When did humiliation become a school policy?

When did humiliation become a school policy? 150 150 Jane Evans

This week I feel as if I’ve accidentally entered a parallel alien universe and I’m not sure I like it here. I recall falling into it once before when Trump got elected and Brexit happened. I’ll try to describe what it’s like:
floaty, surreal, grey and dank, sick-making with a vague sense of unease/panic. I find myself wondering, ‘is this how life really is outside of my usual universe?’
What sent me through the black hole to this parallel universe this time was an article on children being given lanyards to hang around their necks to wear at school if they didn’t have the right uniform on.
Ironically, I know the academy this is happening at in Bristol as I used to go there to advocate for the young people I was working with. Meetings often consisted of me trying to elicit empathy for the youngsters who had grown up with extensive trauma. I recall being told, “you think things are bad here now for the children, wait until it becomes an academy it’ll be MUCH stricter!”
Humiliation and alienation would be the last thing the youngsters at Merchant’s Academy need as it sits in an area where there are pockets of very real deprivation intertwined with community-wide, inter-generational trauma. Great people live there, but there’s so much trauma.
Humiliation creates shame and isolation
Using humiliation to tackle anything seems such a violation. As an adult, I would loathe it and never return to a place that did this to me or have any further contact with the people responsible as I would feel deeply ashamed then enraged. As an adult, I have a range of choices the young people at Merchant’s Academy won’t have access to without experiencing further humiliation and punishment.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states:
Article 37
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In reality, the poor young people they managed to get the lanyards on to, which said, “I have 24 hours to sort out my uniform.” would have been the ones who already were more submissive and prone to shame or else they would have been a huge ‘kick off.’
What I struggle to understand is why do this to those you are there to serve, support, educate and nurture? Who sat down in the cold light of day and thought this would help ANYONE??
Stepping into their shoes
In order to think this through and maybe get back to my usual universe which is full of respect and compassion for all living beings, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN, I’m going to try on the shoes of the school leaders, the children and their parents and carers.
1. School leaders – We are at a place of sheer frustration that not everyone sticks to the rules despite letters home, detentions and all the rest which haven’t worked.
Some children and parents just won’t conform so a day of feeling embarrassed will make the child take responsibility and they will ensure that it’s sorted. Word will spread and no one will want to go through this!
Standards are important as a life lesson, how you present matters and standing out is a distraction from learning for others.
2. Children/young people – I can’t really believe anyone will notice or care if my shoes are a bit the wrong colour, I like them.
Will my friends take the mick if I follow the rules, I’ll just do this tiny thing?
I’ll go with the option Mum got as she’ll get stressed if she realises it’s not 100% right, no one will notice.
Where the hell is my uniform, this’ll do at least I’ll make it in today and then I can explain what happened.
3. Parents/carers – I can’t believe they will care that much about such a small thing as not having EXACTLY the kind of shoes they said.
I’ve tried to reason with her but she had a massive melt-down in the middle of the shop so I gave in.
He’s lost the last 2 pairs and trashed the latest so he’ll just have to make do with these and suffer the consequences.
It’s a miracle I got them into school as they weren’t keen at all!
Surely, they’ll be so glad he made it in today.
What would I do?
  • Use the time it takes to pull a child up, set them straight and put a lanyard round their neck, to check in with the child to see if they are OK.
  • Is anything going on that’s making it hard for them to wear the school’s uniform.
  • Checking what help they may need so they can dress as laid out in the school guidance as it is a clear expectation to enable children to feel comfortable and part of the school.
Back in my usual universe which is all about connection, compassion and cooperation I’m wondering if I should contact Nick Short who leads Merchant’s Academy to see if he’d like to come visit my connection and compassion filled universe for a day??

Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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