In the immortal almost words of Joe Strummer, should they stay or should they go? What to do about study leave is the dilemma that hangs over the heads of school leaders every May.
The trend in recent years has been to keep them under as close supervision as possible. The prevailing logic is that fifteen- and sixteen-year olds are liable to get more revision done in class, with teachers on hand to guide them, than they are left to their own devices (such as phone, TV and games console) at home. It’s hard to argue with that judgement based on what we know of teenagers and their short attention spans.
There is also a lot to be said for peer learning and the increased opportunities to share ideas, information and general revision tips, as opposed to students feeling isolated in their bedrooms. The sad fact is, there are also students who simply don’t have home lives conducive to quiet study.
On the other hand, in case you hadn’t noticed, schools aren’t the quietest places! Certain students would be better served by removing themselves from the maelstrom swirling around schools, particularly during exam season. Moreover, are we doing students a disservice not trusting them to revise independently? After all, they’re required to show independence in the final exam and mollycoddling them up to that point fails to prepare them adequately for anything that follows, be it A Levels or working life.
A halfway house, whereby some stay in school and some revise at home, might be the best of both worlds. Or possibly the worst, depending on how well it’s organised. Personalised plans made in conversation with pupils, parents/carers and pastoral leaders might have merit, although the moment a cohort gets split up it can become trickier to manage. “If I go, there will be trouble. And if I stay it will be double.” You’re telling us, Joe!
While The Clash also sang about riots and knowing your rights, not even they could have envisaged the fumbling one school made of the study leave debate. A Year Eleven’s last day of lessons is known to be an emotional one, the energy of the occasion frequently tipping over into rowdiness. Keen to avoid the ‘high jinks’ that had marred previous leavers’ days, SLT decided to spring their decision not only on students but on staff and guardians too. Hauled out of last period for a seemingly impromptu assembly, Year Eleven were informed that they were in the last half hour of their regular school days and would be on study leave from the following day. Cue gasps of amazement and relief… from the teachers. The students felt cheated of a rites-of-passage… no anticipatory excitement, no signed shirts, no formal send off.
So, they rioted! School equipment was smashed and raucous chants impolitely likened their surroundings to a latrine. What’s more, they came back en masse the next morning to wreak what havoc had already been planned and to say goodbye properly to their stomping ground of five years. Sometimes, there’s just no getting rid!
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