As I was going into the Year 10 English class, a TA came running up to me.
“Hi! Just wanted to let you know about Luke. You’ve got him next. He’s got issues, he doesn’t like writing and isn’t very good at reading but if you give him lots of praise he works OK for you. And he loves doing stuff, so drama is OK too!”
I thanked her for the information and asked her what support he normally had in class, but she was off, fluttering down the corridor in a wave of good intentions.
“Don’t worry,” she shouted over her shoulder, “Luke’ll be fine…”
And with that, she was gone.
I have no idea how Luke would have fared in the lesson, it turned out to be an analysis of the main character in a book – so heavy on the writing, as he took one look at me, mumbled “Not f*****g supply,” and ran off.
I sent a pupil off to student services with a note explaining what had happened, and asking if Luke would return with a TA. If so, alternative work could be found for him. But I received no answer.
I’d like to say that this experience was rare, but sadly it isn’t. Both the attitude to having a supply teacher (see Shelby doesn’t do Supply) and the disinclination to write are, if not common, becoming more frequent occurrences than in the past. When I started doing supply teaching the pupils used to play up, now they often walk out. And this seems to be the accepted course of events.
For a number of these pupils (many?) the reason may be down to things such as autism and its associated problems with regard to change. But for other pupils it seems to be simply a disinclination to do something they don’t want to do. In one instance I was informed that a pupil wasn’t on the SEN register, he just had a really bad temper so it was best to let him go. In cases such as this I do question the logic of allowing the pupil to dictate the terms of their education.
If Luke doesn’t want to work, should we make him?
Well, if we don’t, he won’t gain any qualifications. That will severely limit his chances of getting a job. It could be argued that the school had also failed in its duty of care, given that a teenager couldn’t be expected to have the maturity to make decisions which could have an impact for the rest of his working life.
But if we do make him…? One TA told me that the mother had said that making her child do work when he didn’t want to was infringing his human rights!
As I left school I saw Luke, schoolbag over his left shoulder, cigarette in his right hand. He gave me the ‘V’ sign as I drove past.