Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Thinning out the ranks...

Hundreds of thousands of children face being taken off the special needs register because they have been wrongly labelled as requiring extra help, the Government will announce today. (Telegraph)

A bit of recyling today, but it's as true now as when I wrote it back in 2010...

If Jack swears at his teacher and throws his books around the classroom, is he a spoilt, rude child whose mother can’t or won’t make him understand what is acceptable or does he suffer from a behavioural disorder? It’s far easier to put him on the SEN register than undo fourteen years of indifferent parenting.

And when his mother arrives on the scene, guns blazing, demanding to know why he was given a detention, do his teachers explain what she is doing wrong or sympathise that she has to cope with his condition? Thus the school establishes its caring credentials and Jack and his mother are accorded the status of victims struggling against the odds.

So Jack and his mother go home satisfied that his poor behaviour is not his fault – or hers – and Jack ends up on the school’s special needs programme. In time, if he doesn’t swear or throw anything for a while, he may even be rewarded with that old standby, a trip to Alton Towers.

Everybody’s happy – except, perhaps his class teachers, who are warned not to damage his frail self-esteem with criticism of any kind and are thus rendered virtually impotent in the face of deliberate provocation. And there's a lot of it about; nearly a quarter of special needs pupils have emotional, behavioural or social difficulties.

When Ofsted blames poor teaching and pastoral care for needless SEN registration, this should not be forgotten. There are inadequate teachers out there; no-one would dispute that – except, perhaps, NUT general secretary Christine Blower;
“Teachers do a great job in often very difficult circumstances to meet the needs of all their pupils, and for Ofsted to suggest otherwise is both insulting and wrong.”
but school policies and progressive ‘child-centred’* methodology have led to SEN registration becoming a justification and muddying the waters for those with real needs.

The sooner the numbers are reduced and teachers can concentrate on helping pupils with real learning difficulties the better.

*the fundamentally sound concept of 'child-centred learning' - adapting materials and methods to the individual pupil's skills and abilities - was long ago seized on by uncomprehending jargon-meisters, whose literal interpretation of the phrase wrested power from teaching staff and placed it in the hands of the mob.

Meanwhile, in another bit of timely recycling, this piece from the Tavern archives is sadly appropriate once more ....
'If Dickens had a spiritual descendant among today's bloggers, it was surely Anna Raccoon - tireless researcher, indomitable campaigner, witty satirist and gifted raconteuse. The blogosphere will be much poorer for her absence.'
Though it will not be the same without Anna behind the bar, the Raccoon Arms has been left in excellent hands; best of luck, lads - there will, of course, continue to be a link in the Tavern's sidebar for readers who fancy a virtual pub crawl.


  1. I shall do my best to serve any and all customers to the Raccoon Arms. I don't believe I can match Anna's quality but I hope that my output provides just as much interest.

  2. SBML, when I met Anna in France last year, she was singing your praises as a shrewd mind and a safe pair of hands.

    I heartily applaud her choice of replacement hosts; I look forward to continuing to be entertained and enlightened at the Raccoon Arms on a regular basis.

  3. My impression is that the punish or reward approach to controlling behaviour shifted to reward some decades ago.

    Behavioural psychologists such as B F Skinner were convinced that reward is more effective than punishment.

    Now we have shed loads of university degrees which aren’t worth anything, and kids treated as ‘disturbed’ who would once have been punished.

    The punish or reward debate isn’t over, but punishment of wrongdoing is at least simple enough for all to understand, including the kids.

  4. AKH; a perceptive analysis.

    It's the sociological equivalent of those concrete estates and tower blocks of the 1960s; exciting and vibrant in the architects' drawings - sheer hell when stuffed with real human beings.


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