Many want to learn - but teachers are restricted when it comes to sorting out problem pupils
Jul 21 2006 By The Huddersfield Daily Examiner
A SHOCKING vision of life in Huddersfield schools was exposed today.
It came from teacher John Procter, retiring today after a distinguished 35-year career.
He told of a catalogue of abuse, obscenities and a careless attitude.
Mr Procter says many of the problems stem from "belligerent" parents - with threats against teachers when their children were punished for bad behaviour.
He slammed the modern curriculum which left children bored, uninterested and disruptive.
Mr Procter's indictment makes grim reading.
He says: "Such massively arrogant parents may know their rights, but have no concept of their responsibilities."
His end-of-career report also confirms the worst fears of some parents who believe the education of their youngsters is suffering because teachers' hands are tied when it comes to sorting out the most troublesome pupils.
Mr Procter, 60, has taught all over the UK - including special schools, further education colleges and a spell at Gartree maximum security prison in Leicestershire.
He has most recently specialised in special needs and vocational education at Newsome High.
He stressed first and foremost that many pupils want to succeed and do really well.
But there is a significant minority who can be exceptionally disruptive.
And he says Government legislation has put teachers at a great disadvantage when it comes to dealing with them.
Mr Procter says: "Some kids massively succeed and go on to great things.
"There is also an exceptionally friendly staffroom at Newsome High and it's solid teamwork there.
"It's just that those people who make the decisions at an education authority level haven't a clue what life's really like in a modern school.
"They suggest what we should do in theory. Putting it into practice is an entirely different matter.
"The worst thing for me is looking into the eyes of kids who want to be educated but are stuck in a classroom with a few who don't permit that to happen.
"Yet the current systems are so based upon politically correct thought there is little we can do about it."
Mr Procter said putting pupils with behavioural problems into mainstream schools had gone too far. A U-turn is needed.
He added: "We cannot pander to and pamper the few at the expense of the vast majority.
"We have had parents withdrawing their children from school in their first year there because they either believe the child is not succeeding academically or their behaviour is deteriorating.
"Teachers get abused on a daily basis. If I'm told to f*** off three times in one day then that's a good day."
There are about 850 pupils at Newsome High and Mr Procter said just over 70 are dubbed the Newsome Wanderers by staff.
He said: "These are the ones who fail to turn up or always arrive late and use any excuse to get out of the classroom."
He said those told to leave the classroom because of their poor behaviour go to another room with two staff members there as an attempt to control them.
Another teacher patrols the school looking for youngsters who have failed to go to lessons.
Mr Procter said: "If they walk out of school we phone to tell their parents, although the problem parents are notoriously difficult to contact."
He said that once one notoriously belligerent parent refused to allow the school to put his children in detention - and threatened Mr Procter when he did so.
Mr Procter said schools get so much money per pupil, which in Newsome High's case is about £2,800 a year.
But if that child is excluded the education authority claws back double that amount from the school.
Mr Procter said: "The claim is that alternative provision has to be paid for. Schools are therefore loathe to get rid of problem pupils as they cannot afford the cuts in their budget."
He said teachers were now expected to take on a massive range of roles. "We aren't just educators," he said. "We are expected to be psychologists, social workers and counsellors too.
"A recent example of what is expected from us is that the Government is now thinking of giving us powers to search for knives. It makes you think what kind of a society are we living in?"
Mr Procter feels the time is overdue to look again at an education system that does not have the flexibility to offer more practical lessons which will inspire non-academic youngsters into understanding more about jobs when they leave.
He said: "Many go straight to vocational courses, such as those at Huddersfield Technical College. But some quit either when they realise it's not what they really want to do or cannot cope with the demands.
"Let's give them the chance before then to find out what really interests them and what they can achieve.
"Very few go into work when they leave school, unless it's an opportunity such as the family business.
"The National Curriculum is not geared up to giving children the skills they need for everyday life.
"We are spending far too much time on subjects that are, for some children, a waste of time.
"Many adults wrongly believe their youngsters are computer literate. They may be able to use computers to get on to websites, into online chatrooms or play games.
"But how many can use a computer for what is required in work?"
He added: "We know what headlines are coming this summer after the exam results are revealed. Record levels of achievement yet again and more questions about their validity.
"What was wrong with simple pass or fail, rather than the politically correct grades ranging from A to G.
"Everyone knows that A to C is viewed as a pass and the rest are predominantly platitudes.
"There is a noticeable fall in the standard of reading, writing and maths of children moving from primary to high schools.
"Educational strategies may have a bearing. But could it be that children at primary level are also having their education disrupted?"
Mr Procter concluded on a positive note, saying: "I have been fortunate to have worked with some excellent staff and great kids, as well as having enjoyed positive relationships with supportive parents."