Posted by: mrlock | July 14, 2018

Kevin

This is Kevin, with his Mum. I want to talk about Kevin when he was young.

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Kevin was born in 1983, the third of four children. His father was in the RAF, and he went to a number of schools as a child because the family moved about a lot. 

When he was six, his mother and father divorced. Soon after he lived in a caravan in Hampshire with his mother and three siblings. One of his older siblings used to do a paper-round early in the morning to earn pocket money. His mother went to do an access course to get to university, and was hugely affected by the poll tax which meant things were a real struggle. 

At age eight or nine, his mother got a place at Bristol University. The whole family moved around a bit in the west country, including a time in Kevin’s Grandparents’ house – a four bedroom place in Weston-super-Mare. It probably wasn’t big enough for the seven of them, but it felt palatial in many ways. 

Secondary school

At age 11, Kevin started secondary school. His older brother was about to go to university, and his older sister was going into Year 10 at the school. His younger sister remained at the village primary.

Kevin disliked school. He had been left behind, probably as a result of poor teaching in previous schools. He hence found it very hard to concentrate. We might now talk of his working memory being regularly overloaded, but back then he was identified as having ‘problems studying’. Kevin had established at primary school after primary school that he didn’t like school and didn’t belong. He did like helping his father with more practical things. He knew what a ‘Phillips screwdriver’ was, though his elder brother had no idea. 

On his taster day at school, Kevin got into trouble. This was a sign of things to come.

Kevin didn’t think he belonged at school. He was in the bottom set for almost everything. He didn’t really have much in common with his peers, and he certainly didn’t like sitting in classrooms. He had failed, at that stage, to master the basics. He didn’t really like football, and he still tries to get into it to this day. In fact, sport was no passion of his. 

The only time Kevin felt he belonged was when he was disruptive. He avoided work. He wouldn’t listen. It is fair to say that he was not good for others’ education. It’s also fair to say that many other pupils would laugh and play along with him. There would be dozens of people paying him attention. And Kevin would be congratulated by them. He doesn’t really remember the trouble.

But he would be in trouble unless for some reason he wasn’t caught.

Kevin probably should have been excluded from school many times. For disruption, for repeatedly not listening. For affecting others’ education. For serious one-off incidents. 

By the time he reached year 11, Kevin was almost impossible to teach. School was a battleground. And he was ‘stressed out’ by school. In an effort to help him cope, his mum would give him one ‘stress’ day a week and not insist he went in. 

Kevin was a delightful boy when not in these circumstances. He was a total pleasure to be around. He would volunteer for all sorts of things, was hugely sociable outside of school, and loved his music. At one point he took up boxing which helped him manage his frustrations and keep his  discipline.

It was school where he didn’t feel he belonged. 

For the last couple of years that Kevin was at school, whenever Kevin was in trouble, he would have a meeting. Senior staff or the Headteacher of the school would meet with Kevin, and his mother, and outline what he had to do to improve his behaviour. They would say to him that he should “probably” be excluded, but would give him one more chance. They would, for very good reasons, say that they are working together. Kevin’s mother and his teachers, almost certainly expended disproportionate energy and time on getting Kevin through school.

I’m sure the school thought this was ethical. We know what future faces excluded pupils – particularly permanently excluded ones – statistically it is likely to be one of very little education, terrible life chances and poor outcomes. 

Kevin was hence ‘managed’ through the last two years at school. He learnt that no matter what he did, the line for his behaviour, and hence the ultimate sanction for the school, moved. The school devoted resources to ensuring that Kevin, with his poor attendance and poor behaviour, could “make it” to the end of year 11. 

Kevin and his mother were often grateful that the school didn’t pull that trigger. They were grateful the school made an exception. Then another one. Then another one. And they were grateful they restructured aspects of the school to support Kevin to complete his time at school. 

Kevin left school with no GCSEs. Not even one at grade G. 

Two years later

Kevin was out with a friend in a pub in Weston-super-Mare. As is the case in seaside towns, the pub was crowded on a hot day. Kevin had a pint of beer, and was knocked by an older man. As Kevin had had a few drinks that day, he challenged the man, saying “Watch it!” or equivalent. 

The well-built stranger turned, and provocatively blew Kevin a kiss, and laughed at him. 

Kevin was somewhat enraged, and suggested they leave the pub. 

In a nearby carpark, with his friend watching, Kevin and the stranger had a fight. Despite the stranger’s size, Kevin won easily, and his friend and he returned to their night out. 

At 3.30am, Kevin was arrested. His friend was also arrested. They were charged with GBH with intent. His friend had struck no blows, but had been charged with the same charge because it was a joint venture.

Court case

With Kevin and his friend standing in court, his mother, father and family watched the CCTV images of Kevin kicking a body on the tarmac. 

They wailed, his mum sobbing and his brother saying ‘No’, as he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. He ended up serving half of this, largely in HMP Parc in Bridgend. His friend also got 15 months. 

To his brother’s shame, he could only visit him twice in the entire time he was there. He couldn’t handle it – it was clear something happened in jail, but Kevin wouldn’t talk about it. His brother deeply regrets this to this day.

Kevin did work out a lot when incarcerated. He also read the first book he’d read in his life, and was soon reading one a week. This led to him enjoying reading later in life.

Post-jail

Kevin has never really spoken about his time in jail. We know that he found moving to the outside world difficult. We know that he moved in with his Mum (who moved away from WSM to get Kevin a new circle of friends), then with his Dad, then with his Mum, but really struggled to adjust. We know that some outbursts meant that we can only imagine the circumstances that young prisoners have to endure. I do not want to write these here. But I am convinced that they are as bad as the worst of the stories that become public. 

Kevin is the most popular uncle with his 7 nieces and nephews. It’s a total pleasure to see him playing with the children. Their parents would trust no-one more than him. 

Kevin works incredibly hard at his job. He works very long hours and is reliable. He found it quite hard to secure a permanent job, but he always put the work in. 

He is a total pleasure to be around. His family love him very much. While it was hard when he was first released, he has now put that behind him. His family are really proud of him. He especially loves his mum. He is considerate and kind. He loves to go dancing at the weekend, and has an exceptionally wide network of friends. His family really love him. His older brother loves visiting his local where a variety of different people will greet him and chat to him, and he’ll include everyone in the conversation. He’s a bit extrovert, and a lot of fun. 

He’s just a great guy. I don’t have time or space to do justice to him here, nor how he got to be such a top person – but he really is someone people love being around.

However, he can never join the RAF or the Navy, and he can never work with children without declaring that he has been convicted of a section 18 (violent) crime. The tariff for another section 18 crime is usually life in prison.

Now, at age 35, he has qualified as a plumber – his first qualifications ever, and has recently passed his driving test. I have no idea how Kevin turned out to be as well-rounded as he did. In many ways, he beat the odds. A large part of this is just who he is, and another large part is the persistence and love of his Mum and Dad.

So what?

Kevin and his family believe that when the school moved the goalposts, and there was no red line, this played a strong part in him learning that those lines just don’t exist. He believes that he never knew about consequences. He learnt that someone else will always sort out his mistakes, and that consequences were moveable. 

And he genuinely thinks that he would have had a better chance of learning about these red lines if he had been permanently excluded from school. 

So when making a judgement on permanent exclusions, please consider the right of all other pupils to the resources and attention of an uninterrupted education.

And yes: we should consider what happens to permanently excluded kids.

But also consider that, despite the statistics, it might actually be the best thing for the pupil who is permanently excluded.

It may lead to them having more, not fewer, options in life.

It is the case that a large proportion of the prison population were excluded from school. But it might not be the cause of them being in prison. And it doesn’t make permanent exclusion wrong.  

We do kids no favours by not having our red lines.

I’m convinced this was the case for my brother, who I love dearly; Kevin. 

Mum and four kids

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Responses

  1. Parents are the first teachers. They should provide the red lines – & it does not have to be much: just a red line – mine was 9pm bedtime. The current PC campaign to reduce exclusion confuses, at least, 2 issues – that for getting a school good exam results and that for protectind staff & pupils from out of control kids.

    I am sure that prisons contain a fair degree of people who missed out on tough love.

    Like

  2. Thanks for this honest account x

    Like


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