In the news this week there was a story about a school in Birmingham, where pupils have been banned from talking when walking to and from lessons. Pupils caught speaking face a punishment of a twenty-minute detention.
Ninestiles Academy in Acocks Green, Birmingham, is run by two Headteachers; Andrea Stephens and Alex Hughes and was recently rated ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED. On its website, it claims to be “a school with a long established tradition of excellent outcomes, progressive approaches to teaching and learning and a passion for transforming the life chances of students. “
A letter was sent to parents declaring that although ‘behaviour is already of a very high standard… we want and expect more from our learners….. Students will move around the building in silence during change over times. This will ensure students will arrive calmly and ready to learn and staff can give out any information they need to, swiftly and easily.” Students will still be permitted to socialise in break and lunchtimes. Yet students must leave the school in silence at the end of the day.
Clearly, Ninestiles Academy have taken time to decide on this policy and they must feel strongly that this will benefit their students’ education. I am not so sure though.
In a way the school are correct in their belief that the biggest cause of disruption in schools is what is known as low level disruption; much of this occurs during lessons. The constant interruptions, the joking, the chatting. All of this contributes to students having their learning interrupted. When I used to work in Comprehensive Secondary Schools, I would be very strict on this low-level disruption as I felt that it was imperative that no pupil had their learning stopped by the actions of another pupil. However, and this is why I do not agree with silence in the corridors, children do not come to school to learn. They come to school to socialise. They need down time during the school day, not just at morning break and at lunchtime but in between lessons to catch up with each other. If you do not permit them to do this, then they will become like a coiled spring and suddenly erupt at any time. It is incredibly detrimental to their mental health. I am sure those who support it might suggest that this will stop any minor bullying that occurs in the change overs outside of lessons but what about the need for children to express themselves? We really do not want to return to the times when schools upheld a climate of fear and anxiety.
I remember once when I returned for a reunion at my former school. Myself and my former classmates noted that many of the girls who were pupils at that time, were flouting the school uniform rules and wearing micro-mini skirts that only just covered their behinds. We mentioned to the Headteacher at that time that we were shocked by this.
“Oh, but you see, “replied the Head,” Sometimes you need to allow girls to break rules, then they think they are getting away with something.” Her justification was that in the great scheme of things, thinking you were a rebel and had managed to get away with a small rule break about the length of your skirt, would ensure that you would not then strive to break the bigger rules about behaviour.
Only time will tell if Ninestiles Academy have been successful in their new policy, but I strongly believe that this might just back-fire on them and cause more issues.