Carers And Teachers ‘Have Lost Courage To Tackle Bad Behaviour’

{mosimage}Thousands of children are ending up in court because teachers and care home workers are afraid to discipline them for bad behaviour, the head of the Government’s youth justice quango has said. The police are increasingly being called in to deal with behaviour that only a few years ago would have been handled by staff in schools or residential care homes. Rod Morgan, chairman of the Youth Justice Board, says that it is time to confront the political correctness in schools that prevents teachers from disciplining pupils in the way that they used to – in part because they fear that parents will challenge them and even take legal action. Mr Morgan goes on to give warning that the consequences of lone-parent families and the absence of male role models are increasing the number of young children who no longer know how to behave.
“What many young children lack are any sort of boundaries being set to their behaviour so that literally they don’t know how to behave properly. There has not been a role model to explain things and to set boundaries.

“Most children we know like a reasonably structured existence and many don’t have it,” he said.

Mr Morgan, a former professor of criminology, is urging the Government and local authorities to take action to give teachers and care home workers the confidence to deal with bad behaviour and minor acts of criminal damage themselves rather than calling in the police.

He said that, without change, increasing numbers of young people would be drawn into the formal criminal justice system, a trend that has accelerated since Labour came to power. Between 35,000 and 40,000 young people are today being prosecuted in front of magistrates. Ten years ago many would have been punished informally outside the courts.

“What magistrates are telling us is that many young people are coming before the youth courts who, in their judgment, don’t need to be [there]. In children’s care homes what we are finding is that many children who are committing minor acts in residential accommodation, minor acts of criminal damage or have thrown a punch at a fellow child or member of staff — the police are more and more being used as a disciplinary back-up force for ill-supported and ill-trained residential staff.”

Mr Morgan’s comments come as official documents show that the care home linked to the murder of Damilola Taylor had a record of violence and absconding. Daniel Preddie, then aged 12, was staying at the Abbey Street home in Bermondsey, East London, when he escaped and, with his brother Ricky, 13, went on to kill Damilola. Reports by the inspectors of Southwark Council, shown to The Sunday Telegraph, gave warning that children regularly absconded from the home, “knowing that staff were not allowed to use force to stop them”.

Mr Morgan blames changes in demographics and the rise in the proportion of lone-parent families, particularly those headed by a woman, for the problems. We know that the proportion of families where young parents — often mothers bringing up a child alone without the presence of a male role model and a father present on the scene, and without the support of an extended family — are having to cope with more and more challenging child behaviour in fairly deprived areas.”

He said that some children were being raised in homes without even the most basic discipline being imposed, such as instructions about what time they should be up or back indoors. That behaviour presented serious problems in schools, where teachers’ confidence was undermined by the threat of being taken to court or by parents who have no regard for authority.

“I think teachers, for example, are increasingly concerned about litigation, about the fact that more and more parents are less deferential to the teacher or authority. They are reluctant to use traditional disciplinary methods. As a result police are increasingly being called in.

“This has to be confronted. Teachers have to be supported to explain the need for boundaries, to enforce boundaries, but to do it in a manner which remains inclusive and to do it in a more assertive manner for those parents who may collude with their own children’s bad behaviour or not fully comprehend the consequences of their children’s behaviour.”