I was on ‘crowd control’ duty during the Year 9 assembly today. The school body is so large that not all of the pupils can fit into the hall at one time, so assemblies are scheduled for each day, one per year group for years 7-10.
This is the last general assembly those children will have before the end of term, so it was taken by the Head. He had mentioned in the staff briefing in the morning that he would be announcing the new behaviour expectations and that he expected support from all staff on this. Perhaps I’m too cynical for my own good, but when someone says that they ‘expect support’ I generally consider that they are informing people of this, as otherwise they don’t think they will get it.
The pupils sat in the hall, fidgeting, sullen and at first, unreceptive to whomever was speaking. As the assembly progressed, most of them (save the very unengaged) began to take more notice of what was being said. They glared at their classmates who were whispering & a persistent few were poked in the ribs.
The Head explained that there was a new behaviour policy that would be taking effect after Christmas. The pupils were expected to adhere to this, and detentions would be given out if they broke the rules. The rules, he said, were pretty much the same as they currently are, but the main focus was on the attitude of the pupils.
“You must remember that you are entitled to a good education. That is your right. Be proud of your entitlement and happy that you live in a country where you have that right.”
He went on to explain that in many countries children do not receive an education due to poverty or war. For some it is due to cultural opposition. But the children sitting before him had their entitlement, their right, enshrined in law. They were the lucky ones.
The Head then went on to expand upon his definition of this entitlement. The teachers would, he explained, ensure that they were producing lessons that would engage, challenge and motivate them. The pupils had an entitlement to such lessons. They should expect to receive them and to make the most of the lessons that met that entitlement.
The Head said he expected the pupils to embrace the new behaviour policy, because for the first time it brought together the pupils’ entitlement to a good education and his vision for a school where the pupils had a much more concrete role – one where they help to define the teaching that occurs in the classrooms. They had the power to shape their lessons and they should use their ability to judge when their lessons met their entitlement.
In the staffroom at break, most of the staff were pessimistic. As one teacher noted, there are two ways to interpret the word ‘entitlement’.
Believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment