Give specialist support to troubled teens

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
In the aftermath of the appalling shooting of yet another child in London, David Cameron announced that "Britain is in deep trouble"

and that "families and communities need to take responsibility for bringing up young people". I suspect that not a few teachers will be muttering words of agreement. Every day, teachers in Scotland come into contact with a child let down by their family and their community.

I've had cause to reflect on this from personal experience. First there's "Frankie", a kid in one of my classes. Let down? This child has been pushed out of a plane without a parachute. Her problems began with a mother who saddled her daughter with names derived from those of her own teenage pop idol. Add to that, marital breakdown, a dreadful accident in the home, and it's no wonder that Frankie is suffering from stress and probably depression. Achieving Higher grades or indeed any grades at all does not figure very high in her priorities at the moment.

Then there's "Johnny", who should also be achieving Higher grades in one of my classes - except he's never there. He's in the school, but not in my class. He wanders past now and again in the company of one of his pals.

Usually the purpose of this "fly-by" is to lob a piece of casual abuse through the open door while I'm teaching.

People who have little professional contact with teenagers react with horror to vignettes such as these. Yet this is a daily reality across Scotland. Is it worse than it used to be? I remember pupils like Frankie and Johnny from the past, but not as many as I see now.

Sadly, schools then did not even pretend to offer support to such children.

However, modern schools are far more receptive so that they now offer a convenient asylum for these troubled teenagers.

Guidance teachers may offer some form of counselling or arrange occasional visits from specialists but, by and large, the best schools can offer is a roof and four walls as an alternative to the so-called family home.

What we really need is specialist care for such children - one which would complement the school's efforts and allow teachers to get on with teaching rather than pretending to be psychologists and care workers.

Schools may not have done them wrong - their families and communities did that - but they are certainly letting them down.

The author is a secondary teacher and wishes to remain anonymous

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