Strategy to boost disaffected youth

10th July 1998 at 01:00
IT WAS refreshing that in your editorial on June 26 it was acknowledged that children who come to school "cold and undernourished from damp and dirty homes ... abused or scared or miserable; whose parents are refugees or alcoholics or drug addicts ... are hard to teach ..."

In the article alongside, John Izbicki spoke of his experience as a refugee, but had "parents who gave me time and love and discipline, as well as teachers who cared". There were also articles about the problems being faced by asian countries which are now questioning the teaching methods we are currently adopting.

Has anyone considered that underachievement may have less to do with so-called "incompetent teaching" and more to do with whether children are so emotionally disturbed and traumatised by home circumstances that they cannot access learning? A colleague told me of a child in her school who had witnessed her mother setting fire to herself and had subsequently been totally unable to learn.

Perhaps the solution lies not in rigorous inspection, testing, naming and shaming, identifying learning objectives and outcomes, returning to whole-class teaching or pressurising children, but in child-centred learning where the child's need for love, stability and support in an attractive therapeutic environment is paramount?

While teachers recognise that there are many excellent ideas in the new literacy strategy, expecting young andor disturbed children to sit still and listen for long periods of time, and to endure the same lesson pattern day after day, year after year could be a recipe for further disaffection, not just in areas of disadvantage.

Christine Lees Islestone Court Berwick-upon-Tweed Northumberland

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