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Finding or advertising a teaching job on Twitter with #teachingvacancyuk

January 13, 2018

I have got two of my last three positions by asking on Twitter if anyone wants a traditionalist maths teacher. This hasn’t always worked, but if you have enough followers it might. Generally, however, Twitter is not great for finding employment because while people do tweet adverts or tweet that they are available for work, the tweets are unlikely to be seen by those they want to see them.

What we need is a shared format that can be used by those advertising positions, that can then be easily searched by those looking for positions. I’ve been experimenting with this for a bit and I thought it was time to get this going properly. Some words of warning first.

  1. This idea will only work if a large number of people use it. This means that if it doesn’t work the first time people try it, then people give up, it will fail. If it’s going to work then a good number of people will have to stick with it for a few months, maybe try it for a year. If you are an early adopter, whether that’s an employer or a teacher, you have my warning now, it probably won’t work the first time. Also, we will need to publicise this. Please share this post frequently.
  2. You will need to read the instructions and explanation, rather than copy what you see other people doing. The whole point is to make your job tweets easily found on a search. If you do not get the right search terms, it will not work. “mathematics” and “maths” are the same thing when you read them in a tweet, but employers need to know which one people will be searching for; teachers need to know which one to search for. (It’s “Maths”, by the way).

So here’s how it will work.

Instructions for those advertising vacancies in teaching.

To advertise a teaching job on twitter, use the following format:

#teachingvacancyuk
One word description (see below)
Region (see below)
Link to your vacancy
By: Closing date for applications
For: Starting date
Other details

Here are what all these mean:

#teachingvacancyuk: This is the hashtag people will search for in order to find positions advertised in this format.

One word description: This should be the main feature of the job and is likely to be either the sector (for non subject specialist), the subject (for secondary or FE), or the position (for promoted posts). For consistency pick from this list if possible.

  • EYFS
  • Primary
  • Special
  • AP/PRU
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Drama
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • English
  • FoodTechnology
  • Geography
  • History
  • ICT/Computing
  • MFL
  • Maths
  • Music
  • PhysicalEducation
  • PSHE/Citizenship
  • ReligiousEducation
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • ProductDesign
  • ResistantMaterials
  • Science
  • SEN
  • EAL
  • MediaStudies
  • Business
  • HeadOFYear
  • SMT
  • Headteacher

If your position covers more than one of these search terms, don’t worry, use both. If it’s definitely not on the list, tell me. The key thing here is that people will be searching for these terms.

Region: The region should be from this list:

  • EastMidlands
  • EastofEngland
  • London
  • NorthEast
  • NorthWest
  • NorthernIreland
  • Scotland
  • SouthEast
  • SouthWest
  • WalesNorth
  • WalesSouth
  • WestMidlands
  • YorkshireAndTheHumber
  • Overseas

Again, these are to help searching, so just pick whichever region sounds most like where you are. You can pick more than one, it doesn’t have to be precise. Whatever is most likely to be searched for by somebody who could work at your school.

NEVER split these search terms into separate words. eg. “West Midlands” rather than “WestMidlands”!

Link to your vacancy: This should be the URL for an advert for your position. It may be to a website linked to publication like the TES or Schools Week, or another jobs website, or it may be on your school website.

By: Closing date for applications: This is not going to be searched for, so put it in whatever format gives the key information. “Get in touch by DM for details” would be fine.

For: Starting date: This is not going to be searched for, so put it in whatever format gives the key information. “As soon as possible” would be fine.

Other Details:  This should be anything you think is essential (key stage, type of school, town/city, county/LA, full or part time) but should be as brief as possible and carefully chosen to avoid using words that have any overlap with the words already listed as that will make searching difficult. You are doing two things with the “other” section: encouraging appropriate people to follow the link, and filtering out those who will not be interested. This is what you want people to know before they click the link to your advert. So if you want somebody who can teach A-level, or somebody who can get to Oldham, or China, here’s where it goes.

So here’s (roughly) what it should look like. (Please ignore the way WordPress seems to be joining up the job description and the URL, click on the tweets to see what they look like).

Or:

Just remember, it is all about being searchable. Use the right format for the one word description and the region and try not to add anything that might be searched for by mistake. And, again, please don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time. It should work eventually, so please keep trying whenever you have a position to advertise.

Instructions for those seeking vacancies in teaching.

Use the Twitter search function. In one search, search for #teachingvacancyuk, a one word description of the position (see below) and the region (see below).

Pick the one word description of the position from this list:

  • EYFS
  • Primary
  • Special
  • AP/PRU
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • English
  • FoodTechnology
  • Geography
  • History
  • ICT/Computing
  • MFL
  • Maths
  • Music
  • PhysicalEducation
  • PSHE/Citizenship
  • ReligiousEducation
  • Drama
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • ProductDesign
  • ResistantMaterials
  • SEN
  • EAL
  • MediaStudies
  • Business
  • SMT
  • Headteacher

Pick the region from this list:

  • EastMidlands
  • EastofEngland
  • London
  • NorthEast
  • NorthWest
  • NorthernIreland
  • Scotland
  • SouthEast
  • SouthWest
  • WalesNorth
  • WalesSouth
  • WestMidlands
  • YorkshireAndTheHumber
  • Overseas

So for instance, if you are looking for a primary position and you live in Birmingham, type

#teachingvacancyuk Primary WestMidlands

Then choose “latest” rather than “top”.

And you should get this, which is hopefully what you are looking for.

The odds are that you will not find any appropriate positions the first time you try this. Please don’t give up, keep trying.

Instructions for those who want to help.

Please share this blogpost. Not just once, but loads of times. Reblog it, tweet it, rewrite it in your own words if you like and put it on your blog. just get it out there. You have my permission to quote some or all of the text in this blog as long as you are using it to promote the correct use of the hashtag. It will only work if enough people use it.

Another way to promote it would be to search for “#teachingvacancyuk” and share any adverts you think your followers might be interested in. If this helps increase the responses, it will encourage employers to keep using it.

Also feedback is welcome. If you do make suggestions, remember that it is all about being able to search, not being as accurate as possible, but being accurate enough to search and get a result. And, if you see people using the hashtag but not getting the format correct, tell them.

Finally, if you wish to design a website or form for searching or writing adverts in the right format, go ahead, and I will share it. Anything that makes the process easier will be great. Thanks.

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A Guide To Scenes From The Battleground

January 6, 2018

I have updated this guide for the holidays.

This blog is about the state of secondary education. There is an introduction to it here:

And some reflections on it here:

Here is a summary of my main points:

Here are a few posts written purely for a laugh (although some of them perhaps make a point at the same time):

The following posts sum up what is typical in schools these days in various respects:

Behaviour:

Curriculum:

Teachers and Managers:

Special Needs:

School Life:

Miscellaneous:

As well as the advice for teachers included in many of the other posts, I have written advice specifically for new teachers:

These deal more directly with my own personal experiences, or the experiences of others:

I have also written a number of posts exploring and explaining how this situation came to be, discussing the arguments in education and suggesting what can be done.

Background:

Apologia and arguments:

Progressive Education:

Behaviour:

Initiatives:

Education Policy and Current Affairs:

Phonics

OFSTED:

The College of Teaching:

Children’s Mental Health

School shamings and witch hunts

Teaching and Teachers:

Educational Ethics and Philosophy:

Education Research and Academics

The Curriculum

Here are some videos I found on the internet which I thought were interesting, or relevant, enough to present in a blog post. Some will probably no longer be available, I hope to correct this where possible when I get the chance.

I wrote about some of the myths that are spread to teachers, often in INSET or during PGCEs:

I have also outlined what I would expect from schools willing to do put things right:

Here are my book recommendations:

This may be of interest if you are considering writing a blog or are looking for blogs to read:

You may also have found me…

I have also written sections in the following three books:

Please let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Finally, I can be found on Facebook (please “friend” me) or Twitter (please “follow” me).

If you want to keep up with education blogging other than mine, or to see some of these same concerns discussed by others, then you should follow my sister blog, The Education Echo Chamber. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here. The sister blog to the sister blog is The Echo Chamber Uncut which automatically shares all UK education blogs. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here. There are details of some “mini Echo Chambers” here.

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On Edu-Twitter Witch Hunts

January 5, 2018

Three weeks ago a couple of people (who I would call “trolls”, but who would no doubt see themselves as perfectly justified in all the abuse they’ve posted over the years) started sharing my blogposts from 8 or 9 years ago, alongside their interpretations of what I meant. It started with the idea that to criticise opposition to exclusions or SEN policy, even SEN policies that have now been abandoned, was to “attack” children with SEND. Details of that issue can be found in this post children are human beings, not labels, but the fuss moved on to other thought-crimes, such as being insufficiently dogmatic in my opposition to corporal punishment. I got loads of abuse from people who accepted those interpretations, particularly parents of children with SEND, who believed that I was attacking their child. Plus there were huge threads where people just agreed I was a terrible human being, and expressed their shock at anybody who wouldn’t take their word for it.

I am very grateful for what then happened. Lots of people on edu-twitter stepped in and said “Andrew’s okay” or “that post doesn’t mean that” or just “I remember what was happening back then, this post got it right”. I am very grateful to everybody who did that. I suppose I could be smug that, even with all those years of blogging, even when I was writing anonymously about some of the darkest times in my life, I don’t recall writing anything I was ashamed of, and for all the fury of the trolls, I’m not actually enough of a hate figure for stuff like that to really take off. But I know these kind of campaigns have in the past grown into full-blown witch hunts (and done people significant harm) and I want to reflect on this.

I’ve written a couple of posts about witch hunts on social media:

I use “witch hunt” to describe any series of accusations against an individual or group of individuals in which they are given no fair opportunity to defend themselves. These occur when the quantity of social media activity, the speed at which new arguments are introduced or the level of personal abuse against the target (or those defending them) are great enough to deny anyone a fair opportunity to respond. The situation can usually be identified by the amount of abuse, the effort people put into finding new things to accuse the target of, the willingness of people to repeat accusations regardless of accuracy or fairness (often making really tenuous arguments to explain why, apparently discredited accusations can still be repeated) and “accusation shift”, i.e. responding to criticism of one accusation by making a new accusation. Often the intention of those making or sharing accusations is not to get at the truth but to publicly shame, something you can read about in Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

Over the life cycle of a witch hunt, arguments will tend towards:

  1. Guilt by association. People are condemned for defending the witch hunt’s target, even against false accusations. Yesterday I was accused of “complicity in misogyny” for defending somebody who was subsequently accused of sending sexist tweets. Also yesterday, a school was attacked for having been praised by the target of that witch hunt.
  2. Revision of the narrative of the witch hunt. There is often complete amnesia about what prompted the witch hunt, and the order in which accusations emerge. People will justify the witch hunt on the basis of whatever accusations have stuck, or been proved correct, and forget that it started with other, often discredited, accusations, or perhaps just a campaign of abuse, which may now have been forgotten.
  3. Revenge. If the target is not destroyed, the witch hunters lash out at anyone who challenged the witch hunt or even those who just refused to join in.

“I’d just like you to answer some valid criticisms”

I’ve written the greatest quantity of posts about school shamings: witch hunts that focus on a school rather than a person. Generally my opposition to school shamings has been well received with little criticism except from those trolls who conduct long-term campaigns against named schools, and people who will compulsively disagree with me. I’ve had a certain amount of support for condemning witch hunts against individuals in education, particularly teachers or people who have made a positive contribution to education social media. I’ve had absolutely no effect when people go for politicians or political commentators. Twitter politics is largely a pantomime, inhabited by people who divide the world into goodies and baddies, and genuinely seem to believe that booing the baddies will change the world. In that environment, witch hunting behaviour is just seen as what you do.

On edu-twitter, I don’t think the battle has yet been lost. I think most people are decent and professional, but I do think a lot of people find it hard to understand why some of us object to all witch hunts, rather than just those against more sympathetic targets. I will challenge false accusations on principle. I will ask people joining in a Twitter witch hunt: “do you really know what you are doing?”. I will try to challenge those inciting abuse against people, even if those people may seem like the villains of the piece.

It is very difficult to argue against a witch hunt, as Jon Ronson describes in his book, the fact that “the snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche”. No matter how odious a hate campaign is, individuals feel their own contribution was simply “asking questions” or “making valid criticisms” and anyone pointing out the witch hunt is trying to obstruct that. Even when they don’t disassociate themselves from the other people attacking the same target, people will endlessly argue over what the correct definition of a “witch hunt” is or they will argue that, however bad the campaign against somebody is, ultimately the target deserved it.

My position on any ongoing witch hunt will be this:

If you make an accusation, I will expect you to have evidence for it, for there to be no distortion, and I will condemn you if you spread lies or gossip or abuse. And even if the accusation is true, I will still feel no obligation to join in. I will not make that conditional on any wider narrative of whether the target is a goody or baddie; Labour or Tory; traditionalist or progressive; writing in the Guardian or the Daily Mail (or Spiked) or anything else, because I don’t care whether the target “has it coming” or not. Nobody can make a fair judgement about that when joining an enraged mob. It is not necessary to join in a witch hunt in order to challenge actions, arguments or opinions. Save your valid criticisms, or important questions, until after the fuss has died down. If you would not make an argument or express disapproval without an enraged mob to back you up, then it’s probably not worth doing so. Trying to destroy people on social media is bad for debate, bad for free speech and sets a really bad example of how to use social media. Let’s see if edu-twitter can rise above that.

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Top rated posts in 2017

January 1, 2018

The following posts got the most views in 2017. Most of them weren’t actually written in 2017, so do check the date before reading.

  1. The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression
  2. A Myth for Teachers: Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet
  3. Good Year Heads
  4. How to Destroy NQTs
  5. Charlie and the Inclusive Chocolate Factory
  6. The Rise Of The Progressive Trolls
  7. How Educational Progressives are still trying to silence those who disagree
  8. Seven Habits of Highly Defective Headteachers
  9. The Chartered Teacher Programme: Another stick to beat teachers with
  10. Academic and non-academic subjects
  11. Don’t let phonics denialists move the goal posts after PIRLS 2016
  12. Teachers are divided by values, not just methods
  13. How To Find Out If Your Teacher Is Gay
  14. A blogger all teachers should be following: @greg_ashman
  15. Why all the research on teacher qualifications is worthless
  16. Children are human beings, not labels
  17. Is Growth Mindset the new Brain Gym?
  18. The Obligatory Michaela Post
  19. 3 ways phonics denialists will try to fool you
  20. What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude?

Happy new year.

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Should teachers question authority?

December 30, 2017

It’s often unpredictable what will cause people to kick off after a blogpost. A few recent controversies caught me by surprise.

The first was in the aftermath of these two posts:

In the first of these posts I had been quite reductive about PE and drama. I had reduced PE to being about sport, and drama to being about acting. The curious thing was that PE teachers were able to immediately come back and say that PE was also about fitness and participation (points I accepted in the second post) and drama teachers came back with dozens of different, often contradictory, suggestions for what I’d left out that suggested no consensus whatsoever about what should be in drama other than acting. But what was most curious of all, was that people attempted to argue their case about what was essential in drama by referring to the GCSE specification. The entire debate had been about whether examinations were appropriate for certain subjects, yet for some people it was unthinkable that anyone in the debate would disagree with what the examiners had said about the subject.

The other surprise controversy was over this post:

Addendum: A 4th Way phonics denialists will try to fool you

In this post I had quoted from a couple of posts from The Diary Of a Not So Ordinary Boy a blog written by a (then) teacher about her son. The quotations included the name of the son, and in the first version of the post I included his name, and mentioned who he was in the description of the blog. Nothing I mentioned was not a direct reference to the blog. Nothing I said involved any information that I had acquired personally rather than read on a public site that the author had shared on Twitter to over 7000 people. The quoted material had also been published years ago and left up. The blog had also won an award from the TES and been publicised that way. However, both the author and a variety of other people declared that I had endangered her son, or committed a safeguarding breach, by quoting the blog and/or mentioning what the blog was about. I hadn’t realised that the blog’s author had used her son’s real name in her blog, so when she complained I removed her son’s name, expecting her to do the same for her blog. She didn’t. She, and other people, were of the view that parental consent meant that she could publish whatever information she liked about her son to an audience of thousands, but if anybody else mentioned what the blog was about, they’d need her permission. Why? Because that’s how it works in schools. Schools can only publish information about identifiable children with parental consent, therefore, parental consent must make all the difference. Of course, parental consent makes sense in schools,, it is making sure there is shared responsibility for any risks, no matter how small, that a child might be exposed to. It means that schools that work directly with children need to seriously consider whether the information they have about those children is confidential. It has absolutely no bearing on whether anyone can refer to information that has already been published to thousands of people and a moment’s thought about all the times reviewers of books, films, or TV programmes have mentioned by name children who appeared in those books, films or TV  programmes would make that clear. However, for many, the rules that govern schools revealed timeless moral truths that were applicable beyond schools, rather than a pragmatic basis for how schools should operate.

Finally, there was a fuss over some of the comments I’d made about exclusion. I won’t go into too much detail as I covered it in this post Children are human beings, not labels but again I found people with an absolutely entrenched belief that the authorities had determined what could be debated. There were people who believed that any suggestion still in official guidance about being inclusive of SEND, meant the policy of Inclusion that was abandoned 10 years ago was still in place (or alternatively had never existed as a distinct policy). There were people who believed that as The Equalities Act (2010) required “reasonable adjustments” for those with disabilities, then allowing the badly behaved to treat teachers like dirt was required by law (stretching both the concept of reasonable adjustment and the concept of disability to breaking point) and no teacher could debate this point without being unfit to be in the classroom.

All of these controversies involved people taking something that had been written down by an authority, that was authoritative in their working lives, or in their online activism, and assuming that it was authoritative in other circumstances. So examiners’ ideas about what to examine in drama were authoritative in debates over the nature of the subject. Child protection guidance for schools is authoritative, even over people referencing what had already been published about children they have never met. The laws and guidance about SEND determine what should be done about behaviour, even in cases where SEND is not known to be an issue, or where the established interpretation of the laws and guidance says something else entirely.

All this reminded me of when I first started blogging. I would repeatedly be told that I must believe in the ideology promoted by the DfES or DCSF (as the DfE was then known), by the GTC(E) in their teaching standards, by OFSTED, and by schools. There could be no argument about knowledge in the curriculum, because the official curriculum already marginalised knowledge. There could be no debate about behaviour, because Inclusion was the official policy and the Steer Report had said there wasn’t a serious problem. There could be no debate about teaching, because OFSTED had already told us the correct way to teach and the GTC(E) had already told us what we must believe about how to teach. I had to be anonymous back then, and the most common argument against me was not that I was wrong, but that I was not allowed to even hold the views I do and still teach in state schools. The authorities had spoken and debate was no longer necessary.

Ironically, given that many educators have problems with adult authority over children, there is a long tradition in the profession of uncritical acceptance of authority over teachers. Policymakers and administrators have to make decisions that people have to abide by, but those decisions are never above critique. What is written down about what teachers should do or think is contingent on time and place, and is applicable only in that context, and never in the context of determining what can be debated. To be a profession, we must have freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Not because there are no right or wrong answers, or no legitimate authorities, but because debating ideas is necessary in order to develop our thinking, and as professionals, we are obliged to think about what we do.

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Schools should be championed not shamed

December 24, 2017

Back when I started blogging, back in the days when there was a consensus between government, inspectors, and a multitude of quangos that progressive education was the only thing that worked, one of the phrases used most often by progressives was “an attack on teachers” which was used to describe opposing opinions. The narrative was that of a united profession being undermined by right-wing politicians and journalists who dared suggest that kids could learn more, or behave better. Those of us in the teaching profession who thought expectations could be higher were forced into anonymity, and then accused of being dinosaurs, working in independent schools or just plain lying about what was happening in schools.

This seems like a lifetime ago. Nowadays when you see a progressive on social media they are likely to be a consultant, journalist or an educationalist, and they are likely to be attacking a named school for being too traditionalist. School shaming is their weapon of choice, pick a single school that symbolises traditionalism and then attack it again and again for anything they can think of. The staff are demonised on social media (the progressives have no qualms about naming practices they disagree with as “abusive”), negative stories are fed to the press, and the schools are bombarded with Freedom Of Information requests to be answered. A targeted school might see complaints about them sent to their MAT, their LA, OFSTED, charities and even random celebrities on social media. If you want a flavour of the abuse a shamed school might get, read these 3 posts:

Those responsible for these hate campaigns take little responsibility for what they are doing. As Jon Ronson pointed out in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, “the snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche”. People will simply dismiss the cumulative effect of attacks and claim that their personal contribution to the witch hunt is justified because schools should be subject to scrutiny and criticism. Some even claim that the phrase “school shaming” should not be used at all, or should be used to describe any negative comment about unnamed schools, and refuse to acknowledge that individual schools are being subjected to sustained vilification on social media. They will say they are simply debating policies.

There’s basically two categories of “crimes” schools get accused of during a school shaming.

  1. Doing things that are unusual. Examples are silent corridors, or compulsory school lunches. People are encouraged to think these must be wrong because they are weird.
  2. Doing things that are really common. People are encouraged to complain about these because they exemplify what’s wrong with schools and teachers.

Of course, even if a policy is unusual, there’s little enthusiasm to debate those policies without a named school in the firing line. When I wrote this post about a controversial policy I got very few hits and very few responses. The year before, a school that had this same policy was on the end of weeks of online abuse from thousands of people. The difference is striking; policies are only outrageous when there are individual teachers to be distressed by the condemnation.

That individual schools get condemned for practices that are really common seems bizarre, but with some help from edu-twitter (thanks) I compiled a list of things that are really common in schools, but individual schools or teachers have been attacked for on social media:

  1. Calling the students in a school “kids”. (This complaint was made by somebody who had repeatedly used the word “kids” themselves).
  2. Getting students to write thank you letters.
  3. Letting students out in the rain.
  4. Expecting students not to turn their backs on teachers who are talking to them.
  5. Enforcing school uniform rules.
  6. Students leaving since the previous year. (One school got an FOI request about how many students had been removed from the school roll at the start of the school year. Although this included students who had never attended, and was not exceptionally high, this was then used as evidence of “off-rolling”.)
  7. Teachers saying their school is better than other schools.
  8. Excluding badly behaved students.
  9. Using angle diagrams that aren’t drawn to scale in maths lessons. (Really)
  10. Having seats facing the board not the window. (Admittedly most of this last one came from some bizarre Americans who stumbled onto UK edutwitter).

These complaints often result in a lot of teachers saying “hang on, we do that, have done for years, and nobody complains”. But even this fuels the witch hunt. I’ve now reached the point where I think discussing the accusations may be counter-productive. I think the time has come to take the following approach:

  1. Respond to any criticism of a named school with an immediate request to stop the shaming.
  2. Save any debate about the content of the criticism to a blogpost or tweet a week or two later that does not mention the school in the original accusation.

That’s what I will be doing. If you feel the same way, feel free to use the following graphic (designed by @jamestheo)

It’s time to champion teachers and support schools. The social media witch hunts need to be challenged for what they are: dishonest, ideologically-motivated bullying.

Merry Christmas.

 

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Children are human beings, not labels

December 17, 2017

I am fascinated by the way politics interacts with education. Often what politicians ask for is distorted beyond all recognition at the implementation phase. One example of this was the 1997 Labour manifesto, it promised “We will encourage the use of the most effective teaching methods, including phonics for reading and whole class interactive teaching for maths” and yet while the government made some short-lived progress in maths, a report found in 2006 that the evidence on phonics was still being widely ignored. A bigger issue under that government was behaviour. The 1997 manifesto promised that:

Teachers will be entitled to positive support from parents to promote good attendance and sound discipline. Schools suffer from unruly and disruptive pupils. Exclusion or suspension may sometimes be necessary. We will, however, pilot new pupil referral units so that schools are protected but these pupils are not lost to education or the country.

In practise, behaviour was undermined. And the way it happened was a classic example of how good intentions can be distorted by the education system and turned into something terrible. Labour’s education secretary, David Blunkett, was blind and in his youth had an unpleasant experience of a school for the blind. He wanted the disabled to be taught in mainstream schools as much as possible. And it was this commitment, that came to be known as “Inclusion” that was used to undermine Labour’s policy on discipline.

By the time I started teaching in 2001, it was already well established that Inclusion meant 2 things. Firstly, that special schools were a bad thing and should generally be run down and only used for children with the most severe problems. Secondly, that if a child was badly behaved they should be kept in lessons and in schools as much as possible. In my second year of teaching a senior figure from the Local Education Authority came to my school and told all the staff there that this academic year there would be no exclusions. That year, order broke down in the school. It was impossible to get any acknowledgement of even some of the most unpleasant behaviour. I have a particularly strong memory of a new teacher being spat on, and nothing happening. I also recall some concerned parents coming in, unable to believe their daughter had called me a dickhead when I asked her to move seats, not because they thought their daughter was incapable of the offence, but because they couldn’t believe she wasn’t excluded for it. When parents come in asking why their children aren’t being punished enough, you know you have a problem.

But what had happened to cause discipline to break down was never intended. A perfectly reasonable desire to include the disabled had been distorted by those who believe that children cannot make bad choices. If you believe that children are natural saints, then all their bad behaviour must have a cause beyond the control of the child. You can blame society; you can blame their teachers, or you can claim that they have some medical, or psychological problem that has to be identified and treated. We went through a period where the standard response to children behaving badly was to try to find a label that fitted their “symptoms” and produce paperwork about how we were dealing with it. This was often done by complete amateurs. In that first school I worked in, an IEP stated that a child might have suspected “Turrets”. In another school I worked in, a SENCo made a provisional diagnosis of “Tourects”. Both children had sworn at teachers repeatedly, and an adult who had heard that Tourette’s Syndrome was a condition related to swearing, but had no idea what Tourette’s Syndrome was or how to spell it, had decided that might be the cause. That’s where we were.

Eventually the tide turned and the policy of Inclusion was abandoned. People started defending special schools, and from 2007 they stopped dying off. A number of different reviews found the SEN system to be bureaucratic and amateurish and concern was widely raised at how many children were being labelled. A government Green Paper stated that:

Although the proportion of pupils with statements of SEN has remained relatively stable over time, there has been a considerable increase in recent years in the number of pupils with SEN without statements,9 from 10 per cent of all pupils in 1995 to 18.2 per cent or 1.5 million pupils in 2010.

There has been a marked increase in certain primary need types of SEN in recent years. For example, the numbers of pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties has increased by 23 per cent between 2005 and 2010, to 158,000 pupils; the number of pupils with speech, language and communication needs
has increased by 58 per cent, to 113,000 pupils; and the number of children with autistic spectrum disorder has increased by 61 per cent, to 56,000 pupils.

Reforms took place. On behaviour, there was a longer fight, but it became a political issue and there was far more acceptance that trying to cover it up in order to avoid exclusions was not the way forward. Exclusions are now rising as schools take behaviour seriously once again. The category “‘behavioural, emotional and social difficulties” which seemed to assume that poor behaviour was a special need was replaced with “Social, emotional and mental health difficulties” and the 2014 Code Of Practice stated clearly that “difficult or withdrawn behaviour does not necessarily mean that a child has SEN”. Some schools do still have a tendency to claim that poor behaviour indicates a special needs, and a high rate of SEN diagnoses among the excluded remain a concern, but things have moved on.

Incredibly though, there is a vocal minority who have still not accepted those changes. Some claim the policy of Inclusion from 10 years ago was never abandoned. There are still consultants out there selling advice on reducing exclusions. No school needs advice on how to do this, it just means tolerating more bad behaviour.  When I wrote a blogpost entitled “What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude?” where teachers described their experience of schools that wouldn’t act when teachers and children were put at danger, I was condemned by a number of educationalists and consultants for letting the truth be known. Reaction to my most popular tweet ever, showed the divide between consultants and those who have to deal with bad behaviour in the classroom.

There is an activist minority, who ignore the fact that the SEND Code Of Practice makes it clear that poor behaviour does not imply SEND, and that if SEND is a causal factor in behaviour that should be identified, not assumed. They claim that as The Equalities Act calls for “reasonable adjustments” for those with disabilities, we must tolerate bad behaviour because we can assume it is caused by SEND. They look towards broad diagnoses like Autistic Spectrum Disorder and claim that almost any school rule is unfair to a theoretic child whose autism stops them behaving. They also argue that almost any demand, no matter how insane, is a reasonable adjustment and, therefore, teachers who disagree are breaking the law. The SEND Code Of Practice, by contrast, is clear, that nothing done to include those with SEND should prevent “the efficient education of others or the efficient use of resources”.

As teachers we have to teach the children in front of us. That means if their behaviour is bad we have to confront that behaviour, not tolerate it on the basis of a label. Children with SEND need boundaries as much as, or sometimes more, than other children. These should be set with love, but set to ensure everyone is safe and able to learn. Clear boundaries work a lot better than fuzzy ones, particularly for children with SEND. There are two things I always remind those who think that the badly behaved actually have SEND and are the victims in all this. The first is that exceptions should be exceptional. We should never abandon the school rules because one, often theoretical child, might be unable to comply. If there is an extraordinary case, it should be treated as extraordinary – all schools and all teachers do that. The second is that behaviour is on a spectrum of seriousness. Those who refuse to draw any lines are, by omission, defending the most horrendous acts. It has been reported that there are 200 rapes in schools in a year. Does any principle justify including rapists in class? Is there a SEND that makes being a rapist okay? If we want children to be safe, they need an environment where no child, whatever their needs, can just do what they want regardless of the consequences.

As a final point, the abuse I have encountered online since my tweet above has been incredible. Those people who label anyone who disagrees with the now abandoned policy of Inclusion as hating children with SEND, should be challenged for their name-calling. My closest friends include two who went to special schools as children and others with SEN. It is not prejudice that makes one view the badly behaved, even those with SEND, as responsible for their behaviour; it is respect for their humanity. And those of us who care about the children we teach with SEND, know that conflating them with the badly behaved, would be a gross insult to some of the most delightful children we work with. Both the badly behaved, and children with SEND, and, of course, children who are both, need the love and support of their teachers and help with specific needs. They don’t need virtue-signalling non-teachers writing them off.

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