pass rate at GCSE of 27%! The behaviour of the pupils there was completely off the scale, at the wrong end! As our daughter is very academic she sat the exam of a grammar school 45 minutes drive away and gained a place. This could have been perfect for her if it wasn't for the distance and the fact that most of her friends would live that far away as well. Then take away the travelling time from the few hours she would be at home and be able to do homework and you get a very difficult situation. We ended up sending her to a private school 10 minutes drive away where she is thriving. They may take away the best teachers by offering higher salaries but the pupils are also expected to perform to the best of their abilities and are constantly challenged to reach higher. We have sacrificed an awful lot to put her through this school as, even with our daughter gaining a small scholarship, it is costing a fortune. But what else could we do? We can now only hope that when our son, who's in year 4, finishes year 6 we can afford to send him there as well. I realise that even with a huge sacrifce, not everyone can do what we have done. But, the main point of this is that we shouldn't have to make these sacrifices, our local schools should be good enough to send our children to and we should be able to rely on our LEA and the government to provide this for us. Sadly, they are all letting us down. My daughter's school has, at least, not let one of her classmates down; he is very bright and is on a 100% bursary enabling him to get the best education available.
    I hope your sacrifice isn't too difficult and I'm sure your son will continue to make you proud in everything he does. I wish him, and you all the best for the future.

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  78. I feel for you so much, I currently have no children of my own, but my mum was a teacher and took such pride in it. Now it is more about management and paper pushing than education, and until this changes no matter how good the teachers we get (don't get me started on teaching assistants) there is no way to improve education. Fancy buildings make the place look good, and the government rely on this, they also rely continuously 'improving grades' and new fangled initiatives.

    Know that so many people in the population are thinking about you, your poor son and all of the other pupils trapped at failing institutions.

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  79. Karen, my heart goes out to you and my understanding of the situation opens raw wounds. At secondary school while one boy started fires and the staff rushed in from adjoining rooms my son and others took enormous beatings and mental torment. The apologies wore a little thin after a while and several instances later.

    The person who wrote and asked why you left it so long really does not understand our reluctance not to believe in the system we created and is frankly naive.

    However on a brigher note, after GCSE exams and the move onto the local sixth form college my son is now reading Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge, all is possible with loving and supportive parenting. My best wishes go with you, your son and family.

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  80. i feel sorry for you and your son,
    but stop putting things in "quotation marks"

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  81. What a sad, sorry, state our education system is in. My father was a primary school headmaster Chronic diabetes had left him blind and without both lower limbs. His catchment area was almost entirely made up of a pretty rough council estate. Despite these seeming disadvantages, his school was widely recognised as by far the best primary school in the area, for both results and behaviour. Why? Because he was passionate about teaching, his enthusiasm for learning rubbed off on his staff and pupils and he cared about the development of every child in his care - to the point that he knew each and every one of more than 200 pupils by their first name, from the sound of their little voices alone. I even remember walking him round the estate to visit children who were off sick for any length of time, out of school hours, to let them know that they hadn't been forgotten and that the school was looking forward to having them come back.
    Where do you find that kind of commitment these days?
    Sadly the diabetes got the better of him around 25 years ago, but such was the respect that his aproach to teaching generated that former pupils of his still greet my mother in the street and talk about him.
    I am currently trying to get my own 3-year old boy into a nursery school - so for the first time since leaving college I am in direct contact with the education system again and it can only be described as a brutal, chaotic nightmare. We have been offered a place in 2 nurserys; now I'm quite a big guy, used to play rugby etc. but when we visited to check them out some of the 3-year olds scared the sh*t out of me - there is NO WAY my son is going to those places. The staff seemed to treat each day as an exercise in survival agaist the odds - and this is supposed to be learning! Key foundation whatever - my arse!
    The causes run deep - it's not just statist intervention in eductaion, the whole NuStasiSocialistJustice philosophy of welfare has led to the breakdown of the family unit and a generation of feral children. We are currently checking the options around home education.
    I could go on but I'm even boring myself now, just one last thought - ANYONE who EVER voted New Labour shares the blame in this. Shame on you all.

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  82. Hi Karen,

    I just read your blog via one of Stephen Fry's links on Twitter. I just wanted to say that I wish your son success and happiness in the future - he clearly has a wonderful Mother (and Father), so he should be fine despite the dismal start he had to his secondary education!

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  83. Wow!!! Interesting to see the comment your blog has generated. Also interesting to see there appears to be only one negative comment from someone called James (who completely misses the point)...Congratulations to you and also to Stephen Fry who has used his power for a very good cause. Kind regards, David (Australia)

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  84. I have to agree with a previous comment that much of the blame lies with the private schools which not only rob the state sector of the best teachers, but also cream off the most able children. That these institutions should also be able to claim charity status is nothing short of an obscenity.

    Despite everything, there are some wonderful schools and great teachers in the UK. The trouble is the lack of consistency - after all, what most parents really want is for their local school or college to be good. If they are not, it is up to all of us as parents, grandparents or concerned citizens to do everything we can to remedy the situation - write letters, lobby our MPs and councillors, become MPs or councillors, above all, get involved! It's called politics...

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  85. To PhilipH

    There were schools as bad as this in Thatcher's day, but the twin tools of removing corporal punishment and not replacing it with appropriate sanctions (during the last Conservative Govt) and the way our society has evolved with all rights and no responsibilities has contributed to situations like this. As I stated before - they way a child behaves at school is partly how they are parented and also the way the school can dispense supported discipline. Society would have evolved this way whatever party was in power I am afraid.

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  86. Having taught myself in a number of schools throughout the 90's I can only echo the comments made already. People without school aged children just would not believe me when I told them what went on in the classrooms. If you have secondary school aged children I suggest you try and take up/make excuses to get into your child's school and see for yourself. For me the problem is that the system is stacked in favour of difficult children. If you can't produce enough 'evidence' of wrong-doing any sanction including exclusion will be overturned on appeal. This means a lot of damage is done whilst collecting evidence. The best strategy that I saw in action was a school that made parents of poorly behaved children sit in class with them to 'oversee' them. Not many parents want to be there or take time off work. This was the 90's though so that may not be acceptable these days.

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  87. This is as much a story about the media, who should have been watchdogs covering this terrible school.

    The answer is schools vouchers, and smaller government. People might not like capitalism, but it presents you with choices. And choices lead to competition and innovation.

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  88. Hi Karen

    Thanks to Stephen Fry I am here too - should not happen.

    Well done for taking action. You have to feel for all the children whose parents just don't know it should not be like this, whose own schooling was a similar experience. I live in my home town and one school has never had a good reputation - has been rebuilt and is still in the bottom 5 in the county... my catchment school, not a chance my children would go there... but for some parents their children are experiencing what they themselves experienced - comprehensive failure.
    Such a shame
    It should all be so different.

    BUT huge good wishes for your new school adventure!

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  89. Thanks for writing this.

    Just wanted to add that for anyone investigating home-based education, a useful resource is home-education.org.uk. There's lots of groups nowadays, especially in big cities, so unless you live out in the sticks there's a good chance you'd have other home-edders nearby to hang out with & share resources.

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  90. I think I would have pulled my child out a lot quicker. 18 months of damage done, probably 3 times longer to sort him out.

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  91. Karen,

    We have discussed via the small bites that twitter allows, the pain that your son has endured and I have shared with you my own pain at being bullied. I am so proud of you for supporting EmoKiddy so completely and for standing up for his right to a decent education.

    I am also proud of you for not backing down, and for letting other people know of your experiences. Being a victim of bullying leads you to lonely places. You have brought it out into the open, and made clear that it is not just the children that bully, but the schools that encourage it by not stopping it.

    I commend you for all you have done, not just for your son but for standing up for all of us that endured hell at school.

    Thank you.

    Bellestarblue

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  92. Dear Karen

    Thanks for your frank account of educating your local school. In East Sheen in London we too face the prospect of two very well appointed schools with facilities to die for run and staffed by people I frankly would not employ to stuff envelopes. Local parents are trying to set up their own school only to find the concept is a political but not actual or achievable one (See Hugo Young,Observer 22nd) and in the meantime the choices for parents facing Year 7 is private, home schooling or ignorance and bullying. Close friends have tried all the options. One sent her academic son to our local hell hole where he was hospitalized with a fractured skull in 6 weeks of joining Year 7, another is home schooling and has just launched a petiton today to arrest Ed Balls legislation that aspires to bloody well "monitor" home schooling parents rather than support them. The inferance here being that home schoolers are wierd religious seperatists rather than desperate parents who cant afford private education. We have re mortgaged our house to go private. Its a shambles and as you say the lunatics are in charge. I do not know why we have not taken to the streets.

    Good luck

    Allison Ogden Newton (Allison's blog)

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  93. I was also directed here by our wonderful Mr Fry. I would just like to add my support and praise to you for taking on our shoddy education system to support your son. I am a mother of two small boys, one having just started nursery and their father is artist and I dread the day that I am faced with choosing a secondary school notknowing if that school will provide the education and social support they deserve. I wish you all good luck for the future x

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  94. Hi Karen,

    I would like to say I enjoyed your blog but that's not the correct word to use. I was interested. It just seems to be the way our education for our young is run now. With no regard at all for the them. My young nephew is learing intermediate physics now and the books he brings home for his home work are out of date. Teaching them about tubes for the TV sets etc. My husband is a blogger and he recently wrote something on education:

    http://mycodehere.blogspot.com/2009/11/on-education.html

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  95. For Josh, and for you, this has obviously been a nightmare. He is blessed to have parents who will make such changes and sacrifices for him, and for his future well-being. And, as one who was a victim of 12 years of school bullying, I assure him that the strength of character and sharpness of perception that he has had to acquire in order to survive these 18 months will serve him mightily as he goes forward into his young adulthood, to achieve and experience things of which his two-bit tormentors cannot conceive, much less dream.
    One's heart bleeds for the few, principled, people that hope forces us to assume still work in that school. If they do exist, they are overwhelmed by the tide of ambition-destroying, mediocrity-celebrating ideology that has swamped not only education, but all aspects of the rearing of our society's children. We are now, broadly, unable and unwilling to raise children properly. We adults are terrified of them, terrifed of their accusations of abuse, terrified of failing to stuff their young lives full of the food, electronic entertainment and spending power that make them such wonderful figures for one-degree-removed wish fulfillment. And, most of all, thanks to decades of the overuse/abuse of Freud, we are terrified of ever, ever, treating them with anything like authority - god forbid we step on their self-esteem by allowing a burnt finger in pursuit of the knowledge that the stove burns.
    The result? Our pets, having no knowledge or even sense of mastery, become the equals, and then the tyrants of their masters. And education, which should be the vehicle of ambition, which produced more social mobility and improvement in the post-war world than any other social factor, becomes just another arena for the celebration of the coarse, the common, the cheap, the transitory. All those things above which education was created to lift us.
    It's hard to be non-judgemental about such a ghastly, generational (MY generational) failure of judgement.
    Celebrate, dear young Josh, the fact that you are about to be so lifted. And give two big, loving, and grateful hugs to the two people who are lifting you. Mazel Tov.

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  96. Oh terrific. I've just applied for my son to go to this school at the end of the summer, believing that it would be the place to nurture his involvement with all things electronic. If this is a story of the nuts and bolts of, what we considered to be, the best of the non-Grammar schools in the area, it makes one wonder what the rest are like!

    I wish you every success with your move and hope the family can put this behind them and "move on" in the most successful way.

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  97. To Skidge

    Not once, ever, to my knowledge did my father or his staff administer corporal punishment in his school, and this was well pre-Thatcher. It just wasn't part of the culture. (In any case, he couldn't have caught the little blighters!)

    Also, it sounds like you might have voted NuPinko at least once - go on, fess up, and you deserve six of the best if it's true.

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  98. In answer to jenni.roger's comments about the private sector, can I echo an earlier sentiment that independent schools do not cream off all the good children: they educate only 7-8% of school aged children, and there are lots of talented, intelligent, able children in the state sector. There are also professional, motivated and inspirational teachers in the state sector. There are problems in our education system, no doubt about it, but we should beware of painting the whole sector.
    The key is attracting the best to the teaching profession. And retaining them.

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  99. What a shockingly sad story. We live in Kent and my daughter started (state) secondary school this year. We've also just started looking for a secondary school for my son, who is in year 5. Whilst not all the schools in our town have glowing reputations, we're very pleased with my daughter's school so far, and most schools I've seen appear to me to be very good. The one that I visited and came away with a very strong feeling that I wouldn't let my son attend is probably the best thought of grammar school in the area, but the culture to me seemed very aggressive and, when I asked about the (anti) bullying policy, I was told that the pupils needed to make friends and fit in to avoid bullying - hmm, hardly the full picture and I was shocked at the school's attitude.

    What suits one child very obviously doesn't work for all, although I can't envisage your son's ex-school as being a good place for anyone. I'm sure you've done the right thing is removing your son from that school: it sounds appalling and such a shame you felt you had to up sticks and move to get your son a decent education.

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  100. This rings a bell with so many parents - sadly its not just the LEA, this blight is nationwide -and if you have a child with any sort of special requirement _ as in very bright or special needs, which is less than 'blatantly obvious' - then forget any sort of support in the nmajority of school: teachers just do not find the time. I and my friends across the country talk about it all the time - and some of our family emigrated to NZ because of it which was really drastic, but the results have been amazing. Respect rules there and sadly our teachers spend more time managing class behaviour than teaching it seems.

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  101. Feel moved to comment. Oh, how I admire you. It takes nerve to make a stand. Our children were educated privately until the 1993 or thereabouts recession when my husband`s employer in the City of London ceased trading. Fortunately he was offered a post in Norwich and gratefully we sold the house in the home counties and moved to Norfolk full of hope. Since the new position was initially only guaranteed for a 10-14 month period, it being of a `mopping up the outstanding company debts` nature, we decided to place our daughter and son, 14years and 11years respectively into the local state school until we had a clearer vision of our future financial security. This we considered acceptable as the house we were in the process of purchasing was situated within the catchment area of one of the top two schools in the city. Boy, were we wrong?!!!! From day one the rot set in and though fortunately neither of our children were personally bullied, they were utterly appalled at the behaviour and total mayhem prevailing at the school. Half the class were absent from every lesson and lessons had to be replayed week after week with no progress being made simply because so few of the pupils were attending classes, though they were turning up for a smoke at the gates and their free school meal each day! Possibly even WORSE was the attitude of the teaching staff towards the children who DID want to work. Amazingly a number of them were sarcastic and mocking and certainly my daughter was nick-named `Posh Girl` by one such staff member, mud which of course stuck from a few of the less celubrious pupils, not that it worried her in the least! She opted for lunch-time prefect and was sought out, trusted and asked for help by a young boy who was being horrendously bullied. Many avenues were explored by her on his behalf but nobody was interested. In common with most cases, it was the bullied child who left the school rather than the bully being tackled. After a year and without any guarantee yet forthcoming from my husband`s employer we entered each of them for the independant schools entry examination which both mercifully passed. Life returned to normal. They made friends, worked hard and were treated well by professional, conscientious staff. The fees crippled us but we NEVER, EVER doubted our decision to take them away from state secondary education. Luck was at hand when my husband was offered a post in Cheltenham and glory of glory we discovered Gloucestershire as a whole and Cheltenham itself still supported a number of high achieving state grammar schools. They were offered places and have never looked back, thrilling to the learning environment, excellent staff and like minded friends. Both are now economics graduates, she a City investment banker and he a qualified accountant, also in London. NONE, I repeat, NONE of this would have been possible without their removal from a supposedly `good` state secondary school. In conclusion, both offspring confirm there was one invaluable lesson to be learned from that dark year - they now know who to avoid in life.

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  102. Private schools DO NOT get all the best teachers - there are lots of us that believe in supporting students in the state sector and are outstanding teachers. It's just that our hands are tied in so many ways by OFSTED and other regulatory bodies.

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  103. Ed Balls is deranged.

    The sooner we get him and his ilk away from the levers of power, the better.

    Society is sick because of people like him.

    Marxist filth.

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  104. The problem is the comprehensive school system. Apples (bright kids) and oranges (thick kids) do not mix. If you want your child to be well-educated and civilised, you need to get him into a grammar or a private school.
    Kevin

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  105. What a sad story, even sadder is the fact that similar schools are in every town and city in Britain.
    It seems to me that any school needs strong leadership from both the head and the teachers, but all to often these days this strength is missing, allowing the unruly louts to dictate what happens in the classrooms.

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  106. To PhillipH

    Yes - I voted Labour in my area - as the Conservatives played extremely dirty tactics in the '92 election and skewed the vote. Plus the recession during that time virtually destroyed the manufacturing here,and many lost their jobs and homes because of it. But my views today on here are not about that.

    Most "good" teachers I had the fortune to work with from that era, hated corporal punishment, but it was there as a deterrent. Many never used it - they didn't have to. They were backed up at home if there was a problem. I am glad your father never did. I don't think when I was in the classroom I could have used it if it was an option, but I also know I was a good form tutor, who fostered relations with students and their parents either face to face or over the telephone.

    My point is that there is a section in society that see school as the place that will bring up their child and seem to wash their hands of all responsibility of it - blaming the schools when something goes wrong. In this case in Bournemouth, the school has either given up, has spineless management, and is not tackling the behaviour problems. This is not acceptable, and measures need to be taken, and support put in place. If this support means permanent exclusion or referral to a PRU, then the school must use it.

    Schools only have the chance to work with children for 6 hours a day for 5 days a week for (approx)38 weeks of the year. So, outside that time, some parenting must take place? Or should take place.

    Parents taking responsibility for their children should not be a political issue - and if they blame their child's poor behaviour on the government, then they are directing their lack of responsibility anywhere else but themselves.

    From what I recall, the way my parents raised me never had anything to do with who was residing at No 10 Downing Street, but more to do with the different between right and wrong in a civil society.

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  107. Very difficult situation. I understand how you feel about your son and I sympathise fully with your decision to home-school him, but I do feel sorry for the other children in that school and in thousands of others throughout the country. Few of them will have such intelligent, articulate and meticulously punctuated mothers to fight their corners, and through no fault of their own.

    The comments made in response to your piece are fascinating, not least because they give such a good insight into what type of person follows Stephen Fry on Twitter! There have been a few rather simplistic criticisms of teachers in general though, which is all too familiar.

    The notion that some teachers just "can't teach" makes very little sense when you consider how much our ideas of what good teaching really consists in have changed in recent years. The other day I saw an HMCI teacher-training video from the late nineties showcasing various examples of "excellent" lessons. By today's standards they were absolutely appalling. An OFSTED inspector friend of mine said they would all fail. Teachers' jobs vary from place to place too. Nobody would expect an effective teacher at Eton to be effective in an inner-city comprehensive or vice versa. The boring truth is that teaching is subject to the same labour market forces as any other job. If you pay them more you will attract higher achievers, if you lower the entry criteria you will get more teachers but they will be of a lower calibre, etc. All standard stuff. But the idea that you can just weed out a few no-hopers and transform failing schools accordingly is obvious tosh.

    The real problem is that many state schools lack a critical mass of aspirational parents, because most of those parents, often at great cost to themselves, have taken the decision to send their children to private schools. Having taught in state, private and international schools I can tell you that there is no better indicator of a child's likelihood of academic success than their parents' interest and involvement in their education. They are the parents who read to their children when they are young, who make them do their homework, who attend every parents' evening and who phone you to find out why their daughter only got a B in her test and what she needs to do to improve. Private schools are better than state schools because they have the most demanding parents. In my view this is probably the strongest argument in favour of abolishing private education in this country. A critical mass of aspirational parents would not tolerate poor quality state schools.

    As it is though, to be an aspirational parent of a child in a failing school must be an incredibly lonely and disheartening experience and you have my every sympathy. I think you've done exactly the right thing.

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  108. How terrible for both your child, yourself, and all the other children in this and many other schools. This is happening all over the world, lots of spin, "newspeak'and managers, and teachers and children get crushed in between. I really hope your child will have all he and you hope for in the new school!

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  109. Everything else has already been said. I can only add that I hope your new life in London will be very much better for all of you. Your son of course, but for you and your husband as well.

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  110. Sylvia the song25 November 2009 23:22

    I am a singing teacher at a most fantastic primary school. I pride myself on having the upmost respect for my pupils and they return the respect. I never have bad behaviour as I teach with pride and with a happy heart! I actually thought when I read this that I was reading about the secondary school that I have just removed my own son from. He received top marks in his sats in year 6 and went into all the bottom classes in his senior school. There were children who through chairs and completely disrespected the teachers, when the teachers turned up, my son who came home with a piece of homework (that he'd done in yr 5!) was given a 3 day exclusion for acting like a chicken as he was so very bored. When he came home with tears in his eyes and pleaded me to move him I of course gladly agreed. It took him 15 minutes to walk to that school, it takes him 40 mins to walk to this new school, but oh my goodness, his teachers care they do discipline and the teachers are always present! It's a tiny school with a good ofsted report and he's been told he's going to receive A* in nearly ever subject!!! I honestly thought when I was reading the first post that she was describing my sons old school!! Teachers should be watched or have to be reviewed every few months and this should be a spot check with NO WARNINGS!!!! Just turn up!! Good luck to your son, you've definately done the right thing by moving him as I hated seeing my son upset and it didn't matter how often I went up to the school and complained, hardly nothing was ever done!! If someone complains about teaching they should NOT be teaching!! I adore teaching and my pupils enjoy me teaching them! We need more parents like you who take action and actually do something for their child!!!! Good luck to you and to all of us!!! Thank you Stephen Fry and my husband who told me to read it! xxxxx

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  111. The Anon who blamed private schools taking away teachers who might otherwise work in the state sector - is it really that simple? A good many private school teachers have master's degrees and doctorates, so maybe that's part of the reason they get paid more, as in most other professions.

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  112. I have always been glad I passed my 11+ exams, 20 years ago and went to Bournemouth School and not Winton Boys. This is not because of the opportunities the grammar school gave me, more that I do not think I would have survived the comprehensive where no value was placed on achievement. 20 years on and it sounds like little has changed. Sadly this is a reflection of winton boys' catchment area as much as anything else.

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  113. Although I feel for you in terms of your story, the way you demonise other children, the school and victimise your son is typical, in my opinon, of parents who understand little about the education system and want to blame 'bad schools' for everything.

    Tell your son what my parents told me when I was bullied at the local 'bad' school. "If you carry on acting like a victim, people will treat you like one for the rest of your life."

    Within a few months of hearing that my school life totally changed, by the end I had friends, a strong sense of self and left with the highest exam results in the year.

    You're part of a community - if that community produces bullying, bullish kids - do something to change it from within. Don't pull your precious boy from it beacause you feel he is 'too good' or that he 'deserves better.' It is attitudes like this that are the root of the social problems you describe in your blog.

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  114. I applaud you for sharing your son's pain. In America, many of us are/were children of immigrants. My parents worked hard and had a false sense of security that I would be provided a good education in public schools. Thanks to Carter, private schools were no longer an option for lower/middle income families. Carter eliminated, the much needed by lower middle class, tax deduction for those enrolled in private schools.

    My childhood friend and I were recently talking about how she and I were the only "successful" classmates that we knew of. While we may have been the least qualified; faith, university training, and mental resilience, made a difference for us. We both agree that God had an angel looking out for us. Your son has you. All children should be so lucky.

    So many brilliant, talented, and charming friends were lost to a system that failed them. They failed to develop talent, and only those of us with enough mental resilience survived.
    The United States has an educational system where the public schools receive twice as much funding as the private schools. Nonetheless, private schools far surpass on public schools on every educational standard. Corruption is rampant in every government sector, and public schools have a scary resemblance to any jailhouse facility.

    I, along with my parents, was too innocent to know the difference. I applaud you for being involved in your child’s life. That makes a difference.

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  115. Well done you.

    The system does more to support the so called deprived children than it does for the average normal pupil.
    Those with learning difficulties or with behavioural problems.
    I downsized my home and sent my daughter to private school and the result far exceeded what she would have acheived in the mainstream of the Bournemouth schools.
    Teaching Assitants have no formal training and could have worked one minute for Marks and Spencers and the next taking control of children.
    I hope the school you choose does your son proud.

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  116. A very sobering story, glad to hear it ended well at least. I read a book recently by a teacher at a school much like this one and it confirmed what a lot of teachers have said in this thread - it's called "It's Your Time You're Wasting" by "Frank Chalk". I recommend it to anyone curious to know how things have ended up like this.

    Scholar, your post is just about the worst example of doublethink drivel I have ever read. Not all kids can be "bullish". That does not mean they deserve to be bullied or that a school does not have a responsibility to do something about it.

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  117. Brilliant post. Schools, headmasters and teachers need to be held responsible for the educational experience they provide. In particular, school bullying should never be tolerated in any circumstances. Wishing you and you son all the best in London.

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  118. I feel for you. You seem as I am, apparently trapped in a world where intelligent, well behaved, polite children who should one day be running the country are held back and pushed to one side for the sake of equality. Too many schools and colleges rely on "centre of excellence for media and the arts" status (interestingly, there are apparently no centres of excellence for Mathematics and English, but don't get me started on mis-selling the dream!) and whilst having all the facilities money can buy, fail miserably when it comes down to the basic fundamentals of having excellent teaching staff. On a more personal note, I applaud you for removing your son from a school such as this. As someone who was bullied every day from starting year 7 to finishing in year 13 (purely because I was interested in and talented at Music and Drama - a passion I gave up to try and stop the bullying and never quite got round to starting again) I would have loved to have been taken out of school by my parents who just thought I was "being soft" and should have stuck up for myself more.
    I currently work as a bus driver. The level of abuse that myself and my colleagues have to tolerate on a daily basis from school children in our local area is obscene. If these renegade bullies talk to their elders in such a manner, what hope to the more vulnerable children in the classroom have?

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  119. Scholar - I think you need to read the blog again, as you seem to have missed the point completely. You don't need to have a deep understanding of the education system to know that having a different supply teacher for every lesson - sometimes no teacher at all; abysmal organisation and total disregard for reasonable standards of behaviour is unacceptable. Responsible, caring parents are NOT at the root of social problems - they do their best to make society a better place, however in an environment such as this school they are overwhelmed by those who don't care that their offspring are vile louts. How long do you think it would take to 'change it from within'? And how would you go about it?? If you have the answer please let us know instead of flinging accusations about the state of society at caring parents who simply want a decent education for their children.

    Karen, I applaud your decision and hope that everything works out for you and your son.

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  120. Children aren't the only ones being bullied at school . . . my sister-in-law is about to leave a job she loves and has been in for many, many years, because she is being bullied by the principal. She is a talented caring teacher. This school is in the north of England.

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  121. This painfully reminds me of my own education around 15 years ago. Changing schools was one of the best things my parents allowed me to do. Thank you for listening to your son!

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  122. This sounds like it is all too common, and highlighted a problem wiht many schools. I often get told that I have done better in life because I went to a private school and they have better teachers there. Teachers with a thirst for knowledge and a want to teach. This isn't true, private schools have just as many useless teachers as state schools, but what is different, and does make the difference, is the amount of discipline. We had a no tolerance policy to bullying. We had to stand up when a teacher entered the room. We weren't allowed make-up and we had to wear regulation clothing all from the same shop. We knew that if we stepped out of line we would be punished, which meant rebellion was in the form of wearing a bit of eye-liner rather than taking drugs or drinking in the play ground. And if we didn't do homework then a range of interesting punishments arose to teach us the value of education. But we did not live in fear, rather respected what we were meant to do, and this makes all the difference. It is not about how good a school's buildings are, or how much money you spend sending a child there, it is about respect, a nice atmosphere and discipline - and it's not often that a 19 year old "liberal" would be heard saying that, but I valued my time there.
    I hope your son comes out feeling the same way as I do, and that he will not suffer the same iniquities as his previous school.

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  123. I seem to have touched a nerve. I’m very grateful to Stephen Fry for mentioning my blog on Twitter and to all those who re-tweeted his mention. I feel very strongly about the state education system and its failings and, because of this, I believe that it SHOULD be the subject of ongoing discussion and kept to the forefront of our awareness. So often in life, we feel powerless but when we’re made aware of a situation that truly isn't as it should be, I HAVE to believe that, with determination, we have a great capacity to influence change. If we keep talking about it and presenting it as an issue to the people who purport to be running the country (and I don’t think it really matters WHICH party happens to be in power) perhaps somebody, somewhere may listen and act.

    I’d really like to thank EVERYONE who commented. I’ve been moved and very saddened at some of the comments citing similar experiences to those endured by my son – from both parents of children who’ve been bullied and from people who have sadly been bullied and intimidated during their own time at school.

    I’ve appreciated reading of the experiences of members of the teaching profession and, of course, realise that on so many occasions, “hands are tied” in what seems, to me, to be an appallingly restrictive system of political correctness carried out to a sublimely ridiculous degree.

    I don’t believe that private education can automatically be blamed for taking good teachers away from the state system. There ARE many good teachers within the state system as indeed there ARE good schools. There just aren’t too many good state secondary schools in Bournemouth and it’s quite hard to tell them apart from reading their Ofsted reports. I explained within my blog that my son finds Mathematics difficult and I didn’t believe that cramming to prepare him for the Grammar School entrance exam would have either benefited him or solved his problems with the subject once the cramming stopped.

    I also made it very clear in the blog that I am not a mother who mollycoddles. I have a very gifted son. I know he is gifted. His talent doesn’t make him a wimp and my knowledge of his talent doesn’t make me an orbiting parent unable to let my son stand up for himself on his own two feet.

    On the occasions when my son had been physically hurt, he begged me NOT to ‘phone or write to the school for fear of further physical retribution. I am not talking about the odd kick or shove – of which he experienced many, I mean Actual Bodily Harm which is against the law.

    We’re living in an era in which we’re frightened to say “boo to a goose”. Children are being knifed and killed on the streets for seemingly being in the wrong place at the wrong time; people are being attacked and killed outside their own homes whilst attempting to defend their own property. We’ve created a generation of people that we’ve allowed to become out of control. There is no respect for anyone – children don’t respect each other, their parents (who are often little older than children themselves), their teachers, property and we are walking blindly into further tragic situations where innocent kids and adults are injured or die at the hands of marauding, uneducated, undisciplined youths (who are rapidly becoming marauding, uneducated, undisciplined adults) because we are not allowed to stop it. But it needs to be stopped.

    I can’t see ANY member of ANY political party standing up and saying, “Enough” and then actually DOING SOMETHING about it. I’m not in favour of corporal punishment but I AM in favour of good disciplinary measures instead of fearful namby-pamby political posturing. Until we stop being scared of upholding the law, the lunatics will remain in charge of the asylum.

    I hope the discussion continues, that more people will join in and, hopefully, some of the people within the state system and within local and national government will, PLEASE, eventually hear our voices.

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  124. Western civilization has become a matriarchy. Matriarchal societies devolve, and it's most evident in the educational system.
    Remove your children from the education system.

    God Bless,
    An American

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  125. Please come stay in Thailand. There is zero education, the government is corrupt and the driving economy is prostitution.

    Who owes your son an education?

    The proud father of a hugely talented daughter.

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  126. To Karen
    Well done for bringing this into the public domain, and thanks Stephen Fry for highlighting it.
    One good thing to come out of this is that, from the number and content of the comments it shows that there is in fact a silent majority that actually care about their children's education.
    Well, let's stop being silent!
    Get into the schools - make a nuisance of ourselves, be persistent - make a difference. My 3-yr old is about to start nursery school, and believe me if there are any problems then that school is in for a rough ride, and the headmaster and I will be engaging in some, er, 'interesting' conversations..
    Better done in groups rather than individually.
    Fed up with your child's school? Find a few like minded others and visit the headmaster. Every day until things change.
    There are 2 ways to effect change: top down - no chance with the current administration, or bottom up. The latter takes longer, but ultimately is more powerful and long lasting.
    As far as the education system is concerned, enough is enough. Time for change. If we continue to put up with this, it will just carry on as it is now.
    Could we start a national movement for change in our schools? - sign me up!
    As someone cleverer than me once said: nothing, not all the armies in the world, can stop an idea who's time has come...
    Look what you might have started, Karen :-)

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  127. Both my oldest and youngest sons suffered bullying at schools. The oldest at a Performing Arts school and the youngest at a boys grammar. My daughter, in the middle, went to a girls grammar and had no problems. My oldest left to go to college after his GCSE's and just finished a drama degree. He hated school but going to college was the making of him and he is now popular and happy. There is light at bthe end of the tunnel

    The problem as I see it is that teachers have lost the power to discipline unruly students so the majority suffer from the disruptions of the few. Teachers are partly to blame for this. They have allowed their profession to become less respected in society. Fifty years ago a teacher was held in the same respect as a bank manager (perhaps not a good example!) but I don't think that is the case now.

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  128. Both my mother and my wife are primary school teachers in the public sector who, despite my obvious bias, I believe to be very good at their jobs.
    However our newly born child shall either be sent to a private school (if I can afford to do so), or home-schooled by either my wife or myself if we cannot.

    I have the utmost respect for good teachers, those who are able to not only to impart knowledge, but those who are able to encourage people to WANT to learn, and to go on and seek out learning for themselves. I am fortunate to not only have been raised by one such teacher, but to also have come across a couple more during my time in the education system. To these people I am eternally grateful.

    However the education system as it currently stands is fundamentally flawed and as such I believe it has no place for my child.
    Further to that, the number of days on which my wife comes home from school in floods of tears due to the treatment she and her fellow teachers have received - not only from the pupils, but from the management as well.

    Education should be enjoyable, something to be relished. This can only be accomplished in an environment where everyone, both staff and pupils, can feel safe and relaxed.

    To the OP, thank you for a very well written article, it's just a shame that such a thing has to be written in the first place.

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  129. So sad. As a new parent I dread the day that I may be faced with a similar situation. Thank you for sharing this, it will act as a wake up call and change the way I think about schooling for my son

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  130. Well said.
    I complained weekly about the lack of proper homework at my daughter's school but nothing was done. I question whether Ofsted is doing its job properly?
    Now they are turning it into an academy and putting up a bright shiny building - why will this make a difference?

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  131. PhilipH

    There should be more motivational voices like yours with the points in your last post. Top down and bottom up is definitely needed. Shiny new buildings do not change children in the long term, nurturing and fair but firm does.

    Karen - I really wish you the best in the future with your son. I hope he enjoys his new school.

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  132. I continue to be amazed that the good folk of the UK aren't rioting in the streets and hanging government ministers from lampposts.

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  133. Karen - I am unencumbered by a detailed understanding of secondary education; both my children are pre-school age. I’m guessing then that the ghastly situation you describe so eloquently is broadly a symptom of something even more tragic, namely the societal rot that grips us. Yes, I'm sure there are schools that need to improve the quality of education and care provided, but hasn't that always been the case?

    I suspect it is the increasingly widespread dysfunctional behaviour of children, rather than a nationwide collapse in the quality of teachers, teaching and school funding, that prevents so many youngsters today from enjoying an enriching and rewarding learning experience at school.

    At some point over the last couple of generations, we seem to have lost sight of how to nurture the basic values children need if they are to become responsible members of society as adults. Respect for elders and family; an understanding that needs are fulfilled through hard graft; tolerance, acceptance and thinking of others; a sense of purpose in life and an understanding that we exist as part of a community and not as individuals, to name but a few.

    Our consumption driven, selfishly motivated way of living today seems entirely at odds with real happiness and fulfillment both for children and society as a whole.

    Fortunately for your son, he has the most important provision on his journey through childhood; parents who care deeply and who will stop at nothing to help him on his way. Bravo!

    http://bandwagoning.blogspot.com/
    http://twitter.com/bandwagoning

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  134. This is sadly symptomatic of the dreadful situation that this government has got us into by assuming that throwing money at a problem will solve it. All they've done is build monuments to their outrageous waste of resources. It is the same with the NHS with its brand new hospitals standing with empty departments because nobody thought that they might need to budget for the staff to man them.

    Finally Jonathon Edgeware, your comment about "who owes your son an education". The government does, that's what we pay taxes for!!

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  135. May I just say, as a lay person, that the main point that struck me (not from your fantastic piece of writing, but from the comments below it) is that the people purporting to be teachers etc have so may mis-spellings & errors in their comments? What can we do for a child's education when the persons "teaching" them are badly educated themselves?

    It becomes a vicious circle, the mis-educated "text talk" teens of today, are the potential teachers of tomorrow.

    When the time comes I will seriously consider home-schooling so I can avoid the pitfalls of the modern day schooling system.

    I wish your son all the best at his new school. It may not have all the razzle-dazzle of the "Arts" college, but true artists, as you describe him being, will always, always find a way.

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  136. Wow! Not being a parent myself, I've never had to face this situation, but now I understand why my elder sister goes into such a panic when one of her children faces going to a new secondary school. I too was brought here by @StephenFry, lets hope others follow, some to learn, some to be ashamed.

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  137. What an awfull start to secondary education for you. At least your son has parents who take his education seriously. I wonder how many other parents have no idea whats happening or turn a blind eye for the sake of an easy life.

    It makes my blood boil that as parents you try your hardest to do the very best for your offspring. You work to cloth and feed them, you take them to classes to give them different experiances, you teach them manners and morals.

    But when you hand them over to the schooling system you expect this to continue, however I am starting to believe more and more that a lot of schools are just places to teach little people bad manners and loose-morals.

    I wish I could just stay at home and raise my son myself, however in todays society I HAVE to work in order to live in a house in an area where I can give my son the best quality of life, wthout fear of violance.

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  138. Like someone in the comments above, I also recommend Frank Chalk's book It's Your Time You're Wasting (that's a link to Amazon, though I got mine in Waterstones).
    Somehow it manages to be very shocking and very funny at the same time!

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  139. Ditto. I can highly recommend Frank Chalk's book "It's Your Time You're Wasting". It's well worth a read. He writes, with humour, about all the problems you have blogged about Karen.

    What I find really annoying is the Government cover-up. Who cares if they are spending millions on education if it goes on bureaucrats and fancy computers? Children who want to learn are not being educated because their lessons are constantly being disrupted. The average person doesn't have a clue what's happening in their local secondary school and middle class parents are criticised for moving house or playing the system to get their child into a good school.

    Well done for highlighting the problems and for getting your son out of that hell hole.

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  140. So it's all going perfectly to plan then. Our children are being turned into thuggish morons, exactly the fodder socialism needs.

    I feel for you Karen, and your son. My own lad started this autumn - thankfully it's a good school, a comp, but with a strong focus on discipline. They aslo stream - I find schools that don't stream are not worth bothering with. It indicates the prevailing ideology there - equality above all else.

    But I know my son's school is in a minority - even in our small town. I know that millions of kids have no genuine education at all. I know that our country is totally screwed in consequence - and I know this is exactly what was intended.

    Pol Pot might have been kinder than the monsters who are so intent on destroying our country. At least he was honest.

    BTW, I was bullied at achools, for days, months and years. I think it almost destroyed me, I really do. I can still recall the sheer fear I felt, day after day after day. Endless bloody days. I still bear the scars - both kinds. You are doing absolutely the right thing by taking him out of there. The best of luck to you both.

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  141. Karen, I'm a teacher-in-training in Scotland and reading that story a) made me glad to be on a very good placement with excellent staff supporting both myself and the children; and b) brought back memories of my own schooling 20-some years back.

    My parents offered me the choice of two (private) schools. I picked one as it was moderately easier to get to by public transport and hated if for the next 5-6 years. I left with awful A-levels and opted to re-sit them at college where I did much better.

    The main fault with the school was that it was a money-making institution. Children would get away with bullying and so on because it would cost the school money to expel them.

    The situation with state schools is poor due to the mollycoddling nature of society and the government these days. I would never condone hitting a child as punishment (though I had it at primary school) but we're not even allowed to *shout* at them any more. We have to rely on parents to back up our punishments and many simply don't do so.

    It's those children who end up ruling the roost, causing the problems that the (frankly pathetic, it seems) staff you had to deal with face every day.

    Even at the school I'm at we have kids who mouth off, intimidate, act like they don't care (well... they don't), fail to turn up for detentions, never hand in a homework and so on. The simple reason is that they have nothing to fear. Their parents don't care in the slightest and what can we do?

    You're right to complain about the way you and your son were treated, but the problem - I fear - is worse than just within the education system.

    However, it's not stopped me wanting to move into teaching in a bid to do my bit for the ones like your son who will make the most of it. It's the response of those children that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

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  142. You are not the only one to flee this dreadful school. We moved far out of Bournemouth to find a decent state school. All the best for your son's future.

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  143. You say you are home educating your lad for a short while after this truly dreadful experience. Why on earth don't you go on doing so? Of course, it may not be possible for you, but if it is, it offers so much more than school in every way. There are lots of links on the Internet, most of them helpful (but I suggest you avoid an outfit called Education Otherwise).
    Best wishes to you both.

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  144. The only way to fix this is to close the state sector down (obviously over a period) and give parents vouchers for each kid. Then the greatly expanded number of private schools will compete to provide a level of education to satisfy parents.

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  145. I wrote an article in the TES over 5 years ago when the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) began, pointing out that spending money on buildings and “stuff” wouldn’t make a jot of difference if they didn’t do something about the people. Since then I have repeatedly made this point in my educational blog.

    I would seriously suggest Redmummy, that you attend this event at Olympia in January and make your experience known to the organisers who are still peddling the insanity that a nice new school building is all you need to “transform” education. http://www.bettshow.com/page.cfm/link=186

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  146. This makes me very angry: because I can't believe you didn't know this was going to happen and because I can't believe all those commenting who are surprised at this.

    Have you all been living under rocks or something?

    This is the default state of British schools.

    If you have children not yet of secondary age -and you have the means - move to where you have a chance at a Grammar School education, a church/faith school or to a massively middle class area.

    Anywhere else, your child will be bullied if they take the least interest in being educated - and the school will do nothing about it. Heads cannot be seen to permanently exclude pupils and school management teams will not back teachers on disciplinary issues.

    Look at percentage leaving without 5 A to C GCSEs. Take away the private sector. Where do you think they were all 'educated' and why do you think they got those results?

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  147. I am absolutely shocked! I thought the school that I live near was atrocious (I have only met a handful of children from this school who can successfully string together a sentence and/or have a basic understanding of the English language, even though it is their FIRST language) but it sounds like this school in Bournemouth is really awful. I applaud you for removing your son from this school, and for having the courage to uproot your entire life and move a couple of hundred miles away for the sake of your son's education - I also wish more people made more fuss about poor education standards, and that the people providing these poor education standards and the authorities would actually listen and make improvements. I would love to have children one day, but I would prefer to do this at a time and in a place with good education and better standards all round.

    Well done, and keep up the good blogging.

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  148. As a teacher who has retired recently after 30 years in the State Sector, I feel compelled to make a comment. Most of my teaching has been in 'Secondary Moderns' and I have seen many changes. When I first started the Headteacher was just that, a 'Head' 'Teacher', and had responsibility for running the school from an educational perspective with education at the heart of the job. Headteachers today have to be 'Business Managers' with all that implies and there is a danger of losing sight of the function of education - that of educating. It is easy to blame teachers, they have been the useful scapegoats of politicians for many years now, but they are generally as frustrated as parents. They are required to deliver 'entertaining and dynamic' lessons to children who are well aware of their 'rights' but have never been made aware of their 'responsibilities' and behave accordingly. A colleague of mine, when I first started teaching, pointed out to a parent who was demanding to know what we, the school, were doing to sort her son out that , as a school, we saw him 190 days a year (if he attended)for approximately 6 hours a day (if he didn't abscond) which is approximately one eighth of his life at secondary age - whilst the school could take one eighth of the responsibility, what were they as a parent doing about the remaining seven eighths? A silence followed. There are poor teachers and there is poor management, however it is extremely difficult in the modern politically motivated 'blame culture' to deal with disruptive students effectively, especially when they know that parents and others will not support them. The majority of students wish to learn, and the teachers wish to teach them, but the frustration of excessive and unnecessary paperwork as well as the jumping through performance hoops act as an obstacle. Teachers generally go into the job to teach, not act as entertainers and babysitters. I sympathise with you and your son, my own son was bullied, however I must repeat what I have intimated before. When politicians keep interfering and introducing repeated and rapid changes the way they have done for the past 30 years, and then blame the teachers for everything, you can only expect a defensive and demoralised profession. I do not object to inspections and quality control, but it should be supportive to allow teachers to do their job better, not a tick box system. By all means remove inefficiencies, but let the judges at least be competent, and finally give the schools the ability and to enforce the discipline needed to allow learning to take place without it being countermanded all the way by those outside. Once education is valued by all and it is not just lip service paid to it, then we will have an education system we can be proud of.

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  149. I can't really add much to what has already been said here. I am a full time cartoonist who loved art at school and yet, the school never really encouraged it as a career, they seemed more focused on apprenticeships with the gas or electric company, this was back in the 1970's when such jobs were started with an apprenticeship! But things worked out all right in the end and i now make my living through art, which sounds like where your son is headed, it is a GREAT industry to be in so I really hope he finds what he needs when he moves on from secondry school and onto his first steps in a career in art. Best wishes to you all - Steve

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  150. My daughters are intelligent. I would like to think that I am. But the eldest, now 17, has met with prejudice from both staff at her school and college because she is from a poor family.

    At parents' evening this year, the Maths tutor told me I couldn't possibly understand the mechanics of his exam tables. I agreed, saying that he would be unfair to expect me to notice that he had mixed up the labelling of the x axis and had therefore been making predictions on the basis of there being 90 1% increments in a percentage scale.

    A Science teacher explained very slowly that my then 14 year old daughter would learn 'all about how the rain is made in the sky and how this means that the world gets warm'. Once I asked whether she would also be taught how the chemical structure of a substance allows it to store heat (or not) through vibration or rotation, she seemed a little flustered. Single parents living in council flats aren't supposed to know these things, apparently.

    I have told my children never to confuse income bracket with intelligence and never to feel intimidated by wealth or privilege. I hope that they remember this in their adult lives.

    I am sorry this boy has been bullied, I hope he succeeds in whatever he chooses to do, even if he subsequently chooses to be a boxer rather than the wished for artist (although I suspect that the self-fulfilling prophecy is a highly likely outcome here - unless he discovers girls and rock music in the near future). But for posters to make sweeping statements that the poor middle classes are forced to endure the torture of their children being at the same schools as the lower castes, is quite simply class based prejudice.

    The most predatory children at my school in the 1980s were those whose parents were teachers, as they knew exactly what to say to get away with (literally) attempted murder.

    'Of course, x (a beautifully spoken, expensively dressed Captain of the sports team) couldn't possibly have tried to stab you - you must have attacked them through jealousy. What's that? Defensive wounds in your hands? Oh - er. Ah. Go home, you don't have to do homework this week'

    I am glad for this boy that his parents care for his welfare and happen to be wealthy enough to afford a house/car/holiday. If it had happened to my child, I would not have been able to do the same. She would have been stuck at the school, as I am not wealthy enough to ever live in the catchment area of a better school.

    As one particularly wonderful child of senior police officers said to my youngest (when hearing she was taking the Common Entrance Exam this weekend - not agreeing with people posting doesn't mean I won't be delighted if she gets a full bursary) 'the only way your mum will be able to get you in there is if she takes you in when she's cleaning the toilets'

    Not everyone enjoys sufficient power to resolve such a situation, any more than 'normal' people are able to up sticks and leave the country because it's going to Hades in a handcart, and I feel strongly that sympathies should also be extended towards those children who are being written off as polluting the existence of those more fortunate.

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  151. It is a huge injustice that this has happened to your family. I'm sure you already know this but what a fantastic pair of parents you are to uproot your lives for the sake of your son's education and the fact that you're both obviously so caring and supportive of him will benefit him greatly, both now and in the future.

    Many people underestimate the power that school years can have on children, a lasting affect that can stay well into adulthood. I went to the best school in our area which was still vile. We had a few good teachers, most of the good ones had been there since my siblings went to school (my siblings are well over 10 years older than me) and, of course, did things the old fashioned way. The classes were controlled and the lessons were rich. The other teachers, however, were a joke. The type of teachers who Mitchell and Webb parody, in it because they couldn't get the job they really wanted, in it because of the good holidays and because they think it's easy. To the detriment of our children's education, they discover it is not.

    Normally, the phrase "PC gone mad" really annoys me. However, I think it's true in regards to what teachers can and cannot do to discipline difficult students. As a result, bullying has become rife, more dangerous and more violent. It's a disgrace and I really sympathise with you and admire your drastic action. Your son will thank you for it. Best of luck.

    Hannah

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  152. My son goes to Winton and has seen bullying on many occasions and I fear that he will get bullied because nothing gets done about it

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  153. Karen,

    How sad it is we have to resort to blogging about our worries and cares about our children and the manner of our education.

    A number of years ago I went through this with my daughter at our local school. After many years and visits and being fobbed off time and time again we too resorted to 'pulling her' from the school. We had reached a situation where my daughter had to leave school 15 minutes before the other children for her own safety. A group of girls had taken it upon themselves to make her life hell. On questioning the school on this the final straw the response was' It is easier for us to take the flack off 1 parent rather than 6!' So after 3 years of persistent bullying enough was enough.

    The result as first was a success. The schools welfare officer investigated, reported it was one of the worst case of bullying she'd seen and our daughter was moved to another school. She succeeded at her GCSE's but shortly afterwards sank into a deep, deep depresion the effects of the bullying had finally caught up with her. It has taken a number of years to get back to my happy smiling daughter and we are there now but the scars are deep.

    The school, well of course they regreted some minor mistakes they may or may not have made. An appology to my daughter - we are still waiting.

    So power to your elbow wish I'd have had the power of blogging at the time!!!

    @AndrewJames57

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  154. I have read your blog and it is identical to what happened to 2 of our sons at the same school. I went in on numerous occasions, wrote letters to the board of governors, phoned the LEA and after all this nothing happened. Our sons were too scared to go to school, and every day I dreaded the phone call that would inform me of yet another physical incident at the school. My boys became despondent. We were lucky enough to get places for them at another school out of the county. My sons are now happy, thriving and above all safe! I totally empathise with your situation and can see that you have tried as I did to make a change within the school. I wish you and your son the best for the future.

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  155. I feel so sorry for you. You have literally been caught by shifting demographics. Thousands of sixties teachers who were just about holding the entire mess together have been retired - often forcibly by OFsted and replaced with buildings and ICT suites.(teachers not needed, they can be replaced with cheap assistants and ICT) We are all aware that the kids have literally gone to hell because no-one apart from the police ever confronts them. Teachers get no political or legislative support and have all become a mass of total moral cowards and jobsworths.

    New Labours "education, education, education" has done nothing for ordinary kids except degrade them and allow them to bully harass and destroy their peers life chances often using ICT.

    Get him out if you can whilst you still have time! Also forget the arts unless you can live with watching the school of Saatchi.

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  156. I was also sorry to read about your experiences with your son's school. It just sounds appalling and I do hope you have more luck in Chelsea.

    I also have an only son, intelligent and artistic, and had to change his school several times. Despite a less than perfect education he is doing well and has a fulfilling life, both at work and socially. Hard work and following his own path has given him the confidence he needs to enjoy life.

    I really wish you the best of luck.

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  157. very sad for your son, wish you better luck in london.
    i agree - something really should be done about that school. my brother changed from there after the first term of school as he learnt barely ANYTHING due to the horribly disruptive behaviour in his lessons of alot of very loud boys.

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  158. I find it interesting that so many respondents are choosing to slam the 'socialist' model of education, whilst this local authority is one of the few remaining that retains the old model of grammar selection. Perhaps, the 'socialist' model of education would work better...it certainly couldn't seem to be much worse.

    I am firmly of the belief that the problems stem from right-wing governments (NuLab included)managing to make out that the 'class war' is somehow over. Even though the disparity in wages between those at the top and those at the bottom grows more every year; the vast majority of us have become conditioned into being 'good little consumers'. We have become convinced that there is nothing left to achieve - what importance is education if you think you can't or don't want to change things. As a parent and governor in a primary school it is quite astounding how fast children without English as a first language can learn - simly because they have parents who think that school is actually pretty important.

    It remains a sad fact that unless you can find a school where at least some of children want to learn, usually because the parents retain a value in education then this situation is likely to occur.

    PS I don't believe any school that says they have no bullying - they might deal with it well - but it will still occur (in school as well as in the rest of life!)

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  159. its not nice that your son is getting bullyed, but bullying happens in every school and you cant blame on just one

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  160. ive been at this school for 3 years and ive never been bullyed. Maybe the odd few push and shoves but the bullying is not bad compared to other schools. Its the best school ive ever been too and the teachers are good and funny, the teachers are very fair as well :)

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  161. We moved to a more affluent middle class area to ensure our children got into a strong state school. We couldn't afford a private education and now we've moved we can't afford as nice or as big a house as we've been used to either.

    But then we gave up one of our incomes too when we discovered that underpaid 17 year olds don't make great nursery staff either (surprise, surprise).

    It's fundamentally wrong that we've had to move miles away from the children's grandparents, our friends and our lovely home just because there wasn't a single decent secondary school in the area.

    Our catchment secondary school has a grade 3 ofsted which is supposedly 'satisfactory', yet I fail to see how a school where good teachers never stay more than a few terms, children throw chairs down stairwells and there are regular expulsions can be 'satisfactory'.

    New buildings and great technology can work wonders on a childs learning IF the core teaching and behaviour management is strong. Otherwise, it's pointless.

    But it's more visible to put up a new building isn't it? Or am I being cynical?

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  162. Hi,I know Josh and his parents very well and would like to state very clearly that Karen is no molly codler. Josh is a boy with a great sence of humour, loyal to his friends and keen to listen to other peoples points of view. The school is sadly lacking in its ability to deal or respond quickly to problems. I know as I have spent day's and weeks asking why my own son was in the wrong classes for his ability. On his second day at school he was in the medical room when a year 10 child came in looked at him and said "I feel like XXX throwing something, shall it be you?" With that, said boy through a table across the room. Needless to say I was up untill 2am with a hysterical child and then had to force him into school shaking with fear.Yes, the school did slowly sort things. However, its a struggle to get any real meaningfull answers from them on anything. I am always left with the feeling that they are going through the motions. However, my son has come through the worst and is now happy. Like Josh he was seperated from all his friend and again I had to request a friend be moved to be with him. My son is deeply sad to know his friend is leaving and has also expressed great empathy towards Josh's problems.
    Our family wish them all a happy and bright future.

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  163. Sadly, my son had a very similar experience, at the hands of Dorset Education.
    He was bullied at school, but the teachers denied it was happenning.
    We have moved out of Dorset, and I am now home educating my son.
    I feel my son's wellbeing was not taken into consideration, let alone his education. It will take him a very long time to heal, from a situation that should never have been allowed to occur.
    My only regret is that I did not remove my son from this school sooner!

    Kindness, common sense, fairness, and understanding were absent in the school environment he was in.

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  164. I have taught in an English so I aware of the issues, but what are the solutions? For your society's sake, this cannot continue.

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  165. From the moment I entered the school system I wondered why some teachers had decided on that particular profession.
    Even at that young age I always wanted to ask why they seemed to hate children!
    I didn't much like school myself, I felt that I would have learnt far more staying at home and reading.
    In fact, even before I became pregnant with the first of three children I decided to home educate.
    A big responsibility, as in the beginning I was questioned relentlessly by my own family on my choice!
    But I am so glad I did.
    Nearly eighteen years on now, my eldest is half way to becoming a fully qualified mechanic, he also paints, he does karate and mountain biking and reads, which I know alot of boys don't seem to do.
    He is well-adjusted, kind, friendly and above all happy.
    My family are particularly proud of him!
    Although home education is financially extremely hard work, I do not regret anything, and have consequently home educated his two siblings who are also about to reach the age of college entry.
    To anyone involved in Karen's situation right now I would have to say I don't think I could wait 18 months to release my child from the hell he/she is involved in.
    I also think more parents should be fighting for their childs right to learn.
    For too long now the bullies have been running the show, it is time now for us to say 'enough is enough'.
    Good luck Karen and family. I wish you all the best.

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  166. Just finished watching TV about schools and the various people they have interviewed. Why is it that the people that want these disruptive children in schools to be kept in lessons are always somebody who has done a degree in behaviour or child management and studied it for years who have never had children and seen first hand what it can do to other children who want to learn.

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  167. Update. Today at Winton School, sorry Arts and Media College, somebody's son walked out of their classroom near the end of the day only be confronted with flames coming out of a rubbish bin which really shook him up and everyone was evacuated. This is starting to worry the hell out of me. If this was my child in a school I would be asking questions. Teachers and staff have to be police checked before working in a school. What about the kids. What will it take. Someone to die. TOO LATE.

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  168. That made for a really good read

    I was directed here by Steven Fry via twitter.

    It's really sad to read that this is still going on to this day. I had a similiar experience in the early 90's - I was treated as the "stupid child" at a secondary school in Exeter, Devon where I endured years of bullying and abuse from both students and teachers which resulted in me walking out.

    I've always had issues with handwriting, something that was simply diagnosed as "Mild Dyslexia" which after a recent eye test while on holiday in Bulgaria with my wife, turned out to be a stigatism in my eye that has throw my depth perception out a bit (could have been rectified years ago with glasses)

    Anyway, to my point. I've recently completed 9 Microsoft exams, taught myself Binary, taught myself how to program websites, and I intend to at least get a rudimentary grasp of the Bulgarian language next year.

    Not bad for someone who would (to quote a teacher) "Never get anywhere in life"

    I really hope you can get things sorted out. It really does make me mad to know this is still going on

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  169. I don't know why you feel the need to move to a new area and new school. Just keep homeschooling. You understand your kids needs better than any teacher ever could. I am a supply teacher and we home educate our 5 kids. I have never seen a school that could address my kids needs as well as they are addressed by the people who know and care for them more than anyone else. Take control of the curriculum yourself

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  170. I really feel for you and your young son. My daughter and myself are currently teaching her youngest son at home as the Sibling criteria was phased out by our local education dept., . After leaving primary school where he did very well as his 2 brothers before him, he was offered a
    secondary school on the other side of the borough to the school where his brothers attend. The school he was allocated is one of the worst in the Borough (there only being 2 good ones to choose from)she had given 3 preferences and did not get the offer of one. All she asked is that he attends the same school as the two older boys (who are doing extremely well). After one failed appeal, many meetings with a local councillor and a catalogue of mistakes made by the Local Education Dept. These mistakes are referred to as 'Admin errors' by their office and the LEA. We are still fighting my Grandsons corner. We know that he would enjoy being at the school of HIS choice, and is in full agreement to be educated at home (legally) but really needs to be with children of his own age group. Where my daughter lives we refer to as post code cuckoo land for secondary education as none of the schools are within walking distance, so you are offered places that nobody else wants. Charlie was before Christmas sitting at 185 on the waiting list for his school, and now due to government policy anybody who moves nearer to the school than him jumps in front on the waiting list, my daughter and her family cannot afford to move so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We are also in the process of getting another appeal together with new evidence for this year, more stress. If, as we were told by the Lea that all the schools in the borough follow the correct curriculum, why do all the schools not perform the same and achieve the same results and follow the same ethos.

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