Inclusion and the Nutters

The “nutters” was not an affectionate nickname. Between them, the eight members of bottom set had an encyclopaedia of behavioural difficulties. The explosive results rang down the corridors.

Finally the headmaster decided that he had seen enough. A small class with specialist support was supposed to have been the solution. These “challenging” students were, however, responding badly to spending all day with other “challenging” students. He decided that the class would be broken up and the students split among the other sets. Cue lots of irate teachers. The staff room consensus was that yes, bottom set had been bad but at least its troubles had been contained. Disbanding it seemed like a willful attempt to spread the chaos.

Actually, for most of the children, it worked. They found their new calmer classes preferable to the exhausting anarchy of before. They enjoyed learning. They enjoyed being treated just like all the other kids.

So inclusion works? Not quite. Those with the most severe problems have got worse. The school's special needs department has admitted defeat and the parents have been encouraged to take their children into a specialist residential school. But they don't want that. They are adamant that their child stays because they don't like the connotations of a “special” school. While the dispute rumbles on, the situation in the classroom gets worse.

We instinctively accept that parents have the right to decide what's best for their children. What, however, is to be done when parents and experienced educational specialists disagree? At present, the result is often an unproductive stalemate.

The Point

Who I am

I teach English at a London school which was failing but isn't anymore. Its results remain the worst in the area. The school's surroundings aren't prosperous; over a third of our students receive free school meals.

My name is not Paul Pennyfeather.

Why I'm blogging

It's generally a bad idea to start a blog. The vast majority just clutter up the internet.

But I like Nightjack (now sadly gone) and Winston Smith. They write about their challenging jobs with candour and intelligence. In the process they say important things about the way society is. I'd be delighted to achieve something even a little bit similar.

I'm always surprised by how many people want to talk to me about my job. Everyone has an opinion.

"The kids/schools/teachers/beatings are not what they used to be."

"The kids should spend more time on spelling/counting/building walls."

In general, people don't much like the kids so they turn to the schools for the answers.

What this blog will do

1. Tell tales from “the coalface”.

: You may find a gripping portrait of the British education system.

You may find disjointed anecdotes that will make you laugh, cry or yawn.

2. Attempt to offer insight.

: I spend my working life surrounded by chaos.

Occasionally I try to work out what's going on.

What this blog won't do

1. Preach about how I am saving the world.

: I like my job and sometimes I think I achieve something worthwhile.

I don't, however, believe I am the Messiah.

2. Analyse every minor shift in education policy.

: I'll look at policy changes when they are interesting

I will ignore them when they are not.