I am in the second year of homing my loveable Springer/Pointer/Staffordshire cross breed ‘Jake’, named after a feral year 11 student at my school. Name changed to protect the sensitivities of the dog. Jake is three, a rescue dog who had previously been caged for 23 hours a day in a Dudley flat (make your own punchline!) and is, I believe, fabulous. Others who see this bouncy, nippy, yappy dog are not so sure. He does not leave a good first impression, chasing all cats, vacuuming any food and cocking his leg on the neighbour’s pristine car!
I have, therefore, been in intensive dog training using trigger commands that can be summarised as, ‘here’, ‘leave it’ and ‘down boy’, potentially useful for male MPs whose idiotic behaviour needs taking in hand. Unsurprisingly, he has improved as the regularity and simplicity of the commands, aided by never ending treats, has established a routine. This is then disrupted by that substitute teacher, aka my daughter, whose “Ahh, he looks so cute” and overlong commands leave him in a frenetic state with me struggling to pick up the pieces, pre hysterical neighbour.
Jake, year 11 school boy, is very like his dog persona. He won’t shut up. A combination of wanting to please and insecurity from being caged in a curriculum that does not suit him. Brilliant with horses, barely able to read, he is in all probability ADHD. School is for him ‘a laugh’ but year 11 has seen a significant change. For Jake, the fear of ‘where next?’ has seen him push the boundaries with snappiness turning to snarling. For the staff, he is no longer endearing, the loveable rogue with the cheerful quip, he is a target who will underachieve and be an ‘outlier’ on the scatter graph of results analysis, a spot that needs further explanation of why the after school history GCSE intervention went wrong. Jake needs to be in the countryside, free from the constraints of a restrictive curriculum that is not teaching him skills for life. Yet, we cannot afford a farrier course, so we continue to squeeze him through six GCSEs that will give him nothing but level 1s and E grades, pre his one year animal management level 1 course at the nearby Pershore College. School, for Jake, is rather like the cage in the Dudley flat and I feel for him as the restrictions are plain to see. It will mean a difficult last six months with me unable to rescue him, apart from providing experienced SEN staff who are fabulous in their succinct reassuring commands, yet know this is not really okay!
I do fear for Jake and his group. The vocational skills-based courses used to provide them with hope, structure and valued qualifications. ASDAN, work skills, public services and travel and tourism are like Jake, no longer recognised and school leaves them and us feeling like unvalued failures, caged and muzzled in frustration. No way to treat a dog or any year 11 student.
Jake the dog has just been out with daughter number two and rolled in fox dung – another obvious educational analogy – but he has the freedom to make idiot dog choices!