Decline in respect for teachers

21st December 2007 at 00:00
A survey has revealed that young Scots' trust is on the wane.

Young people's trust in and respect for teachers has fallen sharply over the past four years, according to a survey of 11- to 25-year-olds living in Scotland.

But teachers still rank third in young Scots' trustworthy groups, behind parents and friends.

YouthLink Scotland, which conducted the survey, and Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People blamed child protection issues for the decline in respect.

They claimed pupil-teacher relationships have become more "formal" and "stilted" in recent years, due to a decrease in after-school clubs and school trips.

They also suggested fear of allegations of child abuse were making teachers wary of forming close bonds with pupils. Being Young in Scotland 2007 is the third biennial report that asks young people what it is like being young in Scotland.

The report, which includes the views of more than 2,500 young people, found that the proportion of school-aged children (11-16) who identified teachers as the group they would most trust and respect has dropped by eight points since 2003 to 32 per cent.

Meanwhile, among the older age group - 17- to 25-year-olds - teachers and tutors were even more likely to have fallen off their pedestal. Just 24 per cent held them in high esteem, down 15 points since 2003.

Jim Sweeney, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, said the figures showed that teachers were less close to pupils than they used to be.

He said: "Look at the number of schools where teachers run after-school clubs or take pupils abroad as compared to 20 years ago, and you will discover these things are just not happening any more. A great many young people now have a more formal and stilted relationship with teachers. And this is it seeping through."

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, felt teachers had become wary of building relationships with young people.

She said: "Adults are wary and are not building up trusting relationships with youngsters. Teachers are afraid false allegations might be made against them and, even though that happens relatively rarely, the consequences are so great they don't want to make themselves vulnerable in that way at all."

Mrs Marshall plans to gather more evidence of the changing relationship next year. Meanwhile, she called for a review of the practice which allows accused people to be named before a court case has even started.

"The fact that you can be identified before a court case even starts - that you are guilty before proven innocent, as some teachers have described it to me - means we need to look at that again and reduce this fear so we can get people back together."

Other key professions - the law, police, doctors and the church - had gone down in youngsters' estimations along with teachers, according to the survey.

Other findings highlighted as a cause for concern were changing attitudes to immigration. Young Scots were found to be increasingly proud of their own nation but less tolerant of those from other nations: a third of 11- to 16-year-olds and two-thirds of 17- to 25-year-olds believed there were too many immigrants in Scotland.

Mr Sweeney continued: "The Government has to get better at promoting the fact that we need workers and we need people."

The survey also found that a third of young people were pessimistic about the future and their life chances. Just under half agreed that it was important to vote.

On a more positive note, young people were found to be less likely to hang around the streets than in 2003 - although half of 11- to 16-year-olds still said this was their preferred pastime - and to be more likely to take part in sports, games or fitness in their spare time.

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