Broken Homes Creating ‘Toxic Circle’ For Children

The demise of the traditional family is creating a “toxic circle” of school failure, poverty and crime, teachers said yesterday.

Many pupils struggle in class because they are brought up in chaotic homes without married mothers and fathers, according to the 160,000-strong Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

One teacher claimed some mothers had up to eight children by different fathers, creating a “very dysfunctional” home environment, which risked undermining Government attempts to raise school standards.

The comments come as official figures show the number of single parents in Britain has increased by 250,000 to almost two million over the past decade.

Phil Whalley, a teacher at Hardenhuish School, Wilts, said: “No matter how brilliant the lesson or how much has been spent on rebuilding the school, if a child comes in angry and in emotional turmoil because of their family life they will not learn.

“Family stability or the lack of it is an important determinant of a child’s education outcomes. But this means that we have a significant problem in Britain because we already have worrying levels of social dysfunction and family breakdown and the situation is getting worse.”

This month, head teachers warned that schools were being expected to patch up social problems rather than focus on educational issues as they were seen as the “only solid bedrock” in many children’s lives.

Addressing the union’s conference in Torquay, Mr Whalley said society did not find it “easy to accept that our modern attitudes towards family relationships can have negative consequences for our children”.

The Government said its Children’s Plan, a new policy blueprint, would increase the number of social services officers attached to schools.

The conference was also told that teenage suicide rates are being fuelled by exposure to computers and television, creating an increased sense of “isolation” among young people.

They are more likely to spend hours in their bedrooms not communicating with family members or sharing problems than previous generations.

The problem has been exacerbated by increased stress caused by examinations and the rise in family breakdown, it was claimed.

Teachers called for a suicide prevention programme in all schools.

Pupils are to be given lessons in happiness after one of Britain’s largest education authorities has said it will put children’s emotions at the heart of its curriculum.

Birmingham city council has told all its 440 schools that they must make “well-being” as much a priority as English or maths.

It is hoped that by learning to express their feelings, the children will behave better in the classroom and results will improve.

The authority, which is responsible for 180,000 pupils, is believed to be the first in the country to rewrite its curriculum to give happiness a priority.

As part of the plans, nursery children will also be given coaching to help them prepare for primary school.