30 July 2008

A teacher for every school

POSSEs need educational support

Secondary schools run by local police constabularies should have learning support officers stationed permanently on site to give pupils elementary lessons in reading and writing, ministers said yesterday.

In the latest measure to crack down on deteriorating standards, the head police officers (“policemasters”) who are in charge of POSSEs (“police-operated secondary school establishments”), following the recent overhaul of the education system, have been asked to add one or two learning support officers to their staff of constables and social workers.

Learning support officers, also called “teachers”, would patrol corridors, playgrounds and surrounding streets to tackle mispronunciation and incorrect grammar, and frisk pupils for inappropriate reading matter which might contain bad examples of spelling, such as The Guardian.

Schools minister Lord Apollo said policemasters who already have teachers in their schools as part of a pilot scheme are 'warmly supportive' of the move. He told the annual conference of the teaching union Aphasia yesterday that ministers favour a major expansion of the CPL (“Crime Prevention and Learning”) partnership scheme.

Last year police officers were given powers to admonish pupils for failing basic reading tests, but school discipline tsar Sir Adrian Bull revealed this month that they rarely use them.

'Nothing is more imperative than that we keep poor literacy out of schools,' said Lord Apollo. 'This is why we gave policemasters the power to test without prior warning or consent pupils they suspect may not be able to read, and why we propose to extend this power.'

The CPL initiative originated in the U.S. and involves dedicated teachers in teams of two or three working with a single police-operated school or group of schools.

'POSSEs in more intellectually challenged areas can particularly benefit from working with specially trained teachers, in terms of ensuring that pupils do not become intellectually damaged. Policemasters are warmly supportive of engagement with appropriately trained learning officers, and they work effectively within the school community. Learning officers are not regarded as outsiders but as part of the school community. They give a much richer dimension to the concept of community schooling.'

The minister's intervention follows mounting public concern over the unemployability of British youths, following a wave of complaints by major corporations in London and elsewhere.

Lord Apollo said the debate on the desirability of a teaching presence in schools had now been won. However, their introduction has not been free of controversy.

Tory schools spokesman Godfrey Nixon criticised the move. He said, 'It's a sad fact of the decline in standards in many schools that some police officers are now forced to use teaching staff, to ensure that children do not leave school as useless as chocolate teapots. Rather than seeing teachers repeatedly called to schools, we want to give police more powers to restore order to the classroom.'

Apologies to: The Daily Mail