Who wants to be a student? Or a chair?

Posted on: 28 Jul 2014

By Anthony Rentoul, chairman, House Schools Group.

ISC has circulated member schools with its advice about responses to be made in the consultation by the DfE over its plans to make new regulations with standards for independent schools to take effect from 1 September 2014.

Since school holidays are supposed to be exactly that, holidays, there may prior to the DfE’s deadline of 4 August be something less than careful consideration by schools of the ISC’s representations on the sector’s behalf. Perhaps a few schools, like mine, will nonetheless be disposed to write to the DfE to express support for the points so admirably crafted by Matthew Burgess.

Rightly, ISC has focused on the substance of the DfE’s proposals. But there are a couple of points on semantics that we, the educators, should not let pass unchallenged.

Under the proposed new regulations all children in private education are suddenly, on some whim not attributed to anyone or publicly explained by the DfE, going to be referred to in future as “students” instead of “pupils”. In my book, students are generally people in tertiary education, or possibly, at a stretch, in and above Year 10 embarking on the syllabus for GCSEs. But even if those in Year 10 – Year 13 can be referred to as students, the word “pupil” is equally apt for them. In short, therefore, in my opinion “pupil” is the best generic term covering the entire spectrum in schools, even if older pupils can equally well, as some might say, be called “students” - just as the youngest pupils might be called infants. I hope all who agree with me will oppose the proposed change in nomenclature.

The DfE is also proposing to perpetuate the solecism constituted by its reference to a school’s chairman of governors as though he or she were a piece of furniture: see the continued use, passim in Part 4 of the proposed Schedule to the new regulations, of “Chair”. When this ugly little expression first reared its head in draft regulations put out by the DES (as it then was) in the consultation that was to lead to the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004 No. 3374), I queried the term with someone in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman. He was as appalled as I. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the draft has to come to us before the SI is actually made, and that term won’t survive scrutiny here.” Unfortunately, it did.

Let’s now move to kill this silly piece of political correctness. Again, tell the DfE what you think.

About ISC Press Office

The ISC Press Office posts blogs on behalf of ISC schools and Associations.