POMS! Please explain - your children (Oz teachers listen in)

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1. Posted by ozman (Full Member 118 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Dear Poms,

Having lived in your country for two years, I must say that I quite enjoyed it in all but one respect: your youngsters!

I have never been to any country where you will find ten or eleven year olds out on the street around midnight. I cannot think of a developed country where the old are afraid of venturing outside for fear of the young. Nor can I think of any country where there is such overwhelming mutual disrespect between adults and the young.

As a teacher who has taught for two years in the UK before returning to teach in Oz, I believe I am well qualified to make a comparitive comment on the youth of the UK. Some of the fault of which must lie with the English education system.

The UK's education system is quite simply appalling beyond belief. While I am aware that those of you who were lucky enough to be able to afford a public (i.e.: a private) school in the UK or those talented enough to pass the 11+ test and hence be admitted to a Grammar School would find nothing wrong with your education, the remaining majority of England's youth would probably have a differing opinion. If they knew any better, that is.

I am aware that I can only draw on the experience of teaching in one school to illustrate my point. However, I "taught" in a comprehensive school which was the highest achieving non grammar school in the local area. I shudder to think of how bad those schools below mine on the league tables must have been.

My first day there was daunting indeed. The school itself was just an eyesore, with a high wrought iron fence surrounding it and CCTV cameras covering every angle possible. Twelve hundred-odd kids were all taught in this one large ugly box like building. The "library" was not much bigger than a classroom and, in fact, was used as a classroom by the English department. At lunch time, the kids had few places to go other than the canteen or the playgrounds as many areas had been cut off due to the appalling behaviour of a sizeable minority.

The grounds, however, were just disgusting beyond belief. Several squadrons of seagulls constantly purveyed the litter strewn fields for their next meal; I was defecated on several times whilst on playground duty. Pommy children are far too precious to be asked to pick up litter, even if they are seen dropping it! Any teacher from any other part of the world witnessing this would be as incredulous and appalled as I was. Strangely, the Pommy teachers seemed to think it was quite normal!

"Teaching" there was nothing short of farcical. The behaviour in some of my classes could only have been likened to those found in a chimpanzee cage where LSD had been placed in the water. Now, I am considered a "tough but fair" teacher who places a high priority on maintaining discipline in the class, but this was nigh-on impossible in the chimp enclosures.

It took me some time to realise the ramifications of the all-invasive English class system: kids had to behave for the "first class" (ie: senior teachers) who actually had some authority and could discipline the unruly brats. Yet they had little regard for the "second class" teachers such as myself whose only recourse was to go with my hat in my hand to the first class teachers hoping that they would have the good grace to punish the latest in a long list of transgressions.

It should be noted that any punishment that I could secure against a kid could easily be overturned with the phonecall of an angry parent. These verminous parents were quite willing to take the word of a fourteen-year-old with every reason to lie over the word of an adult professional with no reason to lie.

We had a parent actually show up at the school once, marched down to the isolation room where her absolutely appalling daughter was being contained and walked out with her! The next day she was back in the classrooms dong what she did best: destroying everyone elses' future so that it would match her own.

Poms just don't have the courage to stand up to the scourge that is their underclass. I suppose that they rightfully feel responsible for it.

Of course, the type of classrooms I am referring to were "lower band" classrooms. These kids had been given a test at age 11 and told their fortunes. It must be devastating at such a young age to be told that highest paying career that will ever be avaiable to them will be found in Amsterdam's Red Light District. I actually don't blame these kids for their behaviour, it is clearly the fault of England's obsession with class; therefore the need to stream kids at a young age into the "herrenvolk" or the "untermenschen."

Now I knoooow that on this blog, there will be someone who will say something like: "You can't generalise all UK youth that way," or "you can't just use your experience to slate all of England's youth." Please spare me, I am not speaking for all of them but what many see as being a sizeable minority.

Aussie, Kiwi, Canadian, Irish and American teachers considering going to work in the UK: be prepared! Get in a union as early as possible (NASUWT will take foreign teachers); speak up to the first class teachers when they can't be bothered; create non-confrontational lessons. The reason that there are so many teacher placement agencies making a fortune by sending us over there is because so very few poms in their right minds would become a teacher there.

Well, thanks for listening. I clearly had a lot to get off my chest. Now you know that Aussies can whinge too. It probably is true that Poms invented whinging and Aussies perfected it, this must go also for cricket and Rugby!


2. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4138 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Interesting story there Peter.

Have you ever taught at Maquarie Fields or Redfern in Sydney? I suspect they'd be similar. Except instead of them being referred to as the underclass, they are simply referred to as bogans.

3. Posted by garry moll (Budding Member 348 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

thanks james,
i guess most countrys have a simular problem too.
sorry peter i have to say it. dont tar us all with the same brush!!!!
you know the score more than most mate, it starts young, teach them well when young and there in with a chance.
kids as young as 3/4 know what is right and wrong and as far as i can tell the whole country are too soft on offenders.
take a look around, the place is full of do gooders wanting to impose there way on england, the goverment, police, justice system should stand tall and make a stand.
when i was young i got a clip round the ear, now im not saying go round cuffing them all round the ear, but its time these offenders were dealt with harshly and firmly as well as fairly too.
we dont know who is in the country or how many come to that, and im not having a dig at anyone all creeds and travelers from all countrys) in my kneck of the woods this seems to be an issue.
come on mate you have worked here, what is the answer ????

4. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I'm not sure about your central argument that this is due to "England's obsession with class", when young people who have gone through a private school education can easily be seen to behave in the same way on the streets of England (and Wales btw). How do you justify this statement?

Also, I feel that your point of view may carry more weight if it wasn't addressed to the English (which may or may not mean British) in what can be seen as derogatory (i.e. "poms") - rather than attacking, it may be an idea to offer potential solutions as garry suggests.

5. Posted by garry moll (Budding Member 348 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

too true rob, and im sorry but to me there are no classes...all the same no one better than me and no one less fortunate if working, yep good old working class thats me. sure there are people with more money (loads and loads) but does not mean better than me. i feel i had a good upbringing and mum and dad showed me right from wrong, he if i do anything wrong i put my hand up and take the punishment. if that the right way to put it.

6. Posted by magykal1 (Travel Guru 2026 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Ozman, I went to a comprehensive in a town with a selective secondary that didn't resemble the one you describe. I've also worked with children and young people, including some young people with very challenging behaviour and from very difficult backgrounds. I think you're making some really poor broad generalisations about the English education system, and about young people in England.

I'm sorry that you had such a bad experience in the UK, and I realise there are some issues, but I don't think it's as dire as you make it seem.

7. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4138 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I do think that Ozman has some valid points. I know of a number of people that teach/have taught in schools in London, and they say similar things.

8. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I'm not doubting some of the points raised, more the way the views have been expressed, and the central argument (it being a result of obsession of class) is flawed and incorrect.

9. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Surely it has to do more with inner cities and deprevation and kids having lower expectations due to social constraints and poverty? Im not a teacher but l do work in social housing and l see it all the time - if kids have parents who do not work and get all their money from state benefits what sort of role model to instill a work ethic is that - of course there are expections to the rule where they make it out of the mire but not all do.

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 12, 2007, at 1:10 PM by Purdy ]

10. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4138 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I spent 3 years living and working in London and there is a class system, just like there is everwhere including Sydney.

I think that the difference between the working class, the middle class and the upper class in London is that most of the people seem relatively happy in the class in which they were born. I doubt that the lady making bacon and eggs in a greasy spoon in east London aspires to be a lawyer. There did not appear to be too much in the way of "class jumping". In fact, most of the Eastenders that I met appeared quite proud of their backgounr and accent - "know what I mean yeah."

Here in Sydney, there seems to be a lot of jostling going on between people to sort of jump up the class ladder - "where do you live", "what do you do for a living", "what school/university did you go to" and that sort of thing. These questions seem to be asked almost aggressively rather than out of interest. There are plenty of people who rent in expensive areas, who may earn less than others, but who truly believe that they are of a different class to other people who own their own homes in a more middle class area. It's all quite desperate actually.

Apart from the classes mentioned above, there is also a class of person which I refer to as the "dysfunctional class". These people are in a class of their own, and there are no similarities between them and the working class. Perhaps this is who ozman was refering to.