Socialist Worker

‘Searching school children will criminalise a generation’

Issue No. 2110

As part of its crackdown on crime and “bad behaviour”, the government announced last week that it wants to extend teachers’ powers so they can search pupils for alcohol or drugs.

Teachers have already been given powers to search students for weapons and the government has encouraged some schools to use scanners or “knife-arches” to police their pupils.

Two teachers told Socialist Worker why they oppose these measures.

Doug Morgan teaches in Birmingham. He told Socialist Worker, “There is a lot about education that could be changed for the better – but searching school children more often is not one of them. It will just alienate more young people from school.

“The more we make schools feel like prisons, the more disaffected children will become.

“The scanners and knife arches are a mistake – they risk criminalising a whole generation. This sort of ‘security’ in schools hasn’t worked in the US – and it won’t work here.

“It’s the job of teachers to make children love school and feel exited about learning. If we treat them like criminals we will make them hate school.

“Being young should not be treated as a criminal offence.”

Sara Tomlinson, a teacher in Lambeth, south London, added, “Scanners and more searches are really not appropriate ways to address the issues.

“They will feed the disillusionment many young people feel and increase the stereotyping of young black men in particular.

“In Lambeth many young people already feel demonised and are increasingly stopped and searched by the police.

“One of the big problems school students face is the exam system and the narrow curriculum that is often irrelevant to our students.

“This creates tension between teachers and students and doesn’t allow much space for teachers to be supportive or address children’s real concerns.

“We have to look at what causes the problems young people face. It is well proven that one of the biggest barriers to educational achievement is poverty.

“The government is not addressing this – they are falling badly behind on child poverty targets.

“Some 40,000 children are living in poverty in London alone – this needs to be addressed if young people are to feel they have a future.”

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Wed 16 Jul 2008, 18:58 BST
Issue No. 2110
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