Mumsnet vs the ATL on blaming parents
Listening to the radio this morning, I was shocked to note that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers will tomorrow debate a motion at its conference demanding that ‘the benefits system to be adjusted so that the parents of disruptive pupils lose part of their child benefit’.
Stuart Hart, one of the Cheshire-based supporters of the motion, was quoted in the Waily Mail as saying, ‘A child who is behaving badly is not only affecting themselves, but other people’s children. But there are no consequences. We want parents to think they are being hurt, in the form of less child benefit, because their child is not behaving.’
This comes as a new report, compiled on the testimony of ATL members, suggests that up to a quarter of teachers may have experienced some form of violence in work – including groping or parent rampages.
I’m at a loss to understand how anyone can think this will be effective, though I can see why the Mail has clamped on to it, as Dr. Mary Bousted certainly does a wonderful one woman “bloody parents” routine.
‘If you go into a pet shop you have to prove you are going to be able to take care of your dog before they sell you a puppy. But there’s no minimum standard for being a parent, unless you are so awful the state takes the child away from you. It’s not that children are born bad, it’s that when children behave badly at school, they are very often the results of very poor parenting.’
The Mail, evidently frustrated that Dr. Bousted wasn’t prepared to attack benefits scroungers, took a different tack and portrayed the leader of the ATL as demanding state intervention to compel parents to attend classes on how to be parents, and to remove benefits (which, said Dr. Bousted, are available irrespective of class).
Dr. Bousted appeared on Radio 4 this morning, alongside Mumsnet’s Carrie Longton, who argued that cutting benefits would do nothing, and that what was needed was increased support, smaller class sizes and continuing to build on policies that we have proof work: for example, family liaison officers or special support staff who are allotted time to wander the corridors and do spot checks on classrooms (particularly those where troublemakers are known to be).
Proposals like this seem especially ill-timed whenever the leader of the ATL itself is talking about how violence in secondary schools is on the decrease (and without the need to slash benefits). That seems to me a call to stay the course with, and increase the extent and use of, policies that are in place at schools around the country.
They lend credence to the notion that many schools are out of control, and justify stupid Tory ideas like fast-tracking former armed forces personnel into teaching jobs simply because they are physically capable and can make the place feel more like a boot camp than a school.