ONTD Political

Schools should be fined for illiteracy, says riot panel

9:59 pm - 04/02/2012

Schools in England should be fined if pupils leave school with poor literacy skills, an independent report into last year's riots says.

It adds they should demonstrate how they are building pupils' characters, and give careers advice to each child.

In its final report into disturbances, the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel puts schools firmly in the spotlight for preventing future riots.

But head teachers have dismissed the recommendations as unrealistic.

The final report by the panel says a lack of support and opportunities for young people contributed to the outbreak of riots across England last summer.

It also cites poor parenting, an inability to prevent reoffending, too much emphasis on materialism and a lack of confidence in the police.

'Right choices'

But it also puts much responsibility at the doors of schools and their leaders.

The key to avoiding future riots, the report claims, is communities "where parents and schools ensure children develop the values, skills and characters to make the right choices at crucial moments".

It says: "We propose that there should be a new requirement for schools to develop and publish their policies on building character.

"We also recommend that Ofsted undertake a thematic review of character building in schools.

"To inform interventions tailored to individual pupils' needs, the panel recommends primary and secondary schools should undertake regular assessments of pupils' strength of character."

The report also highlights poor literacy skills among young people, saying schools should be fined if they fail to deliver.

"We recommend that schools failing to raise the literacy rate of a child to an age appropriate standard should cover the financial cost of raising their attainment," it says.

The panel also expresses concern that many young people leave school not ready for work.

"We recommend schools develop and publish a careers support guarantee, setting out what a child can expect in terms of advice, guidance, contact with businesses and work experience options."

Schools should also "publish more of their data to ensure they take steps to use exclusion as a last resort and transfer pupils to quality alternative provision".


But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said many of the recommendations did not recognise what was already going on in schools.

"We are very disappointed that the panel has come up with such an unrealistic set of recommendations," he said.

"Schools have always seen building character as a major priority - the requirement to publish policies on this would be an additional bureaucratic requirement which would distract schools from their front line duties.

"And the recommendation to assess strength of character raises all sorts of questions about how that should be done."

Mr Lightman also said fining schools when pupils did not reach an age appropriate standard of literacy would reduce their capacity to provide the necessary support for these pupils.

And Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said such a measure would punish other pupils at the school.

Mr Russell said the report was wrong to single out schools.

"I think school leaders will react with frustration and dismay with the tone that's being taken," he said.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "While many teachers are only too aware of the social problems and all too often grinding poverty that some of their pupils face, it has to be remembered that the key task of teachers is to teach.

"The problems that stem from poor housing, joblessness and poverty in all its forms cannot be for schools to solve."

zhiva_the_mage 3rd-Apr-2012 07:06 am (UTC)
Isn't it what was tried in US? "No child left behind", making poor schools even poorer, etc.
pepsquad 3rd-Apr-2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
don't forget students with learning disabilities.
atomic_joe2 3rd-Apr-2012 07:42 am (UTC)
So if they're fined, their money ultimately comes from the state. That's us. So we'd be fining ourselves.
bleakwinters 3rd-Apr-2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
How about no.
kyra_neko_rei 3rd-Apr-2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Maybe they should a) work on a program that actually engages urban/poor/minority students in the context of what they live with---the "learn this stuff and you can go to college and have middle-class success" is easily viewed as a pipe dream or a vicious lie by those who grow up in poverty, and a "look at all these white people!" curriculum of literature or history won't engage minority students (and is a poison the same way GLBT invisibility is poison to GLBT kids, conveying "the world is made for people who aren't you"); anything that you have to learn "because," like math, is going to have a higher hurdle because it depends on the above-mentioned promise of college and wealth and other things requiring an initial investment that's beyond them.

And b) do something about the poverty which is a constant stress on them. People under stress do not perform as well as people not under stress. And spending 24/7 worrying about food and shelter and parents' employment and all the other things kids should never have to worry about . . . is kinda stressful.
octoberstarlite 3rd-Apr-2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
Or maybe instead of taking money from schools you could invest money in them to improve education. Instead the govt are cutting money and schools can't afford TA's, SEN and LSA's to help those pupils that need the extra support. I work in a primary school and you really see how vital they are, especailly in state schools which tend to be oversubscribed (so you could build some more, or make existing ones larger and provide more classes, and not cabins either) where a teacher would struggle to be able to give a child falling behind vital 1-1 time.
makemerun 3rd-Apr-2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Hey! It worked for other countries, right?

Oh wait.

The sad thing is, there are tried and true solutions to educational problems. This article was posted here a while back (or something similar), and lbr, it applies to a lot of countries.
fayellen 3rd-Apr-2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
I'm really sorry, but I have to agree with this.

I live in North East England and some of the students I know have atrocious spelling and grammar skills.

I don't think improving students literacy skills will stop rioting, that's more culture than education. But I do think improving them will help with getting jobs/making them a more respected person in the community. (Or if you're me; make you seen as some sort of swot or snob, annoyingly.)

I'm just saying I think it would be better if literacy education, not only in the UK, but in America and other primary speaking English places, was better than it is.
-Faye xo
fayellen 3rd-Apr-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
I have learning difficulties. I have Asperger's Syndrome. An Autism Spectrum Disorder. I go to a local community high school, and apart from poor attendence due to high anxiety levels, I face no problems.

But I do agree with what you're saying.

Teachers need the patience of a saint, students need to be engaged with what they are learning.
Somehow I think it would be easier if kids were taught from a young age about homonyms, the importance of capital letters, better spelling and other stuff everyone takes for granted, but is always important.

Maybe it's because my mother is a medical secretary and has corrected and taught me aboutt literacy since starting school age. (Seriously, she'd got through my school planner, cross out incorrectly spelled words and write the correct word next to it!) It used to annoy me no end.

She seems to have realised it's now more me corecting her!
-Faye xo
staticmatrix 3rd-Apr-2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
my brother has multiple learning difficulties and it took his school until he was 11 to start giving him any help...and that was with my parents begging the school to get them to recognise his needs for several years and giving him a tonne of support at home. i know his experience doesn't necessarily mean it happens to everyone else but i see how easy it would've been for him to leave school with more serious literacy issues. this change seems like it would make an already poor system even harsher on students who need extra help to achieve these standards :/
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