A week in a special needs primary school “requiring improvement” in London

Heaven knows what a school must be like that is ranked as “inadequate”.

Background: after a great 2 months working in a college for young adults with autism and LD, (labels/categorisations of course), the author of this site is now spending a week in a primary school for young people with autism and LD. The school is ranked as “requiring improvement” by OFSTED. But I didn’t need to read the government web page to realise that. It was obvious from the first few minutes that something was badly wrong.

Continue reading “A week in a special needs primary school “requiring improvement” in London”

Breaking people on the wheel 21st century style

Foucault’s Discipline & Punish starts with a harrowing description of someone being broken on the wheel in early modern or medieval France. If I’ve understood correctly the point Foucault is making is this: we consider our modern criminal justice system with its near exclusive use of imprisonment as enlightened – a progressive and humanistic development from the cruel Middle Ages. But, this is not the case. There is a kind of inner cruelty in this disciplinary system which mirrors the vivid cruelty of the Middle Ages. Continue reading “Breaking people on the wheel 21st century style”

Some thoughts about democratic education

The possibilities for democratic education, an interview with Professor John Schostak, Manchester Metropolitan University.

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John Schostak, Professor in Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, interviewed about the possibilities of Democratic Education, September 2010. The interview took place in the context of a meeting of the campaign group ‘In Defence of Youth Work’. For some background reading, a copy of John’s paper can be found here: http://www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/Issues/Education/defenceofyouthwork.htm

Youth Justice

The papers on this page concern what is known as ‘youth justice’. They used to be available on a ‘youth rights’ web site which has now closed. They are not directly part of the theme of this web site (critical thinking in the tradition of Illich and Foucault) but we are happy to give them a home. They detail the state of affairs with New Labour’s (1997 – 2010) high-publicity campaign to do something about feral youths. Needless to say the trend for the management through disciplinary techniques of awkward behaviour has continued without a change of course under the present (2012) administration, who have recently launched an initiative to make ‘parenting classes’ freely available for all. Thus we see how we are moving from a situation where people are free unless they infringe the freedoms of others, when the law will intervene, to a situation where, it is not wrong-doing (contra the law) which needs to be addressed by the courts but where all behaviour, at first that of miscreants, but subsequently that of everyone, is managed by the authorities. The country is indeed turning into a giant prison. There is also a paper on the death of 15 year old Gareth Myatt in custody in 2004.


A paper detailing New Labour’s ASBO regime. The current administration has signalled that ASBOs will be replaced with a new regime of Criminal Behaviour Orders and Crime Prevention Injunctions. At first sight (White Paper) the new (ahem) ‘simplified’ regime seems to be a massive expansion of the powers. The Crime Prevention Injunctions, which replace civil ASBOs, can be obtained on the ‘Balance of Probability’, (ASBOs have to meet criminal standards of proof though hearsay evidence was allowed) – and include ‘support to change behaviour’. That is, on the balance of probability, that you have behaved ‘anti-socially’ ( = behaviour likely to cause alarm or distress to another) you may find yourself undergoing compulsory retraining. Whoa-hey North Korean re-education camps just round the corner. The Criminal Behaviour Orders which replace ASBOs on conviction also contain compulsory ‘support’. A review of the proposed new legislation will be published here shortly.
Pub: November 2005 (original publication date)

Parenting Contracts and Orders

An account of the parenting orders and parenting contracts regime set up by the last administration. These are measures to send parents of young people who have been missing school, have been awarded an ASBO, or have been given a referral order to go on courses to learn the official way to parent your son or daughter.
Parenting Orders and Contracts
Pub: May 2007 (original publication date)

Curfews and Dispersal Orders

An account of the dispersal order regime set up by the last administration.
Curfews and Dispersal Orders
Pub: December 2005 (original publication date)

electronic monitoring of young people (tagging)

Identification of the relevant legislation and some figures for how prevalent this practice is.
Electronic Monitoring of Young People
Pub: August 2008 (original publication date)

Gareth Myatt

An account of the killing of 15 year old Gareth Myatt in one of Jack Straw’s child jails in April 2004. And an account of how, surprisingly, no one was found responsible.
Gareth Myatt
Pub: 2007 (original publication date)