The Birmingham secondary school where I ended up in September 2011 was often described as ‘deprived’, but I soon began to question what exactly it was deprived of.
Funding was high, members of staff were bright and hard-working and we were housed in an immaculate, new, multi-million-pound building.
It was not material deprivation causing the school to fail, but a deprivation of ideas.
‘Discipline’ was treated as a dirty word. Instead, staff were encouraged to use the trendy euphemism ‘behaviour for learning’, modishly abbreviated to B4L. ‘Yeah, right,’ pupils would reply when you told them they had a detention.
The results were catastrophic.
Even in those classes where behaviour was sufficiently calm to teach, the curriculum was uninspiring. My subject, history, had been emptied of content and replaced with a series of bogus ‘skills’ such as ‘detecting bias’ or ‘identifying change’.
I was criticised for standing at the front of the room and addressing the whole class. Traditional ‘chalk-and-talk’ teaching methods were highly discouraged. After one lesson observation, I was told I would be well suited to teaching at the boys’ grammar school down the road. I took this as a compliment, but it was not meant as one.
Lastly, excuses were continually made for the under-performance of ‘our kids’ on the basis of their socio-economic background.
There’s much more.