When does 'discipline' become abusive?

Roger Titcombe's picture
This article in the Guardian worries me.

Here are some extracts from the article.

"It's around noon at Skinners' academy in Hackney, London, and through the glass walls of the classrooms children can be seen with their heads down over their work. Open a door and they will all jump to attention and stand silently, shirts buttoned to the top, ties neatly pulled up under pinstripe blazers.

Tight discipline is something of a feature in the sponsored academies of north London and, according to its principal, Tim Clark, Skinners' is not the strictest."

"The new policy, with its strict dress code, daily uniform checks and long lists of rules about the school's five different types of detention, has won praise from some parents, according to Clark, but others believe it has gone too far."

"At the nearby Mossbourne academy, for instance, the behaviour policy says students are not allowed to go to the toilet between lessons or visit a local shop on the way home.

The City of London academy in Islington has a five-stage "behaviour improvement path" that begins with 20-minute detentions for minor matters such as not filling in a year planner properly, or bringing the wrong equipment, and escalates to exclusion for persistent rule-breaking or more serious offences."

One unhappy parent stated the following.

"They are all academies around here or are run on similar lines," she says. "There's only one school that isn't, and it's hugely oversubscribed. We're being given no choice about how our children are educated. Why is it only in poor areas that children are being made to do this?"

"Not all academies have taken this route, though. Brendan Loughran, principal of the Darwen Aldridge Community academy in Lancashire, says he visited a number of other similar schools before his school opened in 2008. What he saw in one particularly strict academy disturbed him. It was overbearing, with sombre-faced children walking in line, heads bowed," he says. "It felt unnatural to me. At Darwen we were clear we had high expectations. But critically, we gave students involvement and ownership in developing our behaviour policies."

Many of my posts draw attention to the relentless march of behaviourism, a long discredited theory of learning, which continues to be very attractive to those that know little of the counter intuitive truths of effective education. This group now appears to include the principals and senior staff of increasing numbers of Academies and Free Schools. It appears to be the principle policy of the new military Free School in Oldham.

This is from the website of 'Mancunian Matters'.
"Controversial Oldham military school will instil 'courage, discipline and respect' into children

Rich or poor, white or Asian – Oldham’s new ‘military’ school will go one small step to instilling respect back into the town’s teenagers, according to its co-founder.

Last month, Phoenix Free School was one of 102 free schools granted approval by the Department for Education to open in 2014. Much of the teaching staff will be made up of former members of the Armed Forces – led by Captain Affan Burki who will act as headteacher.

“There is a very strong perception that our schools have lost a sense of authority which is necessary for the functioning of any kind of social unit (Tom Burkard) told MM. And this is the reason why we have found outside the school gates that Asian parents have been just as eager to talk to us, if not more so, than English parents. They are concerned their children are going to schools where they are losing their respect for elders, their religion and just about everything, even themselves."

There is no doubt that the military runs on the basis of behaviourist discipline. However effective learning institutions don't. Neither do many other effective non-military organisations such as successful multinational companies like Microsoft and Apple, or for that matter car manufacturing companies like BMW and Mercedes Benz. I am not a regular reader of entrepreneurial management tomes, but I don't expect to recognise much of the Burkard philosophy in companies and other institutions that prioritise creativity and innovation.

I find the use of the verb 'instilling' very informative. It is not one I came across a lot as a science teacher.

Lesson Objective? - To instil an understanding of Newton's Laws of Motion.

Is this worrying or not?
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.