Protection plan

11th April 1997 at 01:00
Teachers are mistaken when they direct their frustration about allegations of abuse at the Children Act. The Act does not mention the issue beyond an expectation that children should at least be listened to. The failure is in those who work with children professionally to address the risks.

Teachers are still trying to live in a bygone age when professionals were respected by virtue of their status and, as we now know, children were abused behind closed doors. We cannot hope to return to a situation where teachers investigate teachers.

What should be happening, and isn't, is an open debate about how best to protect all those involved in education, teachers and children. Adequate guidelines exist to deal with allegations in a balanced way. They have already been endorsed by the teacher unions. But hardly anyone knows about them and there has been little or no attempt by LEAs and schools to make them a reality.

All schools are supposed to have adopted a written child protection policy and made it known to parents. Few have bothered, so allegations arise in a vacuum with no context against which to judge them.

Many teachers have never learned the skills of managing disruptive and hostile children or how to monitor their own behaviour; many children are learning from their parents that adults are not to be trusted, so why should teachers be any different? Society has changed; such risks go with the territory. A nostalgic longing for the world of Mr Chips is dangerous naivety which puts everyone at risk. In the words of my children, it's time teachers "got real".

BEN WHITNEY (Author, Child Protection for Teachers and Schools) 47 Manor Farm Crescent Stafford

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