Friday, June 18, 2004

Antony enters the Exclusion Zone!

Last nigh I was invited to the opening of a new play put on by a team from High Schools to raise awareness of the complicated and incredibly serious issue that is High School Exclusion. This is one of these issues that teachers are very hot on – normally our sanity and the needs of the many come first – as too are the political classes, with Labour & Lib Dems wanting to “include” as far as possible and the Tories keen on simply handing power to Heads and governors to decide.

Two things really stood out about the performance – firstly was the way in which you saw the exclusion process from all angles. So pupils experienced several reactions, some enjoying the concept of a long holiday whilst other lamented on their behaviour in school. You had teachers who wanted the pupils out at any cost facing up to lethargic senior management. This is one of those situations where we don't work hard enough to include some pupils but aren't fast enough reacting to exclude others. By the end, you had sympathy with all sides. Exclusion is the most serious thing that teachers can do and I am not always sure that exclusion is the answer or that we understand its real impact.

The second good thing was when they replayed some the scenes, but asked members of the audience to call out to point out where the teachers could have done things better (or just differently) in various situations. Some of the complaints were fairly awful (one lady asked why the teacher assumed that a parent could read) but generally it was well thoughts out and made you think about the tiniest details of what we do. In the end (needless to say), I ended up taking the role on stage of one of the teachers – dressed in a pink jacket and matching headband. It wasn’t quite acting for me, just another day at the office. Soon got the situation sorted out! Several parents caught up with me afterwards and said I should become a teacher, Well, I said…

It was a fantastic night and all the team of the “Exclusion Zone” should be proud of bringing such crucial, but often forgotten, issues to centre stage.

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