Z expands on the subject

When I was a child, there was an advertisement, or rather a warning to children, not to go off with a stranger, whatever he said.  It finished with a child clutching an ice cream cone, then dropping it in terror.  I’ll never be free of the sight or feeling – I’ve never told anyone this before, of course – and it scared and horrified me then and now.

I was about the age of some of the victims of the Moors murderers, Brady and Hindley.  They made a lasting impression too.

I have had to go to school Safeguarding training on several occasions and the same awful stories are always brought up: Lauren, Jasmine, Peter, Holly and Jessica and the other little children who were murdered.  That any lessons to be learned are irrelevant to a governor of a secondary school, who needs to know – far more pertinently – about harm done to teenagers means nothing, I have to listen to the failings of social services and sometimes of schools and the wickedness of parents, step-parents or psycopaths, all directed at small children.  I’m due to do the training again and I really don’t want to.  I doubt that the awful revelations about vulnerable teenage girls forced into prostitution will be mentioned at all, though I don’t remember their schools being referred to critically.  If a previously good student starts to show signs of stress, rebellion, lack of progress; we take it seriously, contact the parents, offer help and look for a possible cause.  If anything goes awry with a small child, the school is looked at and criticised if nothing was done to help, but the pastoral role of a secondary school is overlooked by the pundits, yet that’s sometimes the most likely source of help for an ill-treated teenager, or it should be.  Even if a child has always been troubled, help and support should be given and the parents included in that.  

Once one is a parent, one never loses the feeling of protectiveness or an underlying anxiety about the safety of the family.  As they grow up, get life partners and children, one’s mental protecting shield just keeps on growing to cover them all, or one hopes to.

I’ve had Hadrian here for the day and I’ve several emails that should be answered, but they will have to wait until the morning.  I’m off to bed early, didn’t sleep last night.  On the other hand, I’ve listened to a lot of good radio.  Goodnight, darlings.

9 comments on “Z expands on the subject

  1. Pontillius

    Several years ago, somebody, a friend I think (not) started a rumour that I was a “kiddie fiddler” probably as a joke, I don’t know.

    The result was I was shunned by a lot of people who used to be my friends, I was banned from three local pubs (and still am!), my house was “egged” several times. I told people that I wasn’t and to check with the police if that wanted. I even offered to drive them there to check the sex offenders register, but they wouldn’t go. I had to change my phone number and email address. It just shows how powerful a whisper in the right ear can be; rumour is a more powerful weapon that a gun!

    1. Z Post author

      My dear, that’s awful. It’s the sort of thing that’s impossible to disprove completely and clearly people weren’t interested in the facts. You must have considered moving to another part of the country, I think I would have done.

  2. Blue Witch

    As someone who has (in a professional capacity) been involved in hundreds of child protection case conferences ,and thousands of more informal discussions about potential issues, over the years, and has both attended and delivered training on the issue, I wish I could say that everyone was as aware of, and sensitive to, the issues as you.

    The ‘shock horror’ approach is the only way to get the potential implications of doing nothing in a situation through to all attendees (and even then it’s not fail-safe, as ongoing revelations prove time and again).

    In many areas schools will be dealing with as many issues in a morning as (I suspect, having worked in areas similar to yours as well as in inner cities) your school deals with in a year. I cannot begin to put into words the severity of the problems in this country. Teachers cannot be expected to have the skills needed to assist in many cases (and sometimes doing the wrong thing, albeit with the best of intentions, can be worse than doing nothing at all) – and there are not enough professionals to go around these days (and what they can do is severely limited now cf in the past).

    If you *have* to attend the training. why not bring up the points you raise here?

  3. Z Post author

    Child protection is a massive subject, even in our school. Shock horror, yes – but they are using cases from decades ago, Maria from 1973, Jasmine from 1984, Victoria from 2000, when equally horrific events that perhaps didn’t end in death could be more pertinent. For example, there must be cases when a school picks up evidence and does something about it, saving a child – using two case studies with contrasting results would be effective, yet I’ve never had that happen at a training session and I’ve been to a lot.

    Three or four years ago, I went to one – not the higher level, the basic one – and the discussion was about if a pupil made an allegation against a teacher and the procedure. Someone asked the reason for a particular piece of advice and the trainer didn’t know. “I’ve only been training on this subject since April,” she excused herself. It was November. I knew the answer and volunteered it.

    I do make the points in the feedback but, from what I’ve heard, nothing has improved. The best training I’ve been to was given by our own Associate Head (qualified to give it) who did, from her own 30 years of experience as a teacher, have a great many examples of dreadful abuse.

    Some 30 years ago in this village, not too long before we moved here, it was discovered that a couple were selling their own children for prostitution. I’m not sure how it was picked up, but it was and they were prosecuted.

    I was appalled, a year or two ago, when a teacher ran away with a student in another part of the country, that there were rumours about an affair between them in the school and nothing was done. That would not have happened with us, staff are given strong advice about appropriate behaviour at all times (it’s very easy to be innocent, yet have one’s name tainted by an untrue accusation, quite apart from the danger of a relationship going too far) and it’s unimaginable that action would not be taken if necessary. The dismal home life of some children explains a lot about their behaviour, I think that a lot of them are amazingly resilient under the circumstances – I don’t mean necessarily that there’s deliberate cruelty, but the breakdown of family life and the ineptitude of some parents is saddening.

    Since the number of primary governors is far more than that of secondary ones, there is always a vast majority of the former at training and that means it isn’t always as pertinent as it might be. For that reason, we usually book bespoke training sessions for the whole governing body. The Safeguarding governor and Chairman have to do full Safeguarding training every couple of years however, of course. Several of us have also done Bichard Safer Recruitment training too and others are about to do so – it’s quite an expense however.

    1. Blue Witch

      Yes, exactly.

      All the way through I was wondering why the school didn’t engage someone to provide a bespoke advanced package, after careful negotiation with whoever was to deliver it. And then you got there at the end!

      You mention resilience. ‘Resilience’ is the key word in all of this, I believe. If young people were taught to think in different ways from an early age by their education system, then they would be more resilient. It’s a buzz word these days, but, sadly, education practice, micro-managing of children’s performance and feeding it back to them at every opportunity is the most destructive thing that can be done to a learner. Given that many parents don’t understand what ‘happens’ in schools these days, they reinforce the negativity by superimposing their own experience of education on feedback they get from schools, but don’t understand.

      And don’t get me started on the ‘use of titles’ in schools. Associate Head, Assistant Head, Deputy Head, Senior Deputy Head etc etc. Schools are using them differently, parents have no idea what they mean. I mentioned that to someone I know who is currently doing secondary headship training. She assured me that that was the idea. If people don’t know where to go to raise an issue, only the most determined do. I thought she was joking and laughed. She became very defensive and then spent several minutes quoting all sorts of research by large corporates into complaining. I was appalled and auggested that she shouid get out of education. You CANNOT commoditise learning, and applying models from other (commercial) sectors ignores even basic psychology.

  4. Pontillius

    “. . . it’s very easy to be innocent, yet have one’s name tainted by an untrue accusation. . .” Don’t I know it! I don’t think I’ll ever be free of it.

  5. Z Post author

    We had an excellent training session on e-safety in the summer. Yes, I know what you mean about titles – the reason that the teacher who used to be Deputy Head is now called the Associate Head is because she’s rather more than a traditional deputy. Our parents have no hesitation at all in contacting the school and, having looked into the matter last year, I’m rather disconcerted at the expectations of some of them – such as the parent who sent an email to a senior teacher at 2 pm, wanting the matter dealt with by the end of the school day. The teacher was actually teaching that afternoon, not reading emails. However, we feel that we are in a partnership with parents, not keeping them at arms’ length.

    Indeed, Pontillius. Even worse when it’s something non-specific, so there’s no one event to disprove.

  6. 63mago

    For us (my age) in Germany it was Herr Bartsch, a killer of children. He died on the op-table, undergoing a procedure for castration. There always has been rumour that his death was no accident. The operateur in charge admitted this on his deathbed. When had he graduated ? Berlin 1936 ?
    Here in Germany, I think, it is a kind of blaming game. Parents, organised or not, point their finger at the oh-so-unprofessional teachers, while teachers, organised or not, point their finger at parents who either do too much, or don’t care. The basis of this blaming game is in my humble opinion the question of responsibility – seemingly no one wants to take it. Teachers say – and they are absolutely right with this – that they can not repair deficits of the upbringing of their pupils, while (some) parents say it would be the school’s job to teach their children basic skills – what I find is absolutely wrong. I may be biased here, and I am sure this is not an objective picture I paint. But I know some teachers and all of them say that it is a lot more different and difficult today than perhaps 15 or 25 years ago. Children do not have basic behaviour / social skills any more when they come into school or change to the Gymnasium or Realschule, after the fourth class, so in the age of ten or eleven. There is more aggressiveness, they know no boundaries – and sometimes one has to deal with parents … who explain their kids. But I stop before I sound like an old geezer totally. And yes, the people I know are in the same age, they are in their late fifties (mostly, some are younger, in their forties) and are happily looking for the day they can retire. Two I know are really “burnt-out”, it’s pretty sad to watch.
    There is some neglect, and it is not what one could see earlier, like when I went to school aeons ago : There was a child with bruises, obviously beaten ; there was child with northing to eat in the break, all this, it surely is still there, but it is not what I mean. It may sound silly or stupid, but I think “they”, a lot of these kids, are more cruel, generally more “un-limited”. Children have to learn to discern “good” from “bad”, and they learn it not. Children always test boundaries, and it is a good thing that they bonk on to a boundary, but they are not shown that there is one – and if a teacher does, sometimes, not always, parents who did not deliver what they should have, try to fry the teacher’s Allerwertesten, sorry. And sometimes they are pretty successful.
    I do not say that teachers generally are faultless and do not make mistakes – they do, and some are at the wrong place, but these are few ; I do not want to point with a finger at “a side”, there should not be “sides”. All I want to say is that something basically changed, in the roles all participants play, in the values – and sadly enough in the behaviour of children.
    What stayed all the same is the abuse, the violence, the neglect. And sometimes the urge for simple solutions, to what never may be succumbed. It’s never simple. And what is in no way evolved is the instrumentarium and professionality, of the stately authorities : No money, too few officers for too many schools, no intention to intervene (some, not all), even when the abuse is obvious, there is always the possibility to hide in the administration (some, not all, but many). Those who stay in this system and work their arses off for the children and actually DO something, could be called heroes, a word I generally avoid.
    Sorry for this rant.

    1. Z Post author

      For the most part, our students are lovely. Yes, standards of behaviour and expectations have changed, but not entirely or necessarily for the worse. Mostly (in my school, that is) there is more tolerance of ‘difference’ – that is, of children who have mental or physical disabilities, who simply wear glasses, who are of different ethnic backgrounds, who are gay. There are fights and quarrels sometimes, but this is usually a personal disagreement rather than bullying because of a difference that the other child can’t help.

      Some parents have an astonishingly high expectation of the level of personal service that they and their children should receive. I can’t explain about some specific instances because of confidentiality, but it can certainly be taken to unreasonable levels. We keep very careful records of all interactions in case of complaints. Last year, I had occasion to advise senior staff, including the Head, not to meet certain parents alone and not to discuss anything on the telephone. I never do that with any parents myself, it’s simply not sensible.

      i was a governor at my primary school for 18 years and this is my 17th year here. It would be quite pleasing to match the two, but it depends on when I move house. There’s an overlap, of course, I became a school governor on 1st September, 1988. I remember nothing else about 1st September 1988…


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