Friday, 10 August 2007

Children Carers

We are often seeing in the press the figures for children playing truant from school. There are two things that arise from this, 1) why do the children stay away? Giving them presents to attend is not the way. The education system has to "educate" the children into giving part of themselves to the school and its activities. They need to invest in their own education.
One of the remarkable and courageous things I have ever seen was a new headmistress asking her school children what they actually wanted to be taught. It was a revelation including subjects like Japanese. Attendance started going up. The main problem is that children have lost a sense of belonging. It is why the gang culture is so predominant. The gang becomes a surrogate family and education.
There is too much emphasis placed on the academic, though the new skills campaign is a good start it is too little too late. The destruction and deregulation of industries which traditionally had apprenticeships has over the years forced the education system into believing that academic qualifications are the only way. On a bleak sink estate its about survival not about the Romantics or algebra, its about trying to get off the estate with most of your soul in tact, and often skills are the only way to do that. But its also about having pride in what you do. School kids will have an enormous confidence boost if they can do something which puts them on a level with their academic contemporaries. Ask yourself could your carpenter create an apprentice piece that was an exam in the past?
and 2) children carers. These are children as young as 8 in some cases who have to look after one or more parent. These children have to take on the role of parent and mean while be a child. It is obvious that any child is going to suffer from stress, exhaustion and eventually they will go truant from school. I recently read an article which stated that one child had not been to school for two years and no one noticed. What we need is support for these children and there are a lot of them, the official figures say 170,000 but the unofficial say nearer a million, plus they need a joined up social services.
All of the departments of the health, education and social sevices should have a single set of rules of which the top one should be the care of the child on the child's terms. If they are taken away for "their own good" the amount of guilt and feelings of failure will only cause problems later on in their teens and early adult years. If we can help now then it will create good citizens for the future.
There is too much reliance on strict procedures. Where is the human being in this paperwork? Sometimes a person with emotions and fears and stresses and pain who needs help gets lost as a section in the procedures manual. Lets start talking about people not statistics. Lets ask what people in need want and what can help them. We complain that children today don't know how to communicate, well it seems neither do governement departments. I mean its really difficult isn't it to pick up the phone, send an e-mail or even a letter?
On the idea of education, should we have individual qualifications? With the passing of Michaelangelo Antoionni one the great artists if not one of a very rare breed of film maker in that he was a poet of the screen, but and this is the point he trained to be an art historian. Eisenstein on whom all the truly great rules of cinema were based trained to be an engineer. Surely one of the ways to get children to invest in their own future is to get them to choose the subjects they want and not follow some archaic pathway. If they create their own curriculum and timetables don't you think this may be the start of them actually having a slice of the resposibility for their own future? It gives them the choice of career they want to take up not one in which it is expected they will go.

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