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Fuss about Skinners Academy 5 detentions in Guardian

(50 Posts)
posheroo Thu 21-Nov-13 12:00:29

Hackney skinners Acadamy Guardian says they have 5 levels of detention
Is this a record?

CaroBeaner Thu 21-Nov-13 13:36:11


It makes me shudder. I think that schools do now have a better handle on discipline and the no-go free-for-alls that characterised some London schools (of my knowledge) in the 1970s and 80s no longer exist. But now schools seem to be aiming at boot camp clampdown tactics as the starting position. Surely skilled teachers can maintain co-operation and engagement with children by actually communicating with them rather than treating them like robots?

Some people I know who had a sons at a feted school in Hackney said that it had a military feel and the strict regimes affected their children's confidence and self esteem very badly. Discipline like this does after all rely on a certain level of 'breaking' the child.

Horses for courses I daresay. Maybe the schools are just too big these days. In my school most teachers knew who every child was. It helped with discipline.

pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 14:20:13

I've commented fairly extensively on that article - you can find me, I'm pretty obvious.

I think it's horrific. If a school can't maintain discipline without using these sorts of tactics, then it is not a good school. Simple as that. My DD1 is in a biggish secondary and they manage perfectly well with a sensible approach to discipline. Uniform checks are rare - there was a crackdown on 'skinny' type school trousers because it was getting ridiculous, but parents were notified in April that the rules would be tightened starting September - this is called communication. No-one could argue that they didn't know.

Disruption is tackled, but this is done without breaking the children or disallowing normal social interactions like talking during lunch breaks. There is a clearly communicated scale of disciplinary measures which is in the prospectus and in every child's planner - and detention is never a first resort unless there is clear violence or misconduct.

This is in a school with a large intake from a deprived area. If they can cope without using this kind of lazy draconian management, so should other schools.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 15:11:34

Just so that we know what we are talking about, the five "levels" of detention are:

- Lunchtime detention (30 minutes, same day)

- Department detention (30 minutes, same day, possibly after school, parents notified)

- HoD/HoY detention (60 minutes, same day, parents notified)

- Vice Principal's detention (2 hours, parents given at least 24 hours notice)

- Principal's detention (3 hours on Saturday morning, parents given at least 24 hours notice)

Note that the school itself does not refer to these as levels. They are simply five entries on a list of possible sanctions ranging from negative comment (in effect notifying the parents of their child's behaviour) through to permanent exclusion.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 15:28:38

I should also note that the report in the Guardian is inaccurate (no surprise there!). It claims that failure to bring kit or equipment results in a detention on the same day without notice and that a repeat offence leads to a Principal's detention at the end of the week. In fact the initial offence would lead to a department detention and a repeat offence would lead to an HoD/HoY detention.

Note that I am not offering an opinion on the school's policy, simply noting that the Guardian is not a reliable source in this instance. The article appears to be largely based on information from a parent who has clearly fallen out with the school and who may have been selective in the information she has given to the press. For example, she claims her son was given a detention for minor infringements such as talking while working with a friend in an art lesson. Assuming the school followed its own procedure properly her son would have been given a warning for disrupting the lesson, then a final warning for continuing disruption and moved places. A detention only comes into play if disruption continues after the final warning. It is, of course, possible that the school did not follow its own policy but I'm afraid I think it is more likely that the mother is glossing over her son's behaviour.

pointyfangs Thu 21-Nov-13 15:29:23

It isn't the detentions I have a problem with. The biggest thing for me is the automatic standing up when an adult comes into the room - I mean, this is a school, not the army! I also don't like the system where a single loss of merit = loss of end of year treat with no hope of the pupil redeeming themselves. That isn't an incentive for good behaviour because a single minor error means a relatively large and long-deferred punishment. I can see pupils thinking along the lines of 'might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb' - because the hanging is inevitable.

Lastly what really bothers me is the way schools like Skinner Academy are the only game in town in certain parts of London, which means there must be an assumption that children from poorer backgrounds are incapable of behaving well unless they are treated harshly. That is quite simply offensive.

CaroBeaner Thu 21-Nov-13 17:00:41

Most schools have a sliding scale of detentions and sanctions - in the DC school it is 5 mins at the end of a class or 5 mins at break, 15 mins after school, school detention which is a Saturday, but has recently been changed to an hour after school, and probably some more grades in that scale.

I agree it isn't the detentions per se it is the increasing prevalence of zero tolerance sanction based discipline, coupled with 'old skool' habits. Daily uniform checks?

I roll my eyes at someone who sends their child to school with an obviously strict / smart uniform policy in canvas shoes and then goes to the press about it.

But I think there is a valid debate to be had.

There is no evidence, for example, that a strict uniform policy has an effect on behaviour. Or rather research has shown that the imposition of a strict uniform policy has no impact on discipline standards.

Is it Toby Young's school where the teachers wear gowns, FFS?

mumplus Fri 22-Nov-13 06:56:12

I roll my eyes at someone who sends their child to school with an obviously strict / smart uniform policy in canvas shoes and then goes to the press about it.

Skinners is our nearest school. I really worry about this. If my DC end up there it won't be because I have chosen it, it would be because we're outside the 'catchment' of any better schools. I may need to put Skinners as a last choice to avoid a poor school a long way away. I would of course encourage my child to follow a strict uniform policy but it sounds as if it's easy to get tripped up and frankly I would prefer to concentrate on more important issues. My DC is very well behaved at school but responds badly to control freaks and would not respond well to this.

Lastly what really bothers me is the way schools like Skinner Academy are the only game in town in certain parts of London, which means there must be an assumption that children from poorer backgrounds are incapable of behaving well unless they are treated harshly. That is quite simply offensive.

This. Well put. I too am offended by this.

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Fri 22-Nov-13 07:13:08

I think that some inner London schools with a potentially difficult intake are playing quite a clever game with discipline. By pushing their disciplinary record, and talking loudly about things like Saturday detention and ties and shoes at open days, they are attempting to encourage applications from parents who think (on the basis of six year's experience) that discipline is a good thing, that happens to other people's children, and put off anyone who knows that it tends to be imposed on theirs. Of course it also attracts some worried parents whose (normally) boys do have a tendency to get into trouble, but at least they're likely to back the school up when push comes to shove, rather than undermine them.

I have no idea whether this marketting strategy actually works - but I think it's a definite thing.

posheroo Fri 22-Nov-13 11:51:37

Some of you are onto something. Skinner are getting hardline publicity because they think it is populat with most. (just like the govt and welfare)

All school systems have casualties I fear for the children who cannot cope with Skinner academy hackney. It needs looking into more

CaroBeaner Fri 22-Nov-13 12:05:58

And M'bourne.

pointyfangs Fri 22-Nov-13 12:28:47

IHadADream I think you are right, these schools are basically selecting by marketing so that they only get the 'naice' kids. And of course the fact that Skinner's full uniform costs £300 in a notoriously poor area is also a form of selection.

Unfortunately some of those kids don't thrive under such a stifling regime - mine wouldn't, and they are never in trouble at school.

It just strikes me as utterly dim that anyone could think that wearing a tiny tag on your shoes = disruptive behaviour. confused By all means sanction the latter firmly, but FFS just have a quiet word about the former in the first instance at least.

And of course the fact that Skinner's full uniform costs £300 in a notoriously poor area is also a form of selection.

CaroBeaner Fri 22-Nov-13 13:48:27

£300! shock

And they have daily inspections? To make sure your parents can afford all your bits and pieces?

That is quite shocking and should be regulated.

I actually find it deeply undemocratic that schools charged with educating our children can exclude them from that statutory right - an education - because their parents have not provided the right shoes. It's all very well in a school you choose to pay for or a school you choose to take exams for and which is in addition to the provision of your local comp to make rules about uniform, but in your local comp, be it academy or community, how can they be allowed to force parents to spend £300 on uniform or else refuse to deliver the education they are entitled to by law?

I have changed my mind. I would like the parent in the Guardian to take this the the European Court of Human Rights!

pointyfangs Fri 22-Nov-13 14:26:31

It's appalling, isn't it, Caro?

But actually all schools can do what they want with regards to uniform. There are no legal requirements for it to be kept affordable, just 'guidelines', which are completely bloody toothless and often ignored. I am very fortunate in that my DD1's secondary is sensible - only the blazer, PE kit and clip on tie are compulsory, total cost £42 - everythins else is logo free can can be bought wherever the parent wants as long as it meets the (very reasonable) standards.

However, the free school in the town next door has a very expensive uniform, not £300 but well north of £120 for everything. It's a town that is more deprived than the one I live in, so this is obvious selection by wealth. Fortunately the school seems to be unravelling - the head and six teachers have left mid term, and the rate of transfer of pupils to DD1's school is accelerating. May it fold very soon and be replaced by something more sensible.

Re Skinners - one of the parents commenting on the Guardian article said her son had been punished for making eye contact with another pupil and talking between lessons in the corridor. How is that a reasonable measure to take?

prh47bridge Fri 22-Nov-13 16:25:59

Looking at the uniform for boys, a jacket, blazer, pullover, tie, 2 shirts, trousers, backpack, t-shirt, tracksuit, football shorts and socks come to £162. The jacket and backpack can be replaced with plain black unbranded ones if preferred. The shirts and trousers do not carry any logos and appear to be pretty standard so I would have thought they can be purchased elsewhere if there are cheaper alternatives. The t-shirt (which only costs £4) is listed as compulsory on the supplier's website but I didn't see it on a quick scan of the school's uniform guidelines. The compulsory items with logo appear to be the blazer, tie, football shorts and football socks - £55 total. Add on another £15.50 or £16.50 if you need a pullover.

Unfortunately many schools ignore guidelines about keeping uniform affordable and avoiding single supplier arrangements.

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 16:44:32

Hackney provides a clothing grant of £100 for children from low income households in year 7. Most of the schools now have these uniform restrictions so there is no exclusion as such.

I have a ds in a Hackney Academy and it is a strict. And the kids are fine after the first term or so.

I find kids don't mind rules as long as they are consistently applied to all. I also found the school becomes less draconian as they go up the years, as all the kids know the system and there is much less need to pick anyone up on infractions.

School PSAs also sell second hand uniform for pennies, so that really helps too.

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 16:54:25

And the reality here in Hackney is that you can put what you want down for your choices, but it will usually come down to proximity.

CaroBeaner Fri 22-Nov-13 17:19:05

Where did you get the £300 figure from Pointyfangs?

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 17:35:54

DS blazer lasted two years. as did his jumper. Still got tie from yr 7 too, and his PE kit. Only have had to replace trousers, shirts shoes etc, as he has grown. Have simply matched the trouser colour and its fine.

Now in Year 9 he has a new blazer, new jumper, second hand fleece and rain jacket, plus hat.

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 17:37:18

cost me about £60 in total. I expect these items to last for this year and a bit of the next.

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 17:39:41

I'm sure I have saved a fortune in normal clothes as a result. And am spared any disagreements about clothing for school.

pointyfangs Fri 22-Nov-13 17:59:04

Caro it's in the comments below the line - one of the mums with a child at the school mentioned it. I wonder whether the figure includes non-logo'd items like the trousers and school shoes - starting from a high base of compulsory items I can see how it would bump the cost up that far.

MadameDefarge of course the children adapt to the rules. They have to, if they have any sense. The question is whether such extreme rules are needed at all and I maintain that they are not. Many good schools manage well without going to such extremes and so I view it as a sign of weakness, not strength, that a school leadership feels it can only manage discipline by being draconian.
I make no secret of the fact that I disapprove of school uniform, coming as I do from a country where there is none and which does consistently far better than the UK in terms of its educational outcomes. I also accept that if you choose to live in the UK and raise children there, uniform is a fact of life. However, schools should not use uniforms as a cash cow or as a tool to instil petty and unnecessary discipline. If I lived in Hackney I would move house, change jobs or rob a bank to afford a move home ed before sending my very well behaved and high achieving DDs to any of the schools there if they are all like this.

breatheslowly Fri 22-Nov-13 18:00:05

When I was at school we were trained in year 7 to stand when a teacher entered the room. As we went up the school that expectation gradually disappeared. That seems reasonable to me, but continuing it throughout seems rather odd.

MadameDefarge Fri 22-Nov-13 18:06:45

well pointy, my ds adores school. I am much more concerned about how they educated him and support his LDs than whether they are strict about uniform or not.

I feel that the rules actually protect the pupils from a lot of low level disruptive behaviour. Bullying is dealt with very well, the school is calm and has a lovely atmosphere. The children are not crushed at all.

So far all you are objecting to is uniform rules. And you don't like uniform. Can't really do much about that. More to the point would be to look at the schools achievements and ambitions.

DSs school is equally strict on equipment, so having all the right pencils etc for lessons. The VP told me it was the first school he had ever worked in where children were ready to learn to moment class started, as opposed to spending ten minutes of precious teaching time making sure everyone had the right stuff.

Funnily enough the children have stated that the school is the safest place around for miles. They like the order. Not just tolerate it.

pointyfangs Fri 22-Nov-13 18:07:04

breatheslowly why does it seem reasonable to you at all? I see it as a hollow and meaningless gesture. A good teacher earns respect by teaching well and maintaining fair discipline.

I am in favour of strict discipline and coming down hard on disruptive behaviour. At my school in Holland in the 70s and 80s no disruption was tolerated and yes, there were same day detentions. Teachers could send disruptive pupils out of the class to see the HOD, deputy head or head teacher at once, and sanctions were instant. There were 'sin bin' locations in the school where disruptive pupils would be set to work. That is all absolutely fine with me, because sanctions were for behaviour that affected the learning of the pupil him or herself, and all the others. There was no petty crap about wearing the wrong socks.

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