A teacher’s view of the protests

30 November 2010
The Times
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Children should be in school, however they feel about the tuition fee rises

I think it’s highly irresponsible of teachers to condone, tacitly or explicitly, pupils walking out of school. It indicates that they don’t see the primary importance of education in the classroom; if they don’t believe in that, why are they teaching?

It’s pointless excluding children who attended the protest from school; they will just miss yet more of their education. I think they should be given weekend or after-school detentions to make up for the vital time they have missed.

I am very concerned about the rise in tuition fees, but I feel strongly that children’s learning in the classroom is the most important thing. Teachers should guide their students to protest in a productive, not destructive, way.

Before the first school walkout, I talked to the Year 9 and Year 10 students at the large comprehensive in outer London where I teach. Many had heard about the walkout but didn’t really understand why the fees were being raised, or the implications for them and their families. I made it clear that at our school we expect them to go to college, and that they should think about their futures. We then discussed the recession, the diminishing government revenue stream, the cuts and the arguments for and against raising tuition fees. Above all, I stressed that I was against them walking out of school; they would miss vital schooling and possibly get tangled up in stuff that was primarily about causing trouble. Because many of my fellow teachers had had this conversation with their students, there was no walkout; they decided to join online petitions and write letters of protest instead.

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