Letter: Struggling schools

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The Independent Culture
Sir: No doubt the article "The school that rose again from the ashes" (4 June) was supposed to be upbeat, but I found it depressing.

A badly failing school is given a tough, energetic, imaginative head, a highly motivated, mainly new teaching staff, a lick of paint and a few rolls of carpet and, hey presto - a dramatically improved school. The message is simple, and for the Government very pleasing. Failing schools are created by poor teachers. Replace a weak staff by a good one and a failing school succeeds. Nothing to trouble the Chancellor here.

One factor was almost hidden at the foot of the third column: "About 50 children were expelled or suspended during that summer term."

Every teacher in an inner-city school has to face large numbers of difficult pupils, but most can cope with them. What makes the job impossible even for the most inspired teacher is the small number of severely disturbed pupils who are virtually beyond control. Just one such child can wreck a lesson.

In even in the most difficult schools, most teachers would agree that if they could exclude just a couple of dozen such pupils they could transform the place. Sadly, even a handful is virtually impossible. A teacher can be sworn at or assaulted by a pupil only to have to teach the child a few days later.

However, find your school under the spotlight as a failing school and suddenly you can throw out 50 of them. Meanwhile those schools which can just about cope are expected to slog on without relief. No articles praising their achievements, just the reward of finding themselves near the bottom of the league tables as they try to push a declining pool of able pupils through GCSEs whilst trying to keep the lid on the nation's unteachables.

Dr STEPHEN SHAW

Newthorpe, Nottinghamshire

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