Bad parenting and duff theory creates problems in the classroom

There are ways of addressing the problems in our classrooms, says Bob Britnell (stock image)

Sometimes you just don’t know where to start: the world, or perhaps, people amaze you – and rarely in a good way.

This week’s angst was heard on BBC Radio 4 as I was driving so forgive me if I don’t get the figures exactly right.

Research showed, it was said, that at the end of primary schooling children who received free school meals were, on average about nine months behind their peers educationally and that by the time they left secondary school that gap had widened to about two years.

Now I know these are averages and there will be plenty of people out there with personal stories that refute that research.

But, and it’s a big but, the purpose of the report wasn’t to demonstrate how schools are failing pupils: it was to castigate universities for not taking more pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

The problem, therefore, isn’t that universities don’t want to take under-achievers. It is that so many pupils are under-achieving – and that is surely what research ought to be focusing on.

Members of my family work in education, have done for years and the tales they tell range from gob-smacking to heart-rending. How can a child start at junior school who cannot read even the simplest words? What has gone wrong?

Or what about a boy whose ambition is to work on the market like his dad, the boy whose father asked that he not be given work at school because it upset him, or the children who don’t value reading and writing because their parents don’t. They’re all out there.

And schools, which are under pressure not to exclude pupils, have to devote time and resources to managing the not interested, the badly behaved, the disrupters. Of course, that matters not to the disrupters who demand attention while the kids who want to learn get held back by a disrupted classroom.

There was a piece in the paper today about the number of exclusions from school and, of course, it was written from the perspective of how awful this was, children were being excluded for just breaking the school rules…how dare they exclude them.

At some stage we decided, or educational theorists decided, that it was better for “problem” children to be educated in mainstream schools, it would socialise them, and having got them, you can’t get rid of them without somewhere else to send them. And let’s be frank who wants to take on a problem?

At the heart of all this is bad parenting, parents who have no rules in the home, parents who allow their children up late X-boxing or similar, parents who have no ambition for their children, who don’t read with them or put their phones up and talk to their children whilst walking them home form school.

There is more to life than tv and social media; children don’t ask to be conceived and born: we cause that and it is up to us to value those lives and to do our best for them, to try and make their lives better than our own.

We won’t always succeed, but if we don’t try we will never succeed!


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