Saturday 9 March 2019


Anyone who knows me will understand I don't usually comment on political issues.

Yet when I hear that 'experts' are blaming school exclusions for the rise in knife crime, drugs and gangs it really is too much of a red rag.

It is also cheap scapegoating of the worst kind.

It appears someone, somewhere has spotted two graphs with a similar-looking curve and used one to excuse the other - and let loose a rallying cry of 'blame the schools.'

Anyone who has worked in schools will be able to present a more balanced point of view. They will understand, for one thing, that school exclusions are extremely difficult to process (many years) and are only utilised as an absolute final resort. They are not something that could - or should - be commonplace or utilised on a whim.

Does anyone outside of education really understand or appreciate what schools are up against at the moment? It seems unlikely.

Year after year of budget cuts have come tumbling down from above. I try hard to convince schools of the benefits of introducing chess to their internal culture, at a relatively small cost - and all the time the very same schools are having to let staff go because they can no longer afford to keep everyone in work.

I have had Headteachers virtually in tears because they desperately want to keep an ethos of enrichment in their schools but simply do not have the financial resources to do so.

Class sizes continue to go through the roof. Who, now, remembers the promises from above to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 25 - and to keep them there? I do.

Countless teachers I have known have had to retire from the world of education for a variety of reasons, usually involving copious amounts of pressure. Fine, dedicated people who found the job was suddenly worlds away from the one they dreamed of doing. The felt they could no longer make a difference, when the desire to make a difference was the very reason they chose a career in education in the first place.

Yes - the problems of gangs, drugs and knife crime have complex backgrounds and causes. There are plenty of sizeable elephants in the room which nobody dare even mention (and to which I may return another time). If you a want a war on drugs, for example, do it properly.

But meanwhile, I can reiterate what I said more than once before. In all of my schools I know for sure how dedicated and committed the staff are, despite plenty of challenges and lengthening hours of duty.

So please...don't blame the schools.

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