Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bunk Off or a Free Curry?

Last night I heard a discussion on Radio 5 Live about a primary school which has a problem with truancy. Indeed, it has a problem with parents who are not taking their responsibilities seriously and making little effort to ensure their children attend school. The head teacher has introduced a scheme which is aimed at persuading these parents to obey the law and make sure their children attend school. If problem children start attending school properly their parents are being rewarded with a £40 voucher for a curry meal. Yes, you read that right.

Now, it is good that schools think outside the box and try to innovate, but is this really sending out the right message? The NASUWT have branded it 'insane' and pointed out that it rewards people who have been breaking the law. It also sends out the wrong message to the kids who may well come to understand that you only need obey the law when you are being rewarded for it.

It comes back to the age old dilemma about carrots and sticks. Normally, such parents would be reported to the Police or social services if they don't get their kids to school. That's the stick. This school is trying a carrot approach. It may work in the short term, but can this really be right as a long term strategy?

More from the Telegraph.


jailhouselawyer said...

I don't like curry. Can I have a voucher for appeasment pie instead?

Albert said...

Sadly life under labour is anything but normal.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised this is happening - we will hear more and more cases like this. This Country constantly rewards bad behaviour and then wonders why more and more people are a disgrace. My sister is a SEN teacher - if any child smacks another in the face etc they are labelled as being ebd which is a special need and rewarded. If children act up in the afternoon they are sent home early. Those kids that behave? nothing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the "honesty bonuses" the baggage handlers at Heathrow wanted for not nicking stuff out of people's suitcases.

Ivor Bigot said...

The kids missing from class are probably such God-awful little shits, that the remaining pupils were glad not to have ruining the classes for rest of them. More seriously, I agree with the teaching unions, their parents should be fined, not "rewarded for bad behaviour".

such parents would be reported to the Police or social services

And then what would happen? Nothing, I would imagine. Maybe it's the stick that needs some work here, not the carrot.

Anonymous said...

It has been put to me that it is exactly the right policy - provided always the curry is poisoned!

Ex-teacher said...

Until fairly recently I was a primary school teacher in quite a rough area of London. I can tell you that many parents ALREADY view school as a hinderance to their doubtless glamourous lifestyles, and trying to improve attendance by offering them curries just means that the next time that the parents are required to do anything, they will need bribing.

As a teacher you quickly notice that the parents generally have the same 'rights with no responsibility' attitude as their offspring, and bribery feeds this. The best thing to do is explain to the parents calmly and repeatedly that they need to keep their children in school, and if they don't get the social services onto it. It is hard to do much more, but generally, they will do all they can to avoid officialdom, because this can mean their benefits are put under a microscope.

Dick the Prick said...

Can't blame him for trying to curry favour. OMG - have just offended myself - to the naughty step and don't spare the horses!

Anonymous said...

Hi Iain,

Given your publishing background, I wonder whether you would publish a list of recommended summer reading? It would be great to be pushed in the direction of a few well-written tomes, providing a political distraction in the coming newsless months.


Nicky G said...

Iain, you could bunk with me for a free curry.

Iain Dale said...

Josh, funnily enough I am doing just that, this evening!


Anonymous said...

This is seriously bad, I assume NASUWT is a union, and I agree with them. I'm off for some gin...


Wrinkled Weasel said...

What is worse is the the illiterate offspring of these lowlifes will be rewarded with places at Oxford and Cambridge because Ed Balls thinks this is a good idea.

Thats News said...

If it works, what's the problem?

And do not let the blighters win! They WANT your blog to be pre-registered only, so do not let the Rabid Rebutal Squad have their way!

Thats News said...

PS they want to make you have to tightly moderate the comments. So so not let the Rabid Rebutal Squad win!

Anonymous said...

My son's school has several reward schemes in place, but rather than being available for pupils that have gone off the rails before, they are open to all pupils.

100% attendance gets you a "lottery ticket" for a place on an activity day, e.g. paintballing, horse riding, whatever.

Needless to say, attendance is very high, because the kids want to get the rewards.

I would say in general, it's better to reward desired behaviour than punish bad. Kids will look at this scheme and sense the unfairness - they're VERY good at that.

Onus Probandy said...

Here's an idea for an appropriate "stick":

No education.

Don't bother setting the social workers on them. Stop giving uneducated do-nothings money and within a generation I guarantee that they'll be begging to be allowed to come to school.

Go to any third world country and ask a random child what they would like most and they always say they would love to be able to go to school. Why? Because they can't. They see people who do go to school, and end up doing well for themselves. Our young people have no such lesson. They see that the average person who didn't go to school and hasn't got a job is as well off as the average person who did. What's the incentive then?

Rule#1: If you reward a particular behaviour, that behaviour will become more likely to be repeated. This is true for goldfish, dogs, dolphins and humans.

Plenty said...

What about the government actually giving better provision and teaching kids the pride to cook their own meals, then we wouldn't end up spawning a generation of ido teenagers who wait for Mummy to cook their meal, or, indeed end up just going out to Maccie D's or BK instead?

I know JO (Jamie Oliver) has done a lot on this issue, but it really says a lot about our society when a school has to resort to junk food rewards to get kids to attend. What's going on?

Anonymous said...

The school at which I am a Governor has made it clear to parents that unauthorised absences will be treated as truancy and that the parents will be given £50 fixed penalty notices.

Not sure under which law, but my first thought is that this is the way to go rather than set up a perverse incentive for parents to, first, keep their children out of school, then have then dutifully attend to get the free lunch!

ROTFL - word ver - sure eat

HM Stanley said...

While I am no bleeding heart, there are precedents (Mexico City, NYC) where Conditional Cash Transfers (cash money handed over) to families to ensure continual achievements such as school attendance. Since England copied "broken windows theory" from there, maybe this is worth a try too....

David Logan said...

'Can't blame him for trying to curry favour. OMG - have just offended myself - to the naughty step and don't spare the horses!'

Does that mean it's a horse curry?

My family's rural primary school rewards the pupils. £5 voucher for 100% attendance over the year.

We hit it with two out of three kids, but third one was counted as missing one session as he hit his head in an accident in the playground and I was taking him to hospital! The flexibility of the socialist system, eh!

The head gave him his voucher anyway, but the attendance police at county hall have him down as an absentee.

The best answer is motivation through great teachers and brilliant heads.

Rexel No 56 said...

Pedants Corner

A "carrot and stick" approach applies when a reward is kept just out of reach so that the subject keeps moving towards it - the saying is based on the practice of dangling a carrot on a stick in front of a donkey.

For some reason the phrase is often misused to denote an incentive which combines reward and punishment. I'm surprised that someone as erudite as Iain has fallen into the trap.


p.s. please don't challenge the lack of apostrophe in "Pedants Corner"

Eckersalld said...

There are a number of reasons kids stay off school, and I can't see this being a remedy to any of them.

If they're being bullied, and the schools doing nothing about it, they're not going to willingly get their heads bashed in so mummy and daddy can enjoy a lamb rogan josh courtesy of the taxpayer.

If they're just not liking school, or are just little gits, not going to do a lot for them either, as they probably don't care if their parents miss out on a free curry, and probably aren't that scared of them.

All round bad idea, and yet another sticking plaster when fixing the fundamental issues is what's needed.

Anonymous said...

I have never in my life received a ticket for any traffic violation. So presumably, next time I see a police car on the motorway, they'll pull me over and give me a lollipop for being such a good sport and obeying the law.

Roger Thornhill said...

There is nothing wrong with rewarding good behaviour, but this is not "good behaviour". it is just NOT(bad behaviour).

That said, the LPUK wishes to see schools outside of state control and for the unnecessary restrictions on new school formation abolished.

Then the Head can bribe all he wants, parents sickened by the diversion of resources to "oil the squeaky wheels" will be able to take their kids elsewhere, for there will almost certainly be a surplus of capacity (and if not, the parents would be free to form a new school - without even getting "permission" from the Tory Nudgemiester General).

It is NOT the role of the State to shape or engineer society. It must ensure BAD behaviour is not rewarded using other people's money.

Penfold said...

If the kids don't want to be educated and the parents will not obey the law then sobeit.
Let he kids suffer, let them grow up illiterate and stupid. When they can't get a job, then perhaps they will learn their lesson and help to educate others by pointing out the obvious errors in their attitudes.
In the meantime rather than carrot it should be stick. Surely this attitude to education by silly parents is tantamount to abuse? Shouldn't the children be taken into care by local authorities.......oh, i forgot they are then more likely to be abused, sexually of course, and end up sem-literate and totally useless.
We should not be wasting valuable educational budget resources on curries or bribes.
These parents need to be re-educated and given penalties for another continued failure.
It perhaps also brooks the question about the need for state boarding schools where recalcitrant pupils can be educated as they cannot play hookey.

Chris Gilmour said...

Shouldn't the reward for not bunking off be a free education?

commentor said...

"This school is trying a carrot approach."

Nope, it's wielding the stick on parents whose kids do attend school, by depriving them of the £40 bribe.

Anonymous said...

Appalling, I mean, a curry?

But seriously the real problem is that the parents in question are probably incapable of cooking their own curry. And lets not forget that these presumably young and presumably recalcitrant parents have conceived and brought up their children under Browns New Labour regime.

Summer reading - ? well the best book to read has not yet been written. its called 'Gordon Brown: My part in his Downfall' - strangely the author is as yet unknown.

Any suggestions? And be warned Lord Mandelson is far too obvious and David Milliband far to fanciful.

Cynic said...

Its not just that the kids miss school - its what they get up to while they arent in there that is a real problem.

The problem is that taking the Parents to court every time is that it ties up too much time, they will run up huge costs in legal aid because they are working in the black economy and have no official income. Then the local Magistrates will wring their hands, point to their deprived backgrounds, favourable social reports from left wing social workers full of words like 'struggling' 'coping with disadvantage' and 'addiction' and conclude that fining them would be counter-productive.

If they do fine them they wont pay. So then they are hauled back into court and threatened with going to prison.

The cute ones alreday know that they qualify for 50% remission anyway so if they hand themselves in at a police station on a say a Thursday night by next morning they have done 2 days custody. The prisons dont do releases on a Sunday so keeping them to Monday would mean they had been detained a day too long. So as soon as they arrive at gaol they will be released treated as having served a one week sentence and given money to get back home.

Simple answer is to fine them a set amount per day of unauthorisd absence and make arrangments for automatic deduction from any state benefits claimed or through the tax system. Then riogorously enforce it.

Once absence rises to a sety level bring them in for compulsory parenting classes say 3 days a week until they reform. If they dont attend those then a communitys entence say sweeping the streets in anice organge jump suit for a week might help.

Antything that involves real physical work and work that's likley to be harder to do with a hangover is likely to have greatest impact.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Not sure about this. As a parent I am responsible for the education of my own kids. I effectively delegate that responsibility to the teachers when I enrol my child at school.

The idea that the school then starts granting me permission to exercise my parental choice about holidays, or insisting that I sign a contract to say that my kid will be good is not one that sits well with me for two reasons. The first is that an employee does not dictate the terms of the relationship to the employer. The second is that I have no wish to be patronised by a government that thinks it knows better how to raise my own kids than I do.

Ironically, I would probably not suffer at all from such impositions, and those who would are not really the kind of parents who care too much.

As far as I can see this is another example of the role-reversal of accountability between state and citizen, an unwarranted intrusion into the private family decisions of the majority, to deal with a minority of people who should be dealt with according to the correct legal procedures.

Ralph Hancock said...

But Iain, unless I am mistaken, you missed this, also in today's Telegraph: 'All parents will be forced to sign 'contracts' promising that their children will behave at school, the Government said yesterday ... They face court action and possible fines of up to £1000 ...'.

That's much more in the true Labour spirit of smashing the system and punishing the people for the resulting mess. 'Tough on education, tough on the causes of education.'

(Not to mention 'Crime, CRIME, CRIME!')

keith Elliott said...

Anonymous @ 2.34 makes exactly the point I was going to make.

As a former Assistant Head I have sympathy with the school leaders here who will be under enormous pressure to increase attendance. They will be blamed for poor attendance and held accountable for it rather than looking at some of the root causes of the problem.

As a result, school's are forced to take 'innovative' and sometimes crazy decisions like this.

The only solution is to reward good behaviour and repeatedly focus on the good behaviours a school will want to foster.

Anonymous said...

well if the NASUWT don't like it it must have some merit...

Verity said...

We'll give you a voucher for a jar of marmalade, Jailhouse Lawyer. It was the lid being left off a jar of marmalade that drove you to murdering - ooooops!! - manslaughtering your aged landlady, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I was both a primary school governor and a secondary school governor a few years ago, and hence am not surprised at all about this. In the primary governor meetings the term "parental responsibility " in response to incidences of bad behaviour of children was never used and whenever I dared to mention it I was verbally attacked by other governors led by the headteacher. For every good primary in London-not that many I hasten to add, there are 100 bad ones where any kind of behaviour is tolerated and rewarded. The secondaries I need not say are much worse. Where would these kids go when they managed to scrape through GCSE? We have HE colleges which are no better and surely the post-92 universities ( the former polytechnics which Bill Rammell so much admired) would be willing to offer them places in their clearing weeks.

Duncan Cookson said...

It's not a good idea. If they don't want to go to school then why make them. All they'll do is act up in class, ruin things for the others, and still end up unable to read and write properly. School isn't for everybody, let em play football all day if they want and maybe we'll end up with a decent national team one day, look at Ronaldo.

The youngest of four children, Ronaldo would often play truant from school to go out and play football

School isn't for everyone. I say forget the carrot and the stick.

bewick said...

Well I'll no doubt be labelled an "old fogey". I happily admit that.
When I was at school I could get caned or smacked on the legs for bad behaviour. It rarely happened but on the odd occasion it did (at least once unfairly) I wouldn't dare tell my parents because I'd be bashed again. (not that my parents were serial bashers –they just doled out appropriate punishments which varied according to the crime. I extremely rarely hit my own son – a threat was enough)
That, in those days, was the norm. We all accepted it. If a policeman found any of us misbehaving he'd give us a severe talking to and possibly a smack. We accepted it. Why not - it is exactly what animals do to renegades whether they be offspring or not. If they did not then the whole society would collapse. Ours all but has –in the name of being “civilised”.
In fact those who didn't accept it and didn’t reform eventually ended up in Borstal, aka Reformatory School, and the whole family was shamed. Now? Well now even parents can't administer corporal punishment let alone teachers. And we wonder why things have got so bad! Well I for one know exactly why - the "liberal" mamby pamby do-gooders who actually do much that is BAD BAD BAD.
Actually in those days I DID sometimes carry a knife but it was a tool and part of my Scout uniform. I would never have dreamt of using it against anyone and no-one ever did. “Respect” was earned by actions and not demanded as of right.
Now we don't even hang obvious murderers. Instead we extradite them from Somalia to serve 35 years of no work, all food and lodging provided, top class facilities and even personal TVs in cells. At heavy tax-payer expense.
I know exactly why our prisons are overflowing. It is simply because we hand out soft sentences and do not deliver anything approaching real punishment. If we did then fewer would regard prison as something not to be feared. The mamby-pambys believe that prison is an opportunity for re-education. True in a very few cases but research proves that largely it doesn’t work. I’d guess the £40 curry vouchers won’t work either. I KNOW people who would very happily force their kids not to attend school -just to make them start again and then get the vouchers. Of course they are mainly unmarried single mothers who have never worked in 20 years since leaving school. The current system encourages them not to strive to better themselves and this one re-enforces that.
I watch those Police documentaries. At the end they review what happened to the mainly obvious criminals. "released without charge" is the majority delivered result. The Police Officers must be totally sick at the lack of balls of the CPS - the criminal protection society.
Yup I AM an old fogey and one who seriously regrets the passing of a largely law-abiding British Society. Ah well at least I won’t have to endure it for another 50 years! (I’m older than 50)

Cynic said...

"an employee does not dictate the terms of the relationship to the employer. "

....but thats not teh rerlationship. Since the 1950s parenets have been required by law to send their children to achool on term dates. That's agreed by Parliament. Its a criminal offence not to.

The choice of holidays is up to you - provided you keep them outside term dates

Lola said...

People don't value stuff that is 'free'. Better than bribing them with £40 curry vouchers charge them for every day their children waste everyones time by not turning up. £40/day should do nicely. In other words they have wasted this money that could have gone to someone who would use it so we want it back.

Rebel Saint said...

The carrot should surely be, "You learn to read & write, discover your potential, get a worthwhile job and support your family & get ahead in life". And the stick should surely be, "You & your children will live on the breadline, you'll miss out on all sorts of amazing experiences & opportunities, and you'll waste your own life & potential"

Sadly, successive governments have made the carrot, "You'll get a free house & free handouts & free credit" and the stick, "You'll have to work really hard, pay lots of tax, have no security, and we'll rob you you while you doing it".

Didn't some bright spark come up with the idea of paying people to give up smoking too?

Dead simple really, make child benefit payments dependent on: Your children attending school, you attending parenting classes, you & the father staying together.

TwoIfBySea said...

Here is an idea I'd love to see some forward thinking politic start.

Hows about awarding the kids who do attend school? Hmmm? The ones who, no matter what circumstances they come from, go to school, try their hardest, behave their best.

Why is it always that bad behaviour is noticed, all attention given to trying to find the solution to the little dears who sit back and enjoy the fuss? In the meantime the good kids (and not always the well off as their kids can be horrors too) pass by, in classes interrupted by the thugs, seeing all this badness rewarded.

Argh, sorry, this just makes my blood boil.

Anonymous said...

Calm down - they are only being entered in a draw for a £40 curry.

Not such a big deal!

Dave Craggs said...

Calm down, they are only being entered into a draw for a £40 curry.

Not so much of a big deal!

Anonymous said...

The NASUWT are campaigning to derogate Sexual Offences Act 2003,

maybe we should pay them extra not to have sex with the kids.