Teach them how to behave

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Some call it "respect", others "empathy". We are all aware of how it affects our whole life but how can we recapture it?

Respect was a main issue when politicians canvassed voters during the election, but strangely it did not seem to enlighten those seeking our votes as they alienated so many by calls of "liar" and "cheat". One thing is certain, respect has to be earned and, with so many role models behaving in such an impolite manner, are we ever likely to see common courtesy return?

For young boys in particular, sport has rightly been seen as a way of encouraging and inspiring qualities such as hard work, team spirit, keeping fit and respect for your opponents. However, there are few role models to emulate in the modern game.

The latest remarkable outburst was by Graeme Souness, suggesting that two professional footballers for Newcastle United started fighting each other because the referee had made a bad decision. It is worth remarking, though, that in the same week tennis star Andy Roddick's decision to call his opponent's ball good and unfortunately go on to lose the match does give us hope.

The term sportsmanship these days normally means winning at any cost but Roddick showed us the true meaning of the word.

With the introduction of the foundation stage, we will have the opportunity to spend more time encouraging our younger children to learn respect for each other and for the adults in charge of them.

Colleagues who have visited schools in Scandinavia always comment on how the curriculum there has emphasised the core values of respect, and this enables the children to be ready for more formal teaching later in their school life.

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, could promote the introduction of the foundation stage to the parents of young children throughout Wales, and it is long overdue.

Politicians need to do more to communicate to parents the changes going on in schools, including the foundation stage, but also the use by schools of staff other than teachers to cover for planning, preparation and assessment time.

Good manners and respect need time to be taught and we need political support if schools are to change the climate for decades to come.

Gwilym Jones is head of Ysgol Y Wern in Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot

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