I have just felt my blood run cold with despair and then turn red hot with anger as I read the BBC post about a newly released report from Barnardos called Breaking the Cycle. The actual report did not lighten my mood in the slightest nor did the promotional video that will be released on 24th November. This video is severe. Be prepared for its hard hitting and ugly message but be even more prepared for the shock of finding out that every sentence said by the men in the video clip were actual responses to a recent YouGov poll about how young people are perceived by adults.
As I read this report it made me think about the bleak imagery and frightening vision of feral frightening children in 'Come to Daddy' by Aphex Twin:
Ugly yes but look at some of the really disturbing responses to this poll:
- Some 54% of the adults questioned thought that British children behaved like "animals".
- More than a third of those surveyed also agreed that the streets were "infested" with children, while 43% said something had to be done to protect adults.
- Around 49% said they disagreed with the statement that children who "get into trouble" were "misunderstood" and needed professional help.
The ignorant flippancy of this last comment has really left me speechless. I was speaking to my wife last night on Skype and we got to talking about our two wee girls that we've recently adopted. We were laughing at some of the things they had said and done, pleased at how they were coping with me not being there at the moment but also marveling at how they had settled in to their new life and at how they were to put it …blossoming. Their arrival in to our house has been one of the best things that could ever have happened to us and we are so privileged to have these two characters. I am guarded about my girls but I mention them because our experience is so caught up with this. Our understanding of their needs, informed by Social Work partners, has helped us deal with issues, avoid conflicts, lay down boundaries - all within an informed framework that has let us understand our girls and to help them move forward in a positive fashion so that they can, and will, achieve their potential. My wee one hardly ‘gets in to trouble’ now. Where would we, and our girls, have been without this professional help?
My ethos in education and life I suppose was very much informed and influenced by my upbringing and then work as a teacher in Whitfield, Dundee- a so called poor area where schemies lived. (God! This monkey on my back is really itching today!!!) We must always have the highest aspirations of young people and we should never give up on them. Don't want to sound like the lyric to an anodine Whitney Houston song but some of the challenging children that I have worked with have been talented, able, smart, engaging but it needed me as the professional person in their lives to help create the context/environment to open those qualities up and to allow them to flourish. Isn't that the job of a teacher too?
We can’t allow this to escalate any further folks. Some of us might live outwith peripheral housing schemes, some of us might get our children to the school of our choice but what about the children in these peripheral housing schemes and in the schools that are not the chosen ones? We MUST keep arguing for, and ensure, that all our young people are valued, challenged and that the highest expectation what they can do and where they can go is the minimum they experience when they are in the education system. We’re failing them if we don't and if that's the case then get somebody in who can do it.
Vermin, animals, feral? No, children and young people deserve to be valued and supported by an informed set of professional services, hopefully sound families but also by a more empathetic and understanding wider society. I hope this video and the resulting campaign makes some people sit up and take a look at themselves.