Ex-headteacher - pupils 'out of control'

A FORMER Essex headmistress has hit out at the Government for “destroying education” by swamping teachers with bureaucracy and letting classroom behaviour spiral out of control.

Elliot Furniss

A FORMER Essex headmistress has hit out at the Government for “destroying education” by swamping teachers with bureaucracy and letting classroom behaviour spiral out of control.

Joyce O'Brien, 67, stood down from her post at Burrsville Infant School in Clacton-on-Sea last year and yesterday told the EADT that she has now written to some of the most high-profile names in education to raise her fears about standards of behaviour blighting many local secondary schools.

The criticism comes after the Government announced a £218million programme aimed at tackling “challenging pupils” and targeting the root causes of behavioural problems.

After 40 years as a teacher, Mrs O'Brien said truancy, violence and bullying had reached an alarming level in some schools and after a decade of quietly raising her concerns, she has now decided to boldly speak out.

She said: “The Government has put more money into education but they have created so much bureaucracy for teachers that they are stressed.

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“They have tied teachers' hands because their priorities are the forms they have to fill in and the targets they have got to set. There is a total obsession with league tables.”

Mrs O'Brien said that, based on feedback from fellow headteachers and family experiences of secondary education, she felt the Government was “destroying education”.

She said reports of knives, drugs and used condoms being found as well as toilets becoming “no-go” areas in some schools indicated the decline in behavioural standards.

However Jerry Glazier, general secretary of the Essex division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said that while some schools had violent pupils many experienced very little trouble.

He said: “There is no doubt that the issue of pupil behaviour is one of considerable concern to the teaching profession and the NUT has highlighted this.

“There will be incidents of this kind across the county but what I wouldn't want to do is exaggerate the problem because I think that is unhelpful.”

He said in many cases there was a link between socio-deprivation and behavioural problems at schools and suggested smaller class sizes could be a way of dealing with the issue.

Earlier this week the Department for Children, Schools and Families launched a £218.5million programme to tackle the “most challenging” young people in the country.

A thousand troubled youngsters will be targeted for intensive, “non negotiable intervention” in order to prevent future antisocial behaviour.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for children, schools and families, said the action plan would target antisocial behaviour by making sure strong action was taken to tackle the underlying causes such as substance misuse and family breakdown.

He said: “Communities want lasting improvements and that means not only stopping bad behaviour when it occurs but also changing it and intervening early to stop bad behaviour spiralling into future offending.

“That is also why we are investing record sums in positive activities for young people to make sure they have places to go and things to do at weekends and in the evenings.”

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