Archive | August, 2016

Child obesity: a weighty problem

28 Aug

I           The growth of obesity

I promise you that I am not a ‘fattist’! Some of my best friends and colleagues are fat.  However, we need to confront a situation which is not doing us any good.

Discriminating against people because of their race or gender is unfair.   People don’t have the option of being male or female, black, white or any of the shades in between.  However, we do have the choice in deciding what and how much we eat.

Would you say that we discriminate unfairly against smokers by banning them from smoking indoors?  No.  If they want to harm themselves, so be it.  The problem is they harm others – even when they smoke on our thoroughfares, polluting the air we breathe when taking a walk.   I resent having to share a bus-stop, for instance, with a “chimney” as the smoke damages my health.

In the same way, people who are overweight or morbidly obese disadvantage others in myriad ways.   For instance, consider the space they consume in trains, tubes, buses and, yes, even in aeroplanes.   When an obese person is hospitalised, special wheelchairs have to be rolled out to accommodate their bulk.   They need larger than usual beds. They also pose a huge expense to the National Health Service (NHS) because of weight-related illnesses.    Continue reading

Pupil Exclusion: Legal Requirements and Good Practice

28 Aug

I           Introduction

The most daunting and challenging aspect of school governance after that of appointing a headteacher, is dealing with the aftermath of a pupil exclusion by the headteacher.  Governors are exhorted to develop policies where all pupils may thrive.  An implicit requirement is the promotion of inclusion. Youngsters should feel part and parcel of the school community, where they are safe and happy.  Yet, it is open to the headteacher to exclude a pupil that does not fall into line with the school’s behaviour policy.   Theoretically, the concept is anathema to the running of an outstanding school.  In fact, Ofsted inspectors raise quizzical eyebrows whenever they make judgements on schools if pupils are ‘turfed’ out routinely.

Yet, there are some pupils, for a multitude of reasons who make it impossible not only for them to thrive but also their peers.  They are disruptive, aggressive, inattentive and, altogether, unwelcome to the school community.   How often have I heard it said that such-and-such a pupil is like a virus or bacterium to the school-body politic and has no place in education.   Yet, we have a legal (if not moral) responsibility to educate all our children – if the parents of a child so choose to have them educated at school (and not otherwise with home-tutoring).

So how can governors deal with this burning issue without getting themselves burnt? At the outset, the governing body has to establish a pupil behaviour policy.  In an academy or a multi-academy trust (MAT), the trust, per se, will determine who is responsible for constructing such a policy.

A good policy will set out the school’s/academy’s expectations of pupils.  It will describe strategies for promoting good behaviour – especially opportunities for children to learn how to live in amity with one another and adults – and the rewards they may expect.

The policy will describe the measures the school will take to bring them to heel where, despite the best efforts of the staff, pupils misbehave.  It will be a hierarchy of sanctions.  In extremis, pupils could be excluded for fixed-term periods, and after that, permanently.

Statutory guidance from the Department for Education states that permanent exclusion should be used as a last resort, when all other methods for promoting the child’s good behaviour fails. It must be lawful, reasonable and fair. The policy should explicitly state the kinds of behaviour which will result in permanent exclusion, such as peddling drugs – in or outside the school – and bringing a weapon to school.

A school may not discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics such as disability, race and/or gender.  It must give particular attention to vulnerable pupils treating them fairly.    It also states that only the headteacher may exclude, unless, of course, s/he is unwell or the post vacant, in which case, the deputy headteacher or acting headteacher is empowered to exclude.  Continue reading

Will Brexit be good for education?

28 Aug

The media has been teeming with speculation about the effect of Brexit on the economy. (The vote in favour of exit from the EU was narrow, 51.9% to 48.1%.)  Much less has been written about the impact that it is likely to have on education, an issue worth exploring.  Newly-installed Prime Minister Theresa May, who has taken up the reigns of leadership, spends considerable time ascertaining the views of advisers and ministers and more time after reflecting on the information garnered before acting.   While Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, is trying to hustle May into triggering the Brexit process by invoking Section 50, she is holding back and considering what must be done by way of preparation.

(1)       Impact on Schools

(a)        Pupils

Our schools have had to cope with an influx of pupils, several from the Eastern European countries. While there is a headwind to ensure that those children from EU countries currently in the UK remain in the UK, Brexit will put a stop to more joining them, unless there are good reasons to do otherwise – i.e. their parents are employed to work in those professions where we are short of expertise.   However, if both, the EU and Britain, don’t find a way of creating win-win situations, our industry will lose out.  The welcome of the children of other European countries could lose out.   Further, the children of parents from other European countries currently in the country, many of whom have been powering our economy, will be forced to leave.

The loss of such pupils could leave our schools/academies culturally bereft, especially as the curriculum – overt and covert – has benefited from having them as part of our education system.

About 5,000 children from EU countries are studying in our independent boarding schools.  Brexit is likely to increase restrictions and add to the complexity of travel arrangements, making their parents reconsider whether they want their children to be educated in these institutions.  If the responses of the parents are negative, the independent schools could well be in financial straits. Continue reading