Every child really matters

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE…. WE HAVE NO OTHER

Our last Government came out with the famous phrase “Every Child Matters“. This was when they decided to combine Education and Social Services to have a “joined up” approach to the support and development of children in our society.

This made exceptionally good sense to me as it followed on from the infamous Victoria Climbie case where an eight year old girl was systematically abused and eventually murdered by her so-called carers one of whom was her aunt. There needed to be a statement made by Government that every child had importance, that they would (to quote a phrase) “inherit the Earth” and that they were our future as a country and that we didn’t have any other.

As a teacher I was pleased to see that the overall welfare of children was being considered by the Government and that this supported many changes that had happened over the years in terms of Health and Safety, Children’s Nutrition, Family Support and security.

There is though a nagging concern that I have always had as a teacher about the effects of the “school system” on the welfare of the child. We protect them, care for them, nurture them and tell them that they are safe and yet in an average school day we put them through pressures caused by testing and examination that causes some of them to break down and even, in the extreme to commit suicide.

We are concerned about their rights in all respects but we feel we are “doing them good” by insisting that we know what they should study and that they must be summoned by bells, placed in a class with children of their own age because of the accident of their birth, often shouted at, belittled and given tasks that they do not see the point of and would never have chosen to do if they had been given the choice.

This is not to paint a picture of continued misery for all our children. There are many who do well at school and enjoy the way that it is run. They finish up in the top sets, they pass their tests and exams with flying colours and they end up going off to higher education and achieve great things.

But there are the others, the disenchanted, the angry, the ones who do not fit in, who do not want to spend hours and hours in what they see as a prison cell. At this point of time, here and in many countries throughout the world, we are debating just what education should be.

But wait a minute… we started with the mantra “Every Child Matters” well what about these children? How can we protect them, give support to their families, make sure they are safe at school, preach about bullying and self-respect and yet see the results every day of what we (the education system) are putting them through? How do we justify that?

Yesterday, a colleague told me that she was on a visit to a local school. There was a child there who has just returned to the school from a Pupil Referral Unit which is where he has been on and off for the last few years of his school career. He is a “difficult child” who does not fit in.

My colleague told me that she went into his class and could see that he was about to “kick off” (to use one of our colloquialisms). She decided, then and there, to do something. She knew the child’s name and asked him if he would be so kind as to show here around the school grounds as she had visited the school a few times but had never been outside.

The child readily agreed to go with her (we work for the Local Authority and are CRB Checked ). When he has away from the pressures of having to learn something that he could not see the point of, in an environment that he found difficult to adjust to, this child transformed into a guide who showed an immense knowledge of the school’s grounds (probably his favourite place in the school!) as well as the wildlife that lived in and around.

It is at moments such as these that we release these children from the pressures of schooling and our expectations of them. If we could somehow find a way of having a system that catered for these children as well as the A+ ones then we will really have addressed the mantra.. “Every Child Matters”. Until then we may have to add a rider to that statement… “as long as they fit in!”

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