Monday, 4 July 2011

Rules: made to be broken or at least open to interpretation?

I was intrigued to hear about a recent incident at the school a friend's son attends.  Two pupils have been expelled, on suspicion of sexual relations.

"Sex is an emotion in motion" - Mae West

Here we are in 2011.  Mixed boarding schools face considerable challenges when faced with parental responsibility in the form of loco parentis, in modern day Britain where sex 'n' drugs feature fairly prominently in the lives of many adolescents today.

Teenage pregnancy is obviously a big concern for any school's Board of Governors.  But realistically, what message does the expulsion of two young people send out to those around them?  What does it say about relationships? 

To my mind, it gives out a very clear signal: that these must be pushed out of sight, and underground, not to be acknowledged let alone explored in order that those in them receive the support they may need and certainly deserve.

What else does this seemingly rather arbitrary decision announce?  On inspection, the School's 'Code of Conduct' seemed extremely ambiguous, and particularly vague around 'Intimate Relations' warning that any pupils found in a locked room (including rather smaller spaces, such as broom cupboards, one presumes) or in a state of a partial undress may be liable to be expelled.  This couple were not discovered.  Enquiries were made of them, and they were assured that there would be no consequences should they tell the truth.  They did so, and have both since been asked to leave.

So much for the grandly entitled Personal and Social Health Education curriculum.  Surely this is precisely what's lacking at a school who refuses to have this couple as part of their student body.  Appropriate and sufficient education about real life issues encountered by teens including relationships and sexuality are, I fear, still woefully lacking in a great many educational environments. 

I do not underestimate the difficulty in drawing the line.  And there is most certainly a line to be drawn.  But there seems to be something missing here:  young people do, and will enter into relationships.  That's just what happens.  And to condemn this, is to condemn an important (indeed some might say vital) aspect of growing up.  It seems to be to be anti-educational for an establishment that prides itself on helping individuals to achieve their potential in the broadest sense of the word, to deny that relationships are an aspect of life at school - and one in which young people need the support of their teachers and tutors in order to flourish, at school and beyond.

I have no idea what support, if any, the pair of pupils have been offered, either by the school or elsewhere.  They had just completed their GCSEs and each must now, presumably, find an alternative institution to continue their education as late applicants for when the new school year commences September.  I worry about the shame they may now be carrying, consciously or otherwise, and which they are likely to carry for a while longer. 

They will certainly stand as an example for the current student body and for future generations of pupils.  A message has undoubtedly been broadcast, but I fear it may not be the right one...

"Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions"
Woody Allen

No comments:

Post a Comment