Younger secondary school pupils should be placed in “bubbles” and segregated from older children, not the latest recommendation to reduce the risk of Covid spreading, but a proposal by an influential academic to improve kids’ “behaviour management”.
The snowflake suggestion features in a report by Sandra Leaton Gray, a professor at University College London’s Institute of Education. The educationalist has drawn positives from the disruption caused to children’s learning by the Covid pandemic and suggests schools seek to further insulate them from the outside world during their adolescence.
The report, seen by the Times, recommends draining resources by segregating children in their first year of secondary school away from those bigger badder kids in the years above. Part of school premises should be closed off to only children between the age of eleven and twelve (year 7). Kids in that age group would have their own “high quality” break time away from older pupils, as well as their own toilets, which the Times describes as a measure to “mitigate stress” stemming from the move to secondary school.
Leaton Gray’s report argues: “This can then free up children’s cognitive energies for enhanced learning and better-quality social engagement with their year 7 peer group, setting a positive tone for the years ahead.”
Younger pupils would only interact with senior age groups in controlled environments such as sports, school trips and plays.
Typically, the report, entitled Moving Up, takes how things are done in Europe as a reference point, arguing British secondary schools are too big and intimidating for new entrants to stomach, even though it has been going on for generations.
The report states: “Many English secondary schools are extremely large by European standards, frequently with well over a thousand pupils. This means very young pupils are thrown together with a large number of older pupils immediately upon arrival in September.
“While children gradually adjust to the situation throughout year 7, comments from children and their teachers suggest to us that this situation might be taken for granted, but that it is perhaps not optimal. It potentially makes behaviour management more difficult within schools, as younger pupils learn bad habits from older ones and younger pupils are afraid of being bullied at secondary school by the older pupils.
“The large size of the buildings causes a great deal of stress to some younger pupils as they are genuinely fearful of becoming lost or disorientated and worried when this happens.”
The report came to its conclusions on the back of the pandemic, which served as a “natural experiment” in putting different ages groups in bubbles allowing new techniques to be tried out. The Times article notes that the new approaches delivered “some” success.