Lives in a Landscape - Series 12 - 3. Academy Beat
Dave Clifford swapped his job as a police officer for a new post as Head of Year at an academy eight years ago. He is still in the post and shares his experiences with Alan Dein.
Providing pastoral care is key to his role as head of year eleven at the London school and he does this by combining a no nonsense approach to bad behaviour with a sensitive handling of some of the difficulties encountered by his fifteen and sixteen year old charges. This is their GCSE exam year and although Dave left school in the 1970's with just one CSE in English he recognises the difficulties faced by those struggling with exam preparations and a lack of direction in today's tough economic climate.
Well versed in policing mixed communities the former East End officer thought he had pretty much seen it all - that was until he entered the corridors of this showpiece academy. For Dave the behaviour issues he first encountered in the job were a reflection of poor parenting, with many adults unsure about how to instil a sense of right and wrong in their children. A total of five former police officers were brought into the school: each appointed as a year head and providing pastoral support and care.
Their job is not an easy one but David Clifford tells Alan that it brings rewards, challenges, frustrations and excitement in equal measure. Having joined the police force at 19 he was due to retire at 49 when he saw the advert for "behaviour managers" at the academy. That was eight years ago and he and other four retired officers were quickly promoted to heads of year, where they have successfully tackled a whole range of issues in the school
"What I wasn't prepared for was how vulnerable some of the kids are - for all their talk of street life they really don't have the resilience that I and my friends had when we were young. There are huge contrasts in the job and I see everything from the funniest moments to some of the most distressing."
As Alan Dein tracks Dave Clifford through a school day he sees at first hand some of the challenges involved: a pupil who appears to have just dropped off the radar and another desperate to be in school but too ill to attend. He is called on to deal with a group of girls who swallow cinnamon for fun and he tracks down the culprits when chicken bones are discovered on the canteen floor. And in amidst these episodes there's an album to record and an outburst over a text book to resolve: it's all part of the working day for Dave Clifford.
Producer: Sue Mitchell.