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Gove scraps a rule that doesn’t exist

October 2nd, 2010 by Teacher Talks

I was unaware of this until an hour or so ago but – according to Michael Gove – as a teacher, I’m not allowed to touch children.  There exists somewhere a ‘no touch rule’ which, apparently, is a bad thing.  So, fear not, under the Tory Education Minister’s ‘new deal’  for the classroom, the rule will be scrapped.

Teachers, Gove claims, are hindered by the ‘maverick pupil’ who ‘knows his rights’, meaning well-trained professionals shy away from taking action to assert the necessary discipline and skilled pedagogues are all a fluster when a bullied child is upset, feeling unable to offer comfort and consolation.

‘Hundreds’ of pages of guidance produced by Education HQ on bullying and discipline are to be placed on the coalition bonfire and shrunk to something more concise and unequivocal, permitting contact and cuddles.  Children’s rights, apparently, have got a bit out of hand.   

Hurrah, you might think, schools are breaking free of their chains!  Rejoice, all praise to Gove, teachers are reclaiming the classroom!

Except, sorry Michael, as a man of fierce logic; your solution is wrong because your premise is wrong.  His description of a profession standing by in the playground, like a wrestling referee waiting for the knock-out, or flicking through the rule book while a bullied child trembles and weeps, is not one I recognise.

Teachers can – and do – touch children, they just have to do it safely (for both the child and the adult).  This means, when leaping between flying fists, restraining in a way that doesn’t cause injury.  This means, when a child is distraught, providing comfort that is appropriate and sensitive.  In each case, it means intervening, but not wading in without thought or consideration; in other words, it requires professional judgement by people who have the skills and who know what they are doing. 

Gove’s knocking of children’s rights is a side-show.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with children knowing that they have rights.  Quite the reverse; we should teach children so they know their own rights and, crucially, understand that others have the same rights.  That sounds like a civilized world to me; something to aim for, not to denigrate.   Indeed, the only UN countries not to sign up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child are Somalia and the United States.  Somalia plan to ratify the treaty.  We should have no desire to mimic the U.S on this one.

With this announcement Gove is guilty of putting his own political prejudices in  the way of classroom practice.  The Tories have long been sceptical of ‘rights’ in schools, believing they get in the way of good old-fashioned discipline.  The reality is that they protect children – all children, but particularly vulnerable ones.  Well-trained professionals can still do their job; it just means they need to think carefully about how they handle particular, potentially inflammatory situations.  That, dear Michael, is a good thing.

Comments [ 13 ]

  1. Susan Grant Susan Grant says:

    Amazing post!!! So good.

  2. Bob Harrison Bob Harrison says:

    After 35 years teaching if I felt I had not “touched” any children I would be disapointed!

  3. KMQ KMQ says:

    SO why has my local school got a no touch policy that means infants who have an accident are left in the corner in their own waste till their parents gets there, and must put on plasters etc on their own. Teachers are not allowed to physically comfort a child who’s fallen over even!

    It’s bloody stupid, and if it gets scrapped, I’ll be very glad indeed.

  4. Good myth-busting, in the same league as that which says that Eminent Authors (being self-employed)were not going to have to have vetting and barring checks to go into schools anyway (but could idf they chose to seek them), but this was used by Civitas and their ilk to attack the perfectly sound principle that employers should consult a list of known barred persons before hiring.

    Who says we cannot photograph children? A law? No. People scared of their own shadows/ tick box tickers? Yes. Have a think about the standard BBC news footage when child abuse is reported. Images of kids’ feet in a school playground. They obviously haven’t thought about the foot-fetishist paedophile have they?

    We lock away the children, even their images. And it’s not just our fear for their safety. Kids disappeared from their traditional play space, the street, long before the paedo-panic. No, it was the car, and not even the moving ones. Just tell a kid s/he can go outside and kick a ball by the parked cars and wait for the street lynch-mob, or the at a police car zooming to stop anti-social behaviour ….

    Not seen, as well as not heard.

  5. Teacher Talks Teacher Talks says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment KMQ. There isn’t a ‘law’ which requires your local school to do this, so there is nothing to be ’scrapped’. I’d ask to see the Head, explain your concerns and, if they say they have to have this policy because of a law, ask to see it (they’ll struggle at this point!). There is no reason whatsoever for a child to be left upset or in distress – the school has a bad policy.

  6. LKMco LKMco says:

    Excellent post, reminds me of the priceless moment during the pre-election leaders’ debates when Cameron announced that teachers should be allowed to search pupils for weapons.
    Some say the problem is that rights aren’t clear but one of the unions (NASUWT I think) actually produced an incredibly clear leaflet for all teachers on “your rights” !

    Twitter: @LKMco

  7. [...] Classic Gove as he panders to his Daily Mail audience and scraps a rule that doesn’t exist. [...]

  8. Paul Clarke Paul Clarke says:

    I’ve tried that civil “show me the law” line – over an issue of photographing a steel band at the school fair (I’m a photographer, it was very visual, and I thought the point of doing public shows was to, erm, be seen…)

    It’s easier said than done. In the real world, the head retrenches into “it’s just the way we do it, our staff, children [and governors] are all happy with it” etc. etc.

    There is no meek rolling over. There is certainly no ’struggling’ or embarrassment. It would be nice if there were.

    What there is is a nasty accelerating tension between teacher and parent that dogs the rest of the schooling relationship and marks you as a troublemaker. If only rationality played any part in this, but I’m afraid in the real world, it doesn’t.

  9. Teacher Talks Teacher Talks says:

    Thanks for your comment, seems like you have fallen foul of some pretty daft decisions. That said, my experience is different to yours – parents happily snap away at sports day for example, and I don’t recognise anything approaching a ‘nasty tension’ between teacher and parent. Far from it.

    Getting back to my original post, it’s interesting to see Gove again attempting to play the ‘discipline’ card in a way that doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny – here he is announcing powers that a) already exist and b) are a bit meaningless anyway:

  10. [...] Gove scraps rule that doesn’t exist, says blogger Teacher Talks [...]

  11. [...] also wants it so that the rule saying teachers must not touch kids is scrapped.  I ask what rule? That sounds to me more like political point [...]

  12. Matt Matt says:

    Late to this, but you’re refuting something he didn’t clearly say.

    Gove, according to the Beeb:

    “There are a number of schools that have ‘no touch’ policies and we are going to make clear this rule does not apply.”

    There are some things to be scrapped – the local policies in place in various places.

  13. Teacher Talks Teacher Talks says:

    Matt – thanks for your comment. That’s exactly the issue though – there are some local policies in place: nothing that Gove himself can ’scrap’. This is about Gove sounding ‘tough’, playing to a Daily Mail audience who like to believe our schools are in complete chaos, children’s rights are out of control and, as a result, teachers are hapless observers. As there isn’t a current law or central guidance which dictates a ‘no touch’ policy his plan to remove the policy is a bit meaningless, particularly when the whole thrust of his education policy is supposed to be about schools having more freedom for central guidance and control. It’s posturing, not policy.

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