A London school for pupils with behavioural problems has scrapped rules and punishments, preferring to adopt a border collie puppy named McFlurry instead. The Ian Mikardo School in Tower Hamlets, East London, a special school for boys with severe emotional and behavioural problems, featured in a Channel 5 documentary last night called Too Tough to Teach?
Claire Lillis, the school’s head, said to the BBC that the dog has a “calming effect” on pupils. The school also includes a salon where the boys can get their eyebrows shaped and a mocked-up flat to teach cookery.
Coverage of the school in The Guardian notes that “pupils and teachers are on first name terms…if you swear (the boys do, a lot) you will be challenged but there are no sanctions; if you walk out of class no one will force you back in”.
The cheerleaders of the progressive educational establishment – memorably dubbed “The Blob” by Michael Gove – are having a field day on the Twittersphere. Get Outta the Gang, a London youth charity, could barely contain its admiration, tweeting “We need more schools like this.”
No. No we do not.
Is it responsible for a school that educates disturbed, sometimes even violent, young men to tear up the rule book in favour of a petting puppy, a manicure salon and some platitudes about empathy pinned to the classroom wall?
The school’s website says that it specialises in the education of boys with “complex social, emotional and behavioural problems”. Perhaps these have roots in drink, drugs, domestic violence, bereavement or gang warfare; many of the boys have been expelled from mainstream schools.
When they leave the school at 16, the boys will enter a society with rules, expectations and social structures that Ms Lillis and her colleagues will have failed to prepare them for.
The boys are smothered by misplaced love. But their teachers’ buried cynicism comes to the surface in that Guardian article. They readily describe their own pupils as “unteachable”.
Ms Lillis’ educational philosophy has been warmly endorsed by Ofsted, the Blob’s private cult, who have graded the school as outstanding. Their inspection report includes language that is as cuddly as McFlurry the dog: the pupils “make exceptional progress from their starting points”. Whether their finishing point would cut it with any employer is carefully omitted – Ofsted’s mangled newspeak neatly gets the teachers off the hook.
It would still be a tragedy if this ideology were confined to just one school in the loony London Borough of Tower Hamlets. But this is the dominant mode of thinking among academics responsible for brainwashing the next generation of young teachers.
Writing about the documentary, Dr Rebecca Westrup, an education at the University of East Anglia, asked: “Does taking away the rules give young people freedom to be learners?” Dr Westrup’s CV includes researching the construction of identities across cultures. But she would gladly rob British pupils of the tools to responsibly construct their identities.
Last night, as the documentary was broadcast, the progressive educationalists were rejoicing in an orgy of self-congratulation that their compassionate approach has triumphed. But once the TV cameras have disappeared and the educational press has moved on to the next fad, the Ian Mikardo School’s boys will left on the shelf. Some may turn to crime, violence or fall into addiction. Does a petting puppy make up for that?
Adam D’Souza is an aspiring teacher who writes for Breitbart London on how big government is ruining your children’s education. He tweets at @adamdsouza