Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Teacher and the Charge of Attempted Murder.

British newspapers (and the Daily Mail) have been full of this incident over the last few days. It seems that on Wednesday of last week Peter Harvey, a 49 year old science teacher recently back at work after recovering from a stroke or stress, depending on which account you read, assaulted a fourteen year old boy called Jack Waterhouse at All Saints' Roman Catholic School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The assault, which involved two other children, left the pupil unconscious in a pool of blood and with a fractured skull as the result of being hit with science weights.

On the radio one broadcaster concluded the news item with the comment "We send our children to school with the expectation that they will be safe."

Now, call me a cynical old teacher (27 years service) but I also think we send our children to school with the expectation that they will behave themselves appropriately.

What has been interesting about this case is that since Peter Harvey has been in custody the pupils of his school have been out in force SUPPORTING him, even taking cards to the police station where he has been held. I doubt this is the outcome that the media, who are very good at bashing teachers, expected.

My colleagues and I were discussing this on Friday and the general consensus - all speculation I may add - is that the poor man lost it and lost it big time. This led on to a conversation about why a much respected teacher would do that in a moment of madness he will surely regret for the rest of his life. We could all (a totally unscientific survey) to a man and woman recount situations when we have come close to losing it big time: the boy who squares up to a teacher, the girl who screams "Fucking Cunt" repeatedly when her make-up is confiscated, the herd mentality which causes kids to stand passively by while a fight takes place, or, worse, to egg the participants on while chanting "Fight, Fight", the parent who threatens to call the police because you have used your poiny finger on their child, the boy who screams into the face of a teacher who had remonstrated about his behaviour. All these, by the way, are examples from my own school in the last term and the school photos of each child suggest a little angel in whose mouth butter would not melt.

Now I would not wish to suggest that physical assault is in any way acceptable but I do wonder what planet some of our political leaders inhabit if they are not aware of the huge underlying problem of pupil behaviour in schools. Respect is increasingly a thing of the past; low level disruption, chellenging behaviour, the barrack-room lawyer mentality and levels of disaffection are all on the increase. In addition, it is virtually impossible to permenantly suspend a pupil: schools incur a three figure financial penalty for every child they manage to get through the levels of red-tape and remedial support schemes to exclusion. That child has then by law to be picked up by another school. We have one such recent admission and he is a nightmare. The problem is not solved, merely moved, the original school is financially worse off into the bargain and the new school will in all likelihood go through the same process. Perhaps the case of poor Mr. Harvey might just cause our leaders to pause and ask some searching questions about what is happening in schools.

Please pray for Jack Waterhouse and his family.

I shall be praying for Peter Harvey and his. There but for the grace of God.....