Clarke’s school days won’t help

I’m not quite sure what lies behind Charles Clarke’s
latest education proposals, but I have my suspicions as to why he
is so keen on school uniforms and house systems.

As every teacher knows, a common response to what we do in
schools is: “Why don’t you do it like that anymore? It worked
perfectly in my day!” Is this what Clarke is after? Is he hankering
after his own school days?

The problem I have with his proposals has little to do with the
actual proposals themselves. As one of a raft of measures, uniforms
may well increase the sense of community and pride in a school.

However, I am not convinced that making a family buy a blazer
will automatically improve discipline or raise standards in the
classroom. Also, most schools have a perfectly good system of
organising pupils by year groups and don’t need to go back to
a house system.

Would Clarke prefer us to move from the “bog standard
comprehensive” to the “bog standard pseudo-grammar school”? I guess
that is the reason why I have my doubts about his plans: are we
talking about improving learning or about appealing to middle class

A secondary school teacher in London

Support children of criminals

We welcome any government plan to help the children of
prisoners, providing it is done in a way that does not stigmatise

Children with a parent in prison face terrible disadvantages,
including an increased risk of becoming offenders. When a father is
imprisoned, mothers face all the problems of deprivation suffered
by many single parents as well as the stigma of having a partner in
jail. When mothers are imprisoned, their children suffer the trauma
and disruption of separation and many have to go into care.

If targeting means providing genuine support for the children of
prisoners, as well as assistance for their mothers, it could help
to reduce the children’s chances of becoming delinquent.

But if it stigmatises families or labels children as potential
criminals, it could reinforce the risk that they will follow in
their parents’ footsteps.

Paul Cavadino,
Chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro

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