Why so obsessed with the baddies?

10th January 2003 at 00:00
OF all the mad ideas to emerge during the run-up to Christmas, the fiasco of Edinburgh City Council over filming or photographing nativity plays has to be the most bonkers.

Of course, they had to capitulate - they were facing a revolt from logically thinking parents who know that the biggest risk to children comes not from obscure paedophiles slipping into the audience at end of term celebrations but, tragically, from people known to the children. This has been graphically illustrated by the recent case in Essex of 15-year-old Danielle Jones whose sexual predator and murderer was her uncle.

It's not blanket bans our children need to ensure their safety but the right education to equip them with the knowledge to recognise when they are in danger. Parents and teachers don't need hysterical councils telling us that there are evil people out there who are motivated to target and sexually harm children. We are well aware of that. What we do need are schools and parents working together to establish effective measures to protect against the unspeakable.

But the problem initiated by Edinburgh's stupidity is obvious. If we resort to ridiculously politically correct decisions to tackle a problem such as this, people will link it to the breathtaking daftness of our political masters and a serious issue will be trivialised.

In fact, this sorry tale casts a long shadow and it reminds me of the extent to which education is imbued with political correctness. Maybe it is lacking in the comfort and joy of the season to be negative but Santa should throw political correctness to the four winds when he dishes out his goodies to schools in 2003.

What we need is substantial finance, never mind tinkering at the edges with little dollops of money here and there to support, for instance, that getting-to-be-tedious policy of inclusion. Theoretically politically correct but, in practice, we are creating a new band of those who feel excluded.

We include all "the baddies" because that's the right thing to do but, meanwhile, the well behaving majority of kids feel more and more excluded because less and less attention is paid to them. They sit gently in their classrooms getting on with their work, not demanding anything in particular.

It's time that national priorities in education addressed this issue. Why should these pupils - positive behaviour icons in their own right - be ignored? We are too wrapped up with the political correctness of paying mega attention to the misbehaving element.

How many schools have properly formulated strategies for acknowledging and rewarding the good kids? Too few. In most schools, baddies who go through a period of better behaviour then receive positive referrals in the form of verbal praise or written certificates, but pupils who are virtually always exemplary in their conduct receive no such accolades. The good kids then regard the system of rewards with derision. An edict on this from the powers above might at least initiate some debate.

But back to money. There's still not enough of it for sets of basic textbooks. My brother, a businessman, was shocked when he heard how much per capita is allocated each year to schools. It's fine having computers for all but sometimes only books will do. Yes, we know budgets are devolved to schools and it's up to heads to decide how to divvy up the money but they are not receiving enough to go round. A friend whose son is dyslexic commented on how he has received no support for learning since he moved to secondary school - all available support has to go to kids with records of needs. So, dear Santa, preserve us from political correctness in 2003 and send the local authorities more of the basic things.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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