February 14, 2006

The widening roles of teachers

I recently read that, under new laws, teachers will be permitted to punish pupils for behaving badly outside school and on public transport: another fantastic idea from Blair's 'respect' reforms. At the same time, the Government are proposing to introduce new £50 fines for parents if they fail to take responsibility for the bad behaviour of their children.

Now, let me explain why I think this is all a bit silly:

  • Blair is trying to compensate for a lack of parental responsibility by using teachers, who already have enough on their plates these days, to control children outside school. My Mum frequently bumps in to her school kids on a Saturday afternoon in the town centre. Is she supposed to discipline them on her day off when they should be under the control of their parents?

  • On the one hand the government are giving teachers the responsibilities of parents, and on the other they are fining parents for not taking responsibility: surely this is a complete contradiction, because you are both reinforcing their role and undermining it. Already too many parents refuse to accept that their children's behaviour might be a result of their upbringing, and I feel that this will just compound the situation.

  • This is a perfect example of the Blairite attitude towards education: let's treat the symptoms and not the root cause. Many of the problems that arise in schools these days are a direct result of lack of parental discipline. If a child is not taught to respect their family, there is no way a teacher is going to be able to instil it into them. If a child is not taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in their early years, it is so much more difficult to get them to catch up. The National Curriculum does a disservice to so many children, and many don't have enough positive parental guidance to support them in learning to be able to learn. I'm not saying that there's an easy way to change this, but I don't think getting teachers to replace parents is the way forward.

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