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Are today's teachers more like therapists?

Teachers are spending too much time on "touchy-feely" activities aimed at boosting pupils' self-esteem, a conference will be told.

Several speakers at an event held by the Institute of Ideas, a libertarian think-tank, will argue that teachers are increasingly being made to act as therapists.

Joanna Williams, an English teacher from Kent, is due to say the emphasis is at the expense of improving children's learning.

"Child protection, bullying and now self-esteem are taking up too much time in the classroom," she said. "But teachers are not therapists. In the classroom we should concentrate on the content of what children should learn."

Dr Kathryn Ecclestone, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Exeter, will warn that teachers are in danger of seeing all pupils as vulnerable and in need of emotional support.

"We are not stopping to ask whether we are creating problems that do not exist," she said. "And if we lose our belief that people are mostly resilient education becomes little more than an emotional comfort zone."

But others at the event are expected to defend lessons that promote self-esteem. Psychologist and schools consultant Peter Sharpe said:

"Promoting emotional learning is a legitimate, worthy and desirable aim as part of a well-rounded educative process."

Institute of Ideas director Claire Fox, who is also a panellist on Radio 4's The Moral Maze, said she hoped to spark debate about the increasing confusion over the purpose of education.

Other speakers at the TES-sponsored event, Crisis What Crisis? include children's laureate, Michael Morpurgo and Johnny Ball, maths enthusiast and television presenter.

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