Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crisis in the Wrong Place

When kids misbehave the media reaction is always the same: blame the schools. And the government reaction is always the same: more regulation in schools. Articles like this one from the BBC address the issues of behaviour, school work, politeness and discipline but they do so in a completely false context - they assume that the kids in question come from loving, supportive homes.

The latest advice says teachers should send postcards home when badly behaved children make improvements. I have to ask - how many parents of these uncontrollable children go so far as to read postcards from teachers? I have two friends who work in specialist schools for children with emotional and behavioural problems - kids who have been excluded from regular school. Both have told me that they hate parents evening... not because of the complaints or the upset, not because of the late hours and the administrative work, but because they sit there all night and NOT ONE PARENT EVER COMES IN.

We shouldn't be sending postcards home, we should be sending inspectors round to find out why these kids aren't being raised properly. The only reason the government doesn't do this is that they are desperately short of foster carers and they know if they see what goes on they will have to take these kids into care. I was always top of the class at school (creep) but there were teachers who I believe knew or suspected they knew about my abusive home life but not once in 18 years of suffering did anybody come round to check up or ask me about my home life.

I would advocate annual parenting checks, questionnaires for kids to fill in and follow-up visits to observe what is really going on and question parents about their practices.


Stan said...

Seems only fair that the "free" education comes at a cost in terms of responsibility.

Kenny said...

Surely you are not advocating even more of a nanny state than we currently have?

I agree that if there is abuse, it needs to be addressed but not every parent needs to be screened; that is madness.

Cruella said...

How are we going to identify abuse if we don't do some sort of screening? Screening would pick up two things (hopefully) (1) abuse and (2) poor parenting. In some cases parenting advice, support, etc would be the solution, in others further check-ups could lead to the child being taken away.

We wouldn't dream of letting people adopt kids without an extensive screening process and regular follow-up checks. Yet anyone who has their own kids is left entirely to their own devices ... for 18 or 20 years.

Kenny said...

I understand your point but it really is overkill. I have no desire to see any child abused, but the sheer overhead would be outrageous. As you said yourself, your teachers probably suspected that you were being abused -- they should have stepped up to the mark and done what they are morally obliged to do. If more teachers did that, we wouldn't need the kind of screening that you're suggesting.

I'm not being argumentative at all; just pragmatic.

Cruella said...

Ok, maybe I'm not being clear. What I'm saying is that we need to formalise the process of teachers reporting back what they see. I would advocate, for instance, having a questionaire about home life which is handed out and filled in in class once a year. The kids would anwer about 20-30 tick box questions, then teachers would have a further 5-10 boxes to tick per child. The results could be more or less fed into a computer and potential problems highlighted for a home visit by instectors. I don't think that would be a huge burden on anybody. Sure we'd need inspectors to carry out home visits, but if you're saying it's too much effort to follow up on cases where there are signs of abuse then I would really be worried.

Kenny said...

Lordy no. If there were any signs of abuse, I would want intervention. I think we're kind of violently agreeing. My only qualm is that all parents would be subject to a rigorous analysis. Otherwise, I am right with you.

Cruella said...

Depends on your definition of rigourous analysis. I think screening for warning signs and then check-ups on those that appear to be at risk. We're actually agreeing here I think.