Must Try Harder

Sunday 02 February 2014

A message for Mr Gove, and any other rear view educationalists

So, some hours after I heard Mr Gove's latest brilliant idea (and I'm not talking about his management of the Chair of OFSTED) I have finally calmed enough to write something that can be seen by others.

The proposition from Mr Gove is not subtle. It does not need 'unpicking' or even exploring really. His call is for a return to 'Old fashioned discipline'. Now, he doesn't say just how old fashioned he'd like it (Caning? Slippering?) but he does mention the writing of lines. Apparently this will combat 'trendy teaching' which he believes 'lacks rigour'.

When is this man going to get it? When will he realise that we live in a different age to when he was at School. When is he going to realise that there are other ways?

More importantly, when is Mr Gove going to open his mind to the idea that perhaps children need to be trusted and respected. If I were a 15 year old, growing up in any environment and someone gave me 'lines' or said that I had to wear my uniform on a 'non-uniform' day then I think I know what my response would be. It would not be 'Gosh, how silly of me. Forgive me.' I would be resentful. Angry even. There is no way that this would stimulate me to want to learn. It would only damage any relationship I had with my teachers.

Gratuitous punishment that has no element of restorative justice is futile and unkind. It may well make the teacher feel 'better' (really, what sort of teacher would that make feel better?) but it will not make behaviour nor engagement any better.

Litter picking for litter louts, cleaning off graffiti for those who have defaced their school, varnishing desks for those who have scribed in the name of a loved one I have no problem with. Restorative justice in these circumstances is understood by children; and indeed welcomed as a chance to learn something from a mistake and put it right.

So, Mr Gove, as message: Please write out the following 100 times. Preferably in copperplate with the first letter of each line illuminated in Gold Leaf and raised on dried egg yolk. After all, that's old fashioned for you:

Must try harder.


New comment

  1. February 8, 2014 09:34

    by Cate Latto

    Once again, Richard, on the button, and with your delicious dry humour. I so agree with you. Respect is key, in ANY relationship and crucially for those forming a sense of themselves in this world with those who have the privilege of guiding them.

    Beautifully put as always. Thank you for voicing the message on behalf of so many.

  2. February 6, 2014 12:11

    by Russell Weighton

    To mangle a famous phrase: By Gove, I don't think he gets it!

  3. February 3, 2014 20:50

    by John Sheehan

    Hi Richard
    I was at st Chris and left in 1989. After a great career as a research scientist, I am now a chemistry teacher and love it. I rarely give detentions but if required they are indeed of the restorative type. In fact, these are the perfect opportunity to 'build bridges' and restore trust in a working relationship. I fail to see how Gove can justify to herald in such an archaic notion. No doubt, his intentions are good but How do you think we might be able to give a reality check as a nation of forward-thinking teachers?
    Best wishes

  4. February 3, 2014 16:15

    by Patsi Ryan

    Well said Richard !! Why don't you email BBC Breakfast they might put you on the TV ! That should go public