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Was it wrong to raise the school leaving age?

30 August, 2019

• I READ with interest the story where a youth worker speaks out over a knife victim kicked out of school and also Mum: ‘Exclusions lead to crime’, (August 16).

Until 12 years ago when I took early retirement at the age of 60, I was for 10 years or so the technology department’s workshop technician in a secondary school.

Many a time I have had to call out students in the workshop for doing dangerous things. For example, play-fighting using hardened files used for shaping metal as play swords.

These are brittle and can if bashed together cause particles of metal to fly off and possibly enter somebody’s eyes; also bashing two hammer heads together – these are hardened steel and can have splinters fly off, again causing injury.

And we had disc sanders, clearly marked for use on wood or wood products only. But somebody decides to sand a piece of steel, which causes sparks that could, if sucked into the dust extraction system, cause an explosion or fire in the fine sawdust particles, or jam between the disc and table.

There is, unfortunately, no easy answer to the problem of students being excluded from a school; but this could well be a problem which needs addressing by students, parents and guardians, and also the school.

There must be in place a system that has a clear code of what is and is not permissible conduct in a school, because conduct can be dangerous to the student, other students and staff.

I read a case recently where a student was put in detention for not doing their homework. The student complained to a parent and instead of supporting the school the parent demanded a written apology from the teacher for daring to impose a sanction for work that was set and the student chose not to do.

The rector of the school sided with the parent and the teacher concerned had to leave the school and apparently has successfully had an employment tribunal uphold their claim of unfair dismissal.

Do we have the students in charge or are the school staff in charge? I was always under the impression that the purpose of schooling was to educate young people how to live a good life.

I feel that possibly it was a bad idea to keep on raising the school leaving age. For instance, when I left school at the end of the summer term I was just short of my 15th birthday and the day after I turned 15 I started work.

I left without any formal qualifications and took my City and Guilds in mechanical engineering craft practice by attending evening classes.

If we did not do the set homework we would be informed that our presence on the course was no longer welcome.

Maybe it would be a good idea to go back to the days where a young person could be allowed to leave at age 15 or 16 and start an apprenticeship to learn a trade.

Clissold Crescent, N16


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