Parents failing their children


Parents are failing their children by making them little buddhas at home and waiting on them hand and foot, instead of teaching good behaviour and discipline, a teaching union leader has warned.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said some middle-class mothers and fathers are “buying their children off” rather than setting limits for behaviour.

She told the association’s conference in Manchester: “It seems to me that far too many children are waited on at home hand and foot. They don’t do the washing-up or the vacuuming.

“It doesn’t do them any favours if you make them little buddhas at home, and it certainly doesn’t do them any favours in school. Children need boundaries in order to feel safe and children without boundaries at home resent boundaries being imposed at school.

“We need to be more confident as a society in saying ‘You can go so far, but no further’, ‘You can have this, but not that’. We need to be more confident in what’s reasonable and in our expectations of children and young people.”

Children who have not been set boundaries do not understand their responsibilities towards other people, Dr Bousted suggested, and fail to understand “that adults are not there to serve them, they’re there to safeguard and teach them”.

She warned that lack of boundaries is “not a problem that’s confined to one class”. The vast majority of parents and children do a good job, she said, but she added: “The effect of the minority is utterly disproportionate.”

It follows a call from ATL members for tougher behaviour sanctions that rival corporal punishment as a deterrent for bad pupil behaviour.

Current methods, such as detention, suspension and exclusion, are failing because school leaders are more concerned with meeting targets and losing income, according to Julian Perfect, an ATL member from inner London.

Earlier, Dr Bousted told the conference that teachers are being used as scapegoats for problems in society that are causing poorer children to fall behind at school. She said schools are having to “mop up the mess created by government policies that are making children poorer”.

Middle-class and working-class children are increasingly being educated separately, which is “toxic” for the most dispossessed, she said. Ministers were “seeking to wash their hands of all the causes of educational failure over which they, as government ministers, have more control than anyone else”.

In the eyes of Education Secretary Michael Gove and schools minister Nick Gibb, she said, “if the poor don’t make as much progress as the rich, it is the school and the teachers who are to blame”. She said this is “a lie which enables ministers to evade responsibility for the effects of their policies”.

She does not condone low aspirations and underachievement, she said, but the effects of poverty cannot be ignored or simply blamed on schools. Staff “strain every sinew” to raise aspiration and achievement but “struggle always against the effects of poverty, ill-health and deprivation, and children in these schools routinely fail to make the educational progress achieved by their more advantaged peers”.

Dr Bousted added that schools cannot make up for inequalities that poor children face. She said: “We need more than an education agenda, we need a social agenda that fights poverty.”