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The School "Term"inator!!


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Headmaster seizes TVs and computer games from pupils' homes


Teachers are always saying pupils would do better in their schoolwork if they spent less time playing computer games and watching television.

Now, one headmaster has proved it - by going to the homes of errant pupils and confiscating their electronic equipment.

And results have shot up at New Woodlands School in Bromley, Kent, since Duncan Harper introduced the 'seizure' policy. 'If a child is coming in tired, lethargic and grumpy we often find that it's because they've been watching television or playing games until God knows what hour,' Mr Harper said last night.

'So we go round and take the equipment until we've seen a definite improvement in the child.'

Mr Harper, who has been head of the school for 12 years, gets the parents' permission before making his surprise doorstep visits. He admitted some pupils were 'a little unhappy' to see their possessions disappearing out of the door.

'When I turn up they usually react with surprise. Word often gets around it has happened to someone else but kids don't think it will happen to them,' he said.

'Sometimes they go into dumb shock, sometimes they cry or plead. They say, "What do I have to do to get it back?"

'We keep the equipment until the adults get to the stage where they are in charge of the children, not the other way round.'

The shock tactics have already had a beneficial effect - a report by Government inspectors in March rated the school as outstanding. Other schools around the country are now studying the scheme. New Woodlands is a special school for children with emotional or behavioural problems. It has 65 pupils aged between five and 11, but a £4.5 million expansion will see it take in 48 further pupils, aged 11 to 14, by September next year.

Mr Harper seized equipment belonging to eight of his pupils last year. 'Sometimes there's more of a need than others. Word gets around that this is happening and acts as a deterrent,' he said.

'The children can be quite insistent and are unhappy to see their equipment go. I've been working here for 12 years and we've seen a definite growth in younger kids not coping in school.

'In our opinion there's a link between that and children being allowed a long time on Xboxes and the internet, with young children playing very inappropriate adult games.

'There's a problem with concentration and often they present as having Asperger's [a type of autism] when that actually isn't the problem.

'We're quite old-fashioned in our approach.'

Sean Neil, a school behavioural expert at Warwick University, said the scheme was a rare example of a school's 'sovereignty' reaching into a pupil's home to tackle problems at their root cause.

'One of the main complaints by teachers is that they don't feel they get enough support from parents over issues such as behaviour - and this scheme is a visible sign to the pupils that their parents are on the side of the school, not their children,' he said. 'Ministers are always stressing the rights of pupils and parents as "consumers", but this is an example of the school saying it has rights, too.'

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