Top of the things that make me despair this week (there are many options) is the decision by Ninestiles secondary school in Birmingham to enforce silence on “all student movement, including to and from assembly, at lesson changeover and towards communal areas at break and lunch”. It is difficult to think of a more harmful and mean-spirited policy than taking away children’s means of communication for a significant part of the day. It’s a rule that recalls Miss Trunchbull’s sinister control of her pupils, or Gilead’s handmaidens shuffling about, eyes downwards and whispering behind their hands. The Guardian reports.
There is nothing acceptable about allowing children only to speak in designated areas throughout a normal school day. Mental health issues in young people are rising at an alarming rate. Earlier this year, it was estimated that 400,000 of those aged 18 and under are in touch with NHS services for mental health problems. In 2017, a study by University College London found that 24% of 14-year-old girls reported symptoms of depression. So the idea that a school would ban young people talking to each other in corridors or parts of the school grounds is absurd and isolating.
Teens are smart. Stop them talking in the corridors between lessons and they will text each other in their respective classrooms to arrange to simultaneously take a loo break, and then rendezvous, taking the long route back, walking at tortoise speed. I’d say they would also pass notes, but there’s WhatsApp for that now. If anything, I’d imagine that stopping conversations in the halls would increase attempts to banter during lessons. And can we really moan that kids spend too much time glued to screens if face-to-face communication is being discouraged for much of the day?
I would have been miserable if school had been like this. If I had children, I would not want them somewhere that stifled their conversation outside of lessons. Ninestiles’ headteacher has said the policy will be reviewed after its implementation. Let’s hope they have a conversation and come to the correct conclusion.
The full article is available here