I would like to start posting the occasional blog about education as a means of self reflection and possibly canvassing opinions. As you may be aware I am currently studying for my PGCE in Further Education (teaching students from 16 to adult) and volunteering as a history teacher in a secondary school. I earn a little pocket money doing cover supervisor work around the north east.

My first topic is a bit of a taboo and revolves around this central question: When do you give up on a student? By the hushed silence and/or deafening protest (depending on your disposition) I’m assuming your response is to say “Never.”

Is that not premature? Is there a case to be made that sacrifices must be made for the benefit of the majority? I will use an example. A colleague took over a bottom set GCSE class. They were not expected to even take the exams and the teacher was told that they would be successful just to get anything out of them. All students were listed with moderate learning difficulties which translated for a good half of the class as serious behaviour problems. Violence, obscene language, bullying (of staff and students) and outright hostility towards staff charecterise the daily lessons.

Yet, the teacher had success. The students are now all being entered for the exams and coursework and the teacher believes they can get E or above grade – which is better than nothing. Several students have even earned merits in recognition of improved behaviour and understanding. A real sense of positivity is taking hold where previously the students all knew they were the idiot class (the word scribbled on an excercise book is a lot stronger).

Only two students remain a major problem. Very disruptive, they rarely stay in class – getting removed by senior management for isolation. Now it is revision time and these two have shown no interest at all in passing and have hurled abuse at female members of staff. With two weeks to the exam would it be too unthinkable to cut losses on those two students – transfer them elsewhere during the revision lessons so the teacher can have productive vital help sessions with those who want to try their best and prove everyone who said they would get nothing wrong?

The same revision material is provided to the bad apples, just their disruptive influence is withdrawn for the last crucial fortnight.

What do you think? Is it an abandonment? An act of realism? Should the teacher feel they have failed in someway?

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