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23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Stop Papering over the care cracks

Any teacher aware of recent media outrage over social workers' failure to protect innocent victims such as Baby P might do well to reflect on the barrier of paperwork that separates us from the children in our own care. The hours employed inputting data, recording levels and producing targets would be put to better use in the company of our pupils.

The rigorous paper-chasers and lap-top devotees in our profession argue that standards will be enhanced by slavish attention to columns and rows. Poppycock. For three years I attended what is arguably Britain's top independent girls' school. Meanwhile, my family endured physical, emotional and financial meltdown. Although I made little progress in this august institution, never once were the fees (which my parents eventually failed to pay) squandered on a drop of the milk of human kindness towards us pupils.

Teachers, unlike social workers (and in some cases, immediate family members), spend hours in daily proximity to their pupils. Any teacher worth their salt is ideally placed to notice if a child is anxious, unsettled or depressed.

At the end of a lesson, instead of beetling off to fill in the latest form, imagine the novelty of spending time with our charges, not just in a didactic manner, but in loco parentis. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

A teacher known to me refuses to conform to the educational mainstream. Instead of attending meetings, filling in data or producing paperwork per se, he actually talks to his pupils. And laughs with them. And listens to them. This maverick has not advanced his career, nor is he "in" with the establishment. But his pupils love and respect him. They remember him in later years because he took time to be interested in them.

Angela McCourt is an English teacher in Windsor.

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