We are living in interesting times.

My wife has rolled her eyes at me more times this weekend than in our 30 year relationship (we met very young). This is due to my insistence to get involved in ‘detention gate’ on Twitter. The problem with Twitter though is there is little room for widening the debate. You quickly come across as one sided, ranting your views as they seem to narrow. You are either for or against and the subtleties of your views are quickly lost… Or as @oldandrewuk tweeted to me you begin to sound indoctrinated.

I thought Tim Taylor did a great balanced piece on what seems to be happening here:


Firstly – it is absolutely up to the school if they want to advertise for a Director of Detentions (But, sorry – it just sounds stupid… Something I would expect to hear a Minister on The Thick of it say). Why not Mistress of Detention? (Oh, of course… with no educational experience needed it may attract the wrong type of person… “Where are you based? Soho you say?”). I would go for Detention Master!

The principle of a system for discipline and order is vital in every school. No problem with having a rigorous and firm system. In my experience they are the only ones that work. On Friday I sat in a meeting after school and told a Social Worker that the reason a suspension had happened was to protect my teacher. I have been head teacher in four schools and my last two have outstanding Ofsted’s for behaviour and all had many challenges. I get behaviour and feel annoyed when people feel people who question discipline are all bleeding heart liberals.

I think what got me the most was the wording of the advert and how it came across. I am still waiting for someone to say – Spoof!

Oh, shucks – you guys… You GUYS! Now I feel like a real idiot. Like that time when I was sent around the factory looking for the Glass Hammer… “

Anyway – I have been thinking about the wording in the advert and have a few thoughts (Which may get me sent to the DD for disobedience – either that or a twitter slap)

Do you like order and discipline?

Yes! Good start…

Do you believe in children being obedient every time?

Personally I have safeguarding concerns around a statement like that. What is the difference between obedience and blind subservience? Where could an attitude like that go wrong in certain circumstances with certain individuals? Of course in a caring school (Which I have no doubts that this school is) then the system wraps around the child – it’s just seeing those words on cold white paper that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe that was its purpose? Is it disobedient to question? My dad trained gun dogs when I was a kid… he talked a lot about obedience and his dogs were always obedient – eventually. At what point are we allowed to be disobedient? I think it is pretty simple around unacceptable behaviour – but as a deeper concept I would want to explore that if I was a school leader advertising for a Director of Detentions (Again I take it for granted they have).

Do you believe that allowing children to make excuses is unkind?

No. Don’t think I do but questioning excuses and pointing out what the consequences of excuses are is a great lesson in life. Tough love is not a bad thing because the world is tough.

Am I being unkind if I give the child whose mother has just been diagnosed with cancer a break for getting cross?

Be a sergeant major in the detention room…

That’s pretty clear. What happens to the child who walks out on the sergeant? What happens to the child who just does not respond? What happens to the child who finds it all a bit comical? I suppose they would be out of the school. Fair enough, if that’s set out when you join the school, you know what will happen. Do you need a sergeant major then? Is the discipline based on fear of the sergeant major? He or she may shout at me? They can’t hit me – every child knows that… Or even threaten me. Soldiers respect their sergeant major for a good reason. They have earned their strips. They have been where those soldiers are going. I would have preferred a strong role model here… someone who can clearly point out the consequences of the decision we make. But, nothing like sounding tough.

You do not need any experience, but must be willing to learn on the job. You will need reasonable spoken English, but your written English does not have to be excellent.

No experience to probably work with the most complex children in the school? If this is not a spoof this could be very interesting. One thing I know for sure – when working with challenging behaviour communication is KEY. If I was on the interview panel I would ask a lot of questions around this. I would also want to check out lots of legal questions around this and qualifications.

But, let’s be honest. I am not applying for the job and it’s none of my business what they do. Truly – I really hope it works out for the best. Its good money and the right person could be a real asset. The issue is this though – when schools build system where one person holds many of the keys the system is not truly owned. Staff need to own behaviour for it to work effectively. I cannot believe that the school has not got all this in hand and deep down they are having a real laugh at the hand wringing and blog writing that will undoubtedly come from this…

As I said, we live in interesting times.