Parenting agency would allow us to lead by example

8th November 1996 at 00:00
From Nigel de Gruchy.

Your rather silly assertion (Leader, October 25) ascribing "hang 'em and flog 'em" tendencies to the Government and myself should not distract attention from the need for effective measures to be taken to protect teachers and children from disruption. The "softly, softly" approach, often advocated by non-practitioners, has done enormous damage.

I know that you probably will not accept this point but I repeat it all the same for the simple reason that it is true. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers did not initiate the publicity in any of the recent cases that have hit the headlines. However, once challenged, I am not philosophically inclined to be shy and retiring in defending the NASUWT's common sense position.

You say that politicians as well as the NASUWT want "a quick fix". As we have been complaining about this problem since it first emerged among male adolescents in secondary schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I think we are entitled to ask for more progress than has been achieved by the "softly, softly" approach advocated by non-practitioners, with such devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, you did not check any of the facts behind my suggestion of a good parenting agency. I had been impressed at the publicity given to the Liverpool University Project, which indeed highlighted health visitors, as you suggest, and other professionals going out into the community to discover families in great difficulties and try to show them the benefits of positive parenting by example. Showing by example rather than by preaching and lecturing was at the heart of my suggestion. The "risible images of women in flowery hats preaching among the poor" was the last thing I had in mind and was a classic case of the image being in the eye of the beholder.

What a shame you did not check the facts with me. We might have discovered a point on which The TES and the NASUWT agree. Another opportunity may not arise for another 50 years!

NIGEL DE GRUCHY General secretary, NASUWT, 5 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC.

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