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Bad Idea for Dealing with the Behaviour Crisis #5: End Parental Choice

April 27, 2007

The leftwing option for dealing with the collapse of the secondary school system is to ensure that parents of well behaved children can’t all send their children to the same school. Instead there must be “good social mix”. The plan is that if enough middle class pupils are forced into sink schools then standards will rise. Some will even suggest closing private schools in order to bring this about.

Of course this is one of those fantasies that flies in the face of human nature. While having a challenging intake will make a school more challenging, intake is never the whole story. Middle class students forced into a school with an ethos of non-achievement and loutish behaviour will not change that ethos. They will either become withdrawn and quiet, scared of their new peer group, or they will go native and behave as badly as any other kids. In my experience it can take as little as a term at a poor school for a student who arrives wanting to learn to adopt the attitudes of the majority. The lowest common denominator will always prevail in schools because the attitudes of the worst behaved kids are enforced with intimidation, social pressures and the every present threat of violence.

Also it is incredibly difficult to stop parents trying to get their children into the decent schools. End private education and the wealthy will educate their children overseas. Use catchment areas as the admissions criteria and middle class parents will buy new homes to get into the catchment areas. Force schools to take a mix of abilities and we will soon see students encouraged by their parents to underperform in tests.

Simply put, forcing middle class kids into bad schools would take considerably more effort than it would to deal with the schools directly, and would have little effect on the school.

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7 comments

  1. “Of course this is one of those fantasies that flies in the face of human nature.”

    Could you show me some of this human nature, which drives so many of your arguments?

    You teeter precariously between blaming the students for a bad school (the lowest common denoms making up the majority), and poor management. Do poor students produce poor management and bad schools? Or does poor management accept bad students creating a bad school? Or do bad schools have an aura that attract bad students and management?

    Surely you are also bringing back selection (argument #2), but simply making middle-class parents worry about the selection by buying new houses, and condeming those without the money to local provision?

    I am also interested in how you plan to discipline the ‘bad schools’ full of ‘bad students’ if you have not introduced more students who want to learn, and would readily display their willingness and create a new peer pressure if allowed to. Would you just send them all to prison for being morally wrong?


    • “I am also interested in how you plan to discipline the ‘bad schools’ full of ‘bad students’ if you have not introduced more students who want to learn, and would readily display their willingness and create a new peer pressure if allowed to.”

      tsk, tsk, Newsisgood – do you really believe that the ‘good’ students will even be able to “…create a new peer pressure…”? They will be bullied and hounded into oblivion. They’ll never be able to be “…allowed to.”

      Newsisgood, it’s very evident you’ve also NEVER been in the trenches of such schools before, lol.


  2. The point of taking away parental choice isn’t to deal with the behaviour crisis. It is to cover it up by doing away with schools that contrast too sharply with the squalor.


  3. “The lowest common denominator will always prevail in schools because the attitudes of the worst behaved kids are enforced with intimidation, social pressures and the every present threat of violence”.

    A first-hand experience tells me this absolutely correct. Newsisgood (above) must be living in a fantasy world if he/she thinks otherwise.

    My neighbours, a very supportive middle-class family, have nearly bankrupted themselves moving their daughter from the local comp to private school because of the effect it was having on her. Previously a keen and sociable pupil, she quickly deteriorated into a surly, monosyllabic chav (as the father called her) losing all interest in lessons, sport and music. They reckon it was due almost entirely to peer pressure.

    Within a few weeks of starting at public school, she is back to her old young self – with more enthusiasm for life than ever.

    I can only assume Newsisgood is working to some idealistic agenda where the real world does not exist.


  4. And henceforth, PaulD, you are bringing back selection – those rich enough can make the choice to move to a new area, and a new school.

    This means all the poor students will be left behind, with immense peer pressure to be rubbish (no dissenting voices at all). Do we then rename the school as a prison?


  5. What do you mean “bringing back selection”, newsisgood? It already exists. Unless some totalitarian regime (we’re almost there) makes it illegal to educate your children privately, it will continue to exist.

    My neighbour’s daughter obviously had no improving effect on the disruptive, disinterested kids around her. What make you think a few more of them – assuming they are all resistant to the gravitational force of troublemakers – will transform the classroom?

    No, the problem runs far deeper. I suggest, for starters, that the law of the land is applied behind the school gates.

    What we see on these pages are examples of intimidation, conspiracy, threatening behaviour, libel, and any number of criminal and civil offences that would not be tolerated anywhere in the outside world. I would like to see the full weight of the law brought down on anarchic pupils. They would think very seriously before waging their campaigns of destruction if some of their mates had been locked up for it.

    It would also teach them the most valuable lesson of their lives. Isn’t that what schools are for?


  6. i used to work in a rough school.

    i used to be ashamed of the standards there.
    there would be brightish students, capable of 10 B’s or better walking away with a couple of C’s, with no prospects or chances of university.

    since then i have worked in schools that have been challenging but also effective.

    whilst its true its important to have a reward system and engaging, purposful lessons the key was the discipline.

    every single act of defiance or rudeness was folowed up. its that simple.

    this ALLOWS teachers to design interesting and pacey lessons. Relationships get warmer because there is less conflict.

    sure there is lots of mentoring and buddying going on, and of course exclusions still occur from time to time but I have been in 3 difficult schools where standards were high because of fantasitc SLT who get the discipline right- it really isnt rocket science.

    then of course local middle class parents would be happy to send their kids to the school and the trend goes up.

    social engineering however will foster resentment and is doomed to fail- you cant stop people moving house for heavens sake!!

    the only policy i personally would even consider along that line would be to make a national rule that ALL state schools can only select up to 95% of their intake.

    so some local kids (via a lottery?) could attend their local but on the schools terms, so they couldnt undo a great ethos.



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