December 2014

The know zone

  • Number lessons
    ASCL’s new training DVD aims to give people a deeper understanding of budgets and balance sheets and so help avoid clashes over spending, says Val Andrew. More
  • A window on work
    Karleen Dowden offers five ways that schools and colleges can bring students together with employers to gain insights into the working world. More
  • To grade or not to grade?
    Tony Thornley shares his insights into what an outstanding school looks like and why best practice demands more than ticking Ofsted’s boxes. More
  • Maximise the benefits
    Are you and your staff getting the most out of continuing professional development (CPD)? More
  • ASCL PD events
    ASCL PD runs a number of CPD courses to help school and college leaders motivate their staff. More
  • Last word
    No one in their right mind would join a club and sign up to its regulations and then claim that the rules don’t actually apply to them, would they? So why do some people think that instructions issued by schools can be treated in such a cavalier fashion? More
  • Stronger together
    Exploring how one charity believes it’s possible to rebuild the lives of both bereaved pupils and schools. More
  • Unbalanced view?
    Workload is becoming an increasingly serious problem in schools and colleges. What is your view on this important issue – do you have a healthy work-life balance? Is an increasing workload something that is affecting you and your staff? Here ASCL members share their thoughts. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    More than half of ASCL members are now in academies and many are from independent schools – this month, the hotline has taken several calls from members in these sectors. Below are just a few of the questions our hotline staff have answered, although clearly in the answers there are messages for all members regardless of sector. More
Bookmark and Share

No one in their right mind would join a club and sign up to its regulations and then claim that the rules don’t actually apply to them, would they? So why do some people think that instructions issued by schools can be treated in such a cavalier fashion?

Last word

Once, many years ago, I was stopped for speeding. The nice policeman sat me in his car and explained how his radar gun had shown him that my speed was in excess of the legal limit and, therefore, I had to be pulled over, fined and my licence endorsed with three points.

I wasn’t best pleased, as you can imagine, but I knew the rules when I had set off on the car journey so, while it pretty much ruined my day, I couldn’t really complain too much. I did complain – a lot – but it was my own fault.

The reason for this trip down memory lane is to introduce my current bugbear: people who are fully aware of the rules within my school but view them as a sort of starting position for negotiations.

“I know it says I have to be at school for 8.50am but I really like Lorraine Kelly so how about I get there for 9.20am; that would be OK, wouldn’t it?” . . . that sort of thing.

In my school, we make a really big deal of our expectations and rules in terms of uniform, appearance and so on. They are in the handbook we send out every year, they’re on the website and I talk about them regularly in assemblies. They may not suit everyone, so we set them out at open evening before the child starts with us, so parents know what they are. It really irks, therefore, when – part-way through a school career – parents say, “Well, it’s a silly rule” or “That hairstyle is natural” and the perennial “How does it affect their learning?”

If I take some of the standard arguments employed to try to wriggle out of school sanctions and apply them to motoring indiscretions, they don’t seem too sensible. For example:

Excuse 1

He has been wearing those trainers/giant earhole-making spacers/ tramlines in his hair for weeks and no one said anything.

When used for caught driving without insurance: But I’ve been driving uninsured for years and no one has ever said anything.

What this actually means: I’ve been knowingly breaking the rules for a while now and got away with it and therefore shouldn’t have to stop, ever.

Excuse 2

I’ve seen two other pupils who also have drawn-on eyebrows that give them the look of an astonished cat.

When used having been caught speeding: Those other cars are going even faster than I was.

What this actually means: I was quite clearly breaking the rules but so are other people and so, unless you stop every single other person breaking the rules, this is clearly unfair and you need to let me off with a bit of a talking to.

Excuse 3

Well it’s done now, so there is nothing we can do about it. (Usually applied to a clearly ridiculous haircut/hair colour.)

When used having been caught building a six-storey kitchen extension without planning permission: But I’ve built and paid for it now, so there’s not a lot I can do, is there?

What it actually means: I was fully aware of your rules but thought, “Stuff ’em, I’m doing it anyway and they’ll just have to lump it.”

As much as the people who provided me with the excuses above would like to argue, I am a reasonable chap. I understand that the rules we have aren’t for everyone, and that’s fine; variety is the spice of life and so forth. But I do think it’s a bit rich to enquire about joining a community of any sort, reading the rule book, signing on the dotted line and then moaning about the contents of the book you read before you signed up.

Every community has rules, from being a member at the library – don’t use bacon for bookmarks, drawing moustaches on the pictures is not allowed – to being part of a country – where I’m not a big fan of this income tax thingy, and where I have heard that some people (famous ones, too) don’t pay it, and thus it must be OK if I don’t pay it either (see excuse 3).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will have to stop there, as I’ve got to finish moving my garden fence 12 feet further back because I fancy a bigger patio. I’ll get it all done over the weekend while the neighbours are away because, once it’s done, what can they do about it?

The author is a headteacher in the North West of England.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at ASCL offers a modest honorarium.