Some of you may remember Pink Floyd’s infamous song Another brick in the wall, which sold millions of copies and, intentionally or otherwise, rubbished formal education. A visit to the lyrics reminds me of one line in particular: “Hey, teacher, leave us kids alone.”
Against this background, I read the report of a ‘dinner’ lady at a state primary school who rescued Chloe, a 7 year old girl who had been tied up and whipped across the legs by four boys in the playground. Although the incident was entered into the accident book, there was no mention of whipping, it was not reported to the girl’s parents and the boys went unpunished. No surprises there!
Shortly after the incident, the dinner lady saw the girl’s mother, who was obviously in the dark, and reported the incident to her. When the school found out, the dinner lady was immediately suspended, and subsequently dismissed for breaching “pupil confidentiality.” Don’t laugh, it’s too serious for that.
But it gets worse. When the incident became public knowledge, the school issued a statement:
“We can confirm that, subject to an appeal, the dinner lady will not be returning to work.” And now we descend into farce. “The school’s priority remains providing the best possible education to all of our pupils and ensuring their development and wellbeing. We will continue to deliver this on a daily basis.” Complete, arrant and unmitigated nonsense! Thank Zeus that the dinner lady is suing the school for wrongful dismissal, and if she doesn’t win her case, I’ll eat my wig!
I remember, many years ago, representing a primary school teacher, and in the course of the trial, the Head Mistress, who obviously sucked lemons for a living, produced a copy of the rule book with the dimensions of a telephone directory. No wonder teachers don’t have time to teach, they’re in meetings, digesting the latest set of rules, and government targets, and when to wear riot gear, instead of supervising breaks in the playground. Where was the supervising teacher when this incident was taking place?
I asked the Head Mistress, in a spirit of enquiry, when it would be appropriate for a teacher to touch a pupil. Never, came the curt reply. I pressed on. What happens if a pupil is seriously injured? Answer: the supervising teacher must call for the teacher designated as the ‘first aider’. Can the ‘first aider’ touch the injured pupil? No. What happens if the pupil is bleeding to death? We call an ambulance.
This disgraceful incident follows hard on the heels of the latest government initiative to ‘vet’ everybody who may come into contact with children. And the result? One of this country’s most popular authors of children’s books, who used to visit schools regularly to read stories to them, has been banned from doing so until he has been vetted. And today I read of two mothers, both close friends and work colleagues, who have been banned from looking after each other’s toddlers, an arrangement they reached to allow both of them to return to part time work.
Somewhere down the line, there must come a point where adults can interact with children in the hope that they are not branded as closet paedophiles. And what of the children, for whom all these ludicrous rules and regulations are intended to protect? What price the age of innocence, when children as young as toddlers are taught to distrust adults in all shapes and sizes?
It’s a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Far better to use the bath water to drown the idiots responsible for these ludicrous rules and regulations, and give our children a better life.