The Guardian has a report today stating that teachers should be able to specialise in problem pupils as part of their initial teacher training.
It says that that under the current system, students cannot do a teaching practice at a pupil referral unit. The government’s adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, states that changing this to enable students to experience the ‘difficult children’ would be “fantastic grounding” for any new recruit to the profession.
It could well put them off teaching for life too.
The reason these recommendations have been made is in response to the riots in cities in England during August 2011. According to statistical evidence, two thirds of the young people brought before the courts following the riots had some form of special educational need, and more than one in ten had been permanently excluded from school.
This is an horrific but not an unsurprising statistic.
All too frequently, some of the students at the pupil referral units (PRUs) have had a difficult time in mainstream school, where their needs have not been met and their behaviour has not been managed. They are not supported in learning how to manage their behaviour, and have no understanding of the effects of their behaviour on others. Others in the PRUs have significant behavioural difficulties and disrupted lives before they even get to school. Of course some time, energy and money should be spent on supporting these young people how to live, to learn, to manage their emotions, and to be able to socialise with others having understood their own personal needs and interests.
In the main, staff at these centres are dedicated, committed and hard-working people who have an absolute belief in enabling troubled young people to develop their skills and values as a human being as well as address their educational needs.
It’s a tough job.
But what of the other third of young people who were brought to court? What support had they had in their schooling for social, emotional, personal and spiritual development?
Once more, we have an example of action taken that is not preventative but is responsive to a problem. Should we really be looking at having specialists who can work with disruptive students in specialised units or should we be looking at the quality of training and advice to all trainee teachers on adopting a multi-intelligence approach to education?
We have spent a generation ignoring the social problems that so many of our young people have to contend with. We have spent a generation trying to educate children without ever considering their global needs and how their social and emotional equilibrium is vital to their academic learning. That is precisely why 3Di Associates supports the work of organisations such as the Hawn Foundation, and why we would like to see models of multi-intelligence learning in every teacher training establishment in the country.
This is too important to ignore any longer. Children and young people are having their lives ruined by this insular and tunnelled vision of what schooling is about.
The report goes on to suggest that one way the education in PRUs could be improved is for them to be free of local authority control and established as academies; seemingly the government’s answer to everything.
How can this be remotely possible? Who is going to fund these units other than philanthropists who have an understanding of the disregard that these students have had to endure whilst they have been shoved around the educational system to accommodate the needs of the schools rather than the needs of these people?
The irony is that some of these PRUs have come to breaking point because of the academy system. With competition for good results having financial rewards of maintained academy status, some have had a blanket removal of the most disruptive students in schools or of those pupils who show no sign of being able to achieve the “English Baccalaureate”. And where have these students ended up? – in the PRUs or not in education at all.
It is a damning indictment on the academy system that somehow has never come to light – but those working in local authorities are all too aware of what is happening.
Once more, this is a tragedy but it is even more of a tragedy that many of our young people in state schools, in academies, in free schools, are not getting the sort of social and emotional support that they are entitled to, and the students at teacher training colleges across the land are not given the appropriate information, advice, practice and support to understand the need to develop these other intelligences as responsibly as we address academic achievement.
The sort of expertise that Charlie Taylor is talking about should not be for a few experts, it should not be reactive to need and it should not be an added extra to teacher training.
The development of a multi-intelligence approach to education, where the understanding and development of all intelligences is paramount, should be something that the government and its behaviour advisers should consider – as a means of preventing disruptive behaviour both in and out of the classroom. The approaches to social and emotional intelligence should be an integral part of all teacher training, and the skills of managing behaviour should be available to all potential teachers.
Having recently spent time in Japan doing precisely this sort of training with prospective teachers, it is exceptionally clear that student teachers want and need this. It should be evident too, as reiterated by the UNICEF report on the appalling state of our children’s wellbeing in international comparisons, that this is what our children and young people require as well.