Attention Assistant Headteacher Mr M.

Dear Mr E.,

In response to your telephone call to me explaining you had temporarily expelled my son from school and deprived him of a sailing expedition he was due to go on this weekend for the specifics of two offences of perceived ill discipline, I thought I would inform you of the result of my close questioning of my son concerning these two issues.

You told me my son had ‘thrown a sandwich at a member of staff and was insolent in that he refused to pick it up’.

He tells me that what happened was a friend gave him a sandwich to eat and he decided to throw the remains of it into a bin a few yards distant.

At that same moment another boy appeared unseen and crossed the trajectory of the thrown sandwich which then accidentally bounced off that boy and quite unintended, landed on the caretaker, Mr Waite.

My son tells me that Mr Waite lectured him and told him he had a choice of picking up a bag of litter as a punishment or being sent to see a teacher, Mr Good. My son categorically denies having the slightest recollection of being asked by Mr Waite or anyone else to pick up the sandwich before he was marched off by another passing teacher. So my son informs me that incident of apparent insolence simply did not take place.

My son informed Mr Waite he would prefer the option of being sent to see the teacher Mr Good, which he did. Mr Good increased the punishment by telling my son to pick up three bags of litter instead of one.

Later, my son was seen by Mr Good with an empty bag, having picked up no litter at all.My son explained to me this was because there was no litter to pick up as the area had recently been patrolled by a litter picking squad, leaving it clean and devoid of litter.

But Mr Good decided my son was being insolent by failing to find litter and the result was that he was put in an ‘internal exclusion’ detention.

The second incident two weeks later was my son being seen on top of another  boy because both he and this other boy had been pushed to the ground by a number of boys behind them who had deliberately piled through a door in large numbers in a typical, everyday schoolboy prank the boys call ‘bundling’.

My son tells me three boys behind him and the other fallen boy, were actually holding back the crowd of boys pushing through the door so my son and the other boy on the ground would not be crushed under a large heap of boys.

My son informs me the teacher who saw all this (Mr. Good again) and who decided to punish him was actually right behind the entire group of boys and was the other side of the door to where my son had fallen onto the ground on top of the other boy who had gone through the door just in front of him. This teacher would therefore have been obliged to see right through the entire crowd of boys to be able to see what my son was doing.

My son explicitly tells me he did not instigate this ‘bundling’ and pushing and he was simply a victim of other boys actions.

I am simply reporting what appears to be my son’s honest and apparently truthful accounts of these two events. I cannot be entirely certain that he is sanitising events for my benefit, but if he is, it would be  quite remarkable under the particular circumstances of  how I interact with him and it would show a degree of Michiavellian cunning and deceit directed by him at me which is, frankly, impossible to imagine – although I am not ruling it out.

I remain entirely neutral in that regard.

But, taking my son’s description of events, completely ignoring them, and accepting the school’s description of the same two events as being characterised by indiscipline and an apparent degree of insolence, it still seems no more than two very typical incidents of everyday schoolboy silliness of no great consequence and which demands only everyday punishment like ordinary detention or litter picking etc.

Under no circumstances does this kind of minor silliness merit the concept of expulsion from school.

Equally, the persistent accrual of ‘signatures’ by my son for daily trivia does not propel a child into the expulsion from school league, although it is undeniably aggravating to have to deal with it.

I have the experience of dealing with precisely similar issues at home, and it is clear to me that my son’s brain, as that of many other boys of his age, has the attention span of a gnat and the ability to remember specific instructions of how to behave or what to do, akin to an amoeba. 

This is extremely aggravating to all adults, but the only thing that stands any chance of success is having sufficient patience to be able to nurse the frazzled adult brain through these inevitable issues of childhood and adolescent  behaviour without completely alienating the child by overdoses of excessive punishments (like the viciousness, beatings  and violence of times past).

It is only the constant patient repetition and cajoling of teenage age children in particular, that eventually produces concepts of discipline and work ethic. Rage, aggression and violence by adults get absolutely nowhere in improving things, but rather tend to make it worse.

In fact, my son has persistently told me that he feels more and more aggrieved and alienated by the School for constantly and unjustly ‘criminalising’ him and having a completely unrealistic disciplinary regime. More sinisterly he explains that he is lumped together with the seriously badly behaved and violently disruptive pupils form the worst of family backgrounds who have become the scourge of the educational system and society at large as they graduate into the genuinely criminal world.

These are the sort of boys who about two weeks ago ran riot in the school as the year eleven pupils had their last day at school. I personally saw some of these sixteen year olds drinking cans of lager outside the school gate at about 4p.m. and I understand the police were obliged to attend the school as pupils ran amuck with the apotheosis of pupils setting fire to a tree and car with all the drama of emergency services attending the incident etc which I also saw occur. 

My son tells me he objects greatly to being lumped together with idiots like these as he in no way identifies with them or behaves in that nihilistic manner. He has explained to me that he feels the school is, indeed, lumping him into the same category of useless vandals.

The more that happens and the more he feels it is what is going on, the more likely that that is exactly what will happen in the end. It is becoming more and more apparent from what I hear from a variety of sources that pupils at the School feel alienated by the manner in which discipline is maintained. I have also heard how previously well behaved boys have gone to the School and instantly become badly behaved.

It is also the case that I fail to recognise the school’s description of my son that has been made to me on a number of occasions. He is certainly time consumingly aggravating in the way all children always are. He is, in my own experience, more so than other children. But he is absolutely not part of that group of the really badly and genuinely disruptive pupils at all.

History is liberally littered with endless examples of pupils like my son who have been demonised by schools and written off as a complete pain, only for those very same pupils to go on to achieve spectacular things the minute they left uncomprehending schools.

In some notes I came across recently made by my own boarding school nearly five decades ago about me at the age of sixteen, there was the statement I was so completely useless the careers people thought it was a joke I had said I wanted to have a job as a scientist. The notes said it was unlikely I would be able to manage a job as a Laboratory assistant. They couldn’t imagine me ever having a good job.

In the event, by the age of twenty one, I had served four years in the Royal Navy and within less than a year of leaving it I was appointed editor of an educational magazine, had persuaded Earl Mountbatten to write for it and the Head master of Eton, as well as going back to my own ex-headmaster to get him to write something for the magazine too. I did notice his jaw drop at the time, but didn’t think anything of it and I didn’t really think I was doing anything particularly unusual either.

By the age of twenty three I owned my own property and had a merchant bank offering me a largish sum of money to invest in property development. There was also other interesting things going on in my career. Later, owning my own restaurant by the age of twenty eight that I had acquired with only my own endeavours in South Africa, I had a gilded career in my twenties which I simply didn’t realise at the time.

So much for the validity of schools’ opinions then ?

Winston Churchill is the classic example of just how wrong schools get things with certain kinds of pupils. I’m sure you must know all about his useless school background.

As things stand at present, if my son manages to obtain a reasonable education in rubbish State schools, against the odds, he gives me the impression that his independence of mind which translates into ill discipline in the eyes of the average State school, will result in him being likely to do well in life in terms of achievement.

I will be seeing you as arranged to discuss this further.

Yours Sincerely,


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