Authoritarian Schooling: A Catalogue of Damage compiled by David Gribble




And in 2010: Lessons

Extracts from interviews conducted in 2010 with twenty students, aged between 11 and 15, who had transferred to Sands School, Ashburton, because of their experiences at other schools.

'The classes didn't want to work, the teachers were just forced to do things which they just knew the class didn't like, no one wanted to work, and it was like a machine really, it was a machine. You went there in the morning, you churned out at the end of the lesson, you went to the next lessons, churned out, at the end of the school it, "Yeah, I can get home now," and it was just horrible.'


'I thought there was so much homework. Even from the age of like eleven you had at least a piece a night, and it just seemed like you were pressured into working so hard. . . . I'm quite academic so I could kind of cope with that, but I thought people who weren't academic, how would they cope with that much work and pressure?'


'I disliked my old school a lot, because it was very sort of robotised, if that could be a word, in the way it was taught, and I think there wasn't enough passion put into the work and so you didn't really want to learn, and here, I think there's a lot more passion put into the teaching, and the teachers want to do their job, so you want to learn because there's more there, and I think at my last school there was loads of people, and there were so many people there wasn't enough care put into every individual and you all got taught as one in each class. It's very much like an army, almost, of people, if you can say that, and then I just don't think it was taught properly and I think you get into trouble a lot more when you don't enjoy doing stuff, because you've got so much like a load of work to do you've got so much weight on your shoulders with all the work.'

'What about the actual learning? Did you learn a lot at your other school?'

'I did learn some things in some subjects, . . . I didn't really learn too much in the subjects that I would have wanted to, because I think it was so strict and you were too scared to ask for help if you needed it.'


'I remember I was in quite an unfortunate class, because I have always wanted to learn and the class that I was put in when I went into secondary school in Year 7 was really full of badly behaved people, and they threw things around the class, and it was really appalling, their behaviour, it was so bad. And I tried to tell them to stop, so we could because the poor teachers, they just didn't know how to control them, it was so bad and instead I got shouted at by the teacher, because even though I wasn't actually the one causing the trouble, just because I was trying to tell them to stop, it was easier for them to control me than to control the rest of the class.'


'Was it mostly the teaching you didn't like, or were there other things?'

'Well, it was basically the teaching, they didn't really explain properly because I'm dyslexic, and I wouldn't get the stuff. The way they teach it I didn't really understand.'


'As I got older I found that actually the religiosity intensified, there was more persuasion to be more religious, and less questioning, which Bored teenager's headwas quite strange because it was much nicer in the prep school than in the secondary school. And after a while I started actually concentrating all my energy on disrupting classes and annoying the teachers because I found it so much more fun than actually learning things, and then I realised that I was going to get expelled pretty quickly if I carried on like that, so I left. I don't know, it just happened that the rules were getting so petty and stupid that I just found it better to rebel against the rules than to learn biology or something.'


'Did any lessons actually happen?' [Asked of a pupil who had come from a particularly unmanageable group]

'Yes. Well, for instance in the art lessons it was very frustrating because I'd go and it would take at least half an hour just to get through the register because everybody was just being so disruptive and then by the time we got our equipment out it was time to pack up and go on to the next thing. It was so run by such a straight system you couldn't if you wanted to spend a certain amount of time on a piece of art or something you couldn't. There was no way you could. You couldn't even go in at break times or anything, it was just completely boxed.'


'And were the teachers good at teaching?'

'I did have a few teachers that were good, but often the classrooms were so disruptive and overcrowded that they just couldn't, it didn't really work, and also it was all exam-based, so the first two or three days of going there I didn't realise, but we had exams, the first few days just to see what just to stream us. And I completely freaked out because I'd just come from a village primary school, and suddenly there was a huge sports hall with something like two thousand no, not as much as that two hundred or three hundred or so people all doing their CATS, they were called, so I got put in quite a low maths group. It was awful, it was just far too easy, and, you know, I asked to be moved up but they couldn't do that. For instance for science I was supposed to go into the group above, but they kept me down, supposedly to improve the rest of the class or something. It was so not about individual people, it was just about the whole the thing as a whole.'


'In all the schools I went to if you didn't understand anything you'd have all the writing, you'd just basically have to do something without knowing how to do it. So they would give a great detailed explanation to some people, you come in and they're just, like, 'You missed it.' And don't help you at all. No help at all. '

'What was it like at your other schools when you woke up in the morning and had to go to school?'

'It was like, oh it's going to be a whole day of boredom. Because really in those schools you didn't really learn anything. Anything that they tried to teach you you'd forgotten as soon as the lesson ended.'