Socialist Worker

A ‘sinister’ measure to criminalise our students

by Andrew Stone Co-rep, George Green’s School (pc)
Issue No. 2069

Staff at my school returned from the holiday expecting our head teacher to lead a training session on behaviour management. Instead she was attending a summit on gang culture at 10 Downing Street.

In her place our in-school “Community Police Officer” announced a sinister new scheme to criminalise some of our students.

As part of the “Safer Schools” initiative, ten of our students have been served with Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs).

This decision was made without staff consultation and we were given very limited time to question the officer on his announcement. No written information was provided and when my co-rep reached him on the phone later he advised her to “Google ABCs”.

According to the Home Office these documents can be issued in response to minor misdemeanours such as noise nuisance and smoking.

They can then ban a range of activities, which need not be criminal.

For example, a student can be told to promise that they will not “congregate in groups in communal areas”. They do not have to agree to stop meeting their friends, but doing so can be grounds for an Asbo, breach of which is a criminal offence.

How will this help kids from our under-resourced inner city community?

More pertinent perhaps is the Home Office advice on publicity, which states: “Communities need reassurance, and every crime and disorder reduction partnership should have a strategy for publicising its policies, activities and achievements to provide that reassurance.

“This affects not only the community’s perception of anti-social behaviour (which is a key performance measure), it strongly influences public confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole.”

So there we have it – PR for the police is as simple as ABC.

Many teachers were very unhappy with this. It seems that written and verbal information we routinely provide on student misbehaviour for the purpose of internal school discipline has been exploited for this draconian process.

This raises the question of whether we should continue to provide such information.

My NUT teachers’ union branch has called for the initiative to be postponed pending proper consultation.

We are not in the mood to be fobbed off.

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Article information

Tue 18 Sep 2007, 19:15 BST
Issue No. 2069
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