Crap means something of extremely poor quality. I think a school can be of extremely poor quality. That does not mean all the constituent parts of a school are of extremely poor quality, I worked in a school I would describe as being extremely poor but the drama department was the diamond in a crown of thorns. I was on teaching practice. I had to observe an English lesson, my ‘other’ subject, the teacher had no control of the class, he was introducing a book by talking over them, they were indulging in loud chatter amongst themselves; he carried on and on and then said to me: “What do you think?” To which I replied “I think…” I said this quite loudly, “That the behaviour in this class is appalling!” I paused for effect… “I refuse to talk to people who are being so rude!” I know, what effrontery, and I mean mine not theirs… But it worked, the pupils shut up and we began a discussion about a book.
The teacher wasn’t bad, he had been worn down by teaching at that school. When the bell went for break the teachers would leave the classrooms and get into the staffroom as quickly as possible, that is those that didn’t hide in locked classrooms… The Headteacher spent a lot of his time in his office. The corridors were chaotic, except around the drama department, where kids were welcome to visit and the corridors were patrolled by the team, telling kids off, having a joke, being welcoming and strict in equal measure. The kids responded well, felt safer, and the department got the highest results in the school, by far…
This experience stayed with me throughout my career and informs my judgements when seeing other schools. I once went for an interview in a school where I witnessed one child shout and scream and hit another child in the corridor and the teacher showing me around did nothing so I challenged the child and asked the member of staff where should I send the children? He then took action, but only then.
In another school I was shown round and saw teachers in classrooms at laptops and sixth formers sitting still in their coats, chatting, chewing, sleeping, not just in one classroom but it seemed to be the prevalent culture.
These are what I call crap schools.
As a parent or ‘ordinary member of the community’, I arrive at my judgement from outside the school gate. I look at how children behave to and from school, on the buses, and in local shops. If when the bell for the end of school sounds and children run out, swearing, pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, crying, hiding, avoiding… Then I can reach a judgement: why is there this behaviour? Is there a teacher or two on gate duty, challenging, smiling, telling off, congratulating….? Are the kids piling onto buses, pushing old people out of the way? Is there a teacher on bus stop duty insisting on restoring the lost art of the queue, being respectful to the public space, expecting polite behaviour from her charges? Are there lots of children, in the nearest park, smoking all sorts, fighting another school”s pupils, showing no respect for their beautiful surroundings? If so, where are the teachers sorting it out? The same in local shops, does a member of staff liaise with the shop keepers have an ‘on call’ number just in case of trouble? If the school doesn’t extend their remit into the community then they are not a true community school. And any school that lets all years out into the community at lunch time unless it is to move between sites is a disgrace except in exceptional circumstances in which case I would expect to see staff on patrol at all the places where problems might occur.
A school that does not feel it has any responsibility towards the behaviour of its pupils in, to and from school is a crap school.