Towler's new vision needs real power

11th January 2008 at 00:00
So Keith Towler, the incoming children's commissioner for Wales, is to look at what children can expect to learn from adults about their rights (page 1). He appears in no doubt that children are currently short-changed in Wales, be it through poverty or lack of support. It is also apparent that he sees schools and teachers as all-important in carrying his vision forward when he enters office this March.

It is shocking that after a decade of "well-meaning" Assembly government policies with children in mind, Mr Towler believes needy youngsters still have no idea where to turn for help. After all the consultations, extra-funding and the gold-topped spin on countless child-friendly initiatives launched by the Assembly government, it is an unbelievably bad state of affairs - not least for the children left behind.

Then there are the teachers and schools, the ones with the power to change history, helping children to a better place with their knowledge, time and support. According to Mr Towler, they are the key to informing vulnerable pupils of their rights. Whether it is during personal and social education lessons or a fleeting encounter in the school corridor, the teacher has the leading role of informant. If only they had a chance.

Teachers cannot be expected to offer round-the-clock help, many are simply too busy. In a perfect world, every child would be armed with information and support to help them in any crisis. And there are not many in the teaching profession today who believe their jobs exist merely to pass on academic knowledge; a well-cared for, happy child is more likely to produce good exam results. But many will be left wondering exactly what they will have to sacrifice to this end. Their own health and well-being? Quality family time?

It seems Mr Towler's vision is a good one but change comes from the top, from the politicians with the power and money to attack inequality and injustice at its heart, not via the simple messengers.

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