Friday Forum behaviour series

Mike Kent is a Friday columnist and head of Comber Grove primary school in the south London borough of Southwark. "Fortunately, even in a difficult inner-city area such as ours, the children are too young to become involved with alcohol themselves, although we regularly see the effects when their parents drink heavily.

"Several incidents stand out. There was the eight-year-old who refused to go home one evening because she was fed up with being used as a skivvy.

Mum, drunk again, came to school to find her and I had a battle on my hands for two hours. Then there was Nikki, who was beaten up by her drunken mother and left out on the pavement in November. Or bright little Doreen, desperate to be a monitor at one of our evening functions even though she lived miles away. When I said I couldn't allow her to go home on her own she said, 'Don't worry, I can go to the pub. My dad's in there every night.' I felt such a judder of sadness when I considered how much of my time I gave my own children. But Doreen is always at school, works hard and is determined to do well, and that's probably because we are committed to offering our children an enormous amount of time, interest and affection.

"We also want to show them there are so many interesting, exciting things they can do, and if they can carry this enthusiasm on to secondary school and beyond, despite the home problems so many are grappling with, we'll at least have moved them in a positive direction."

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