UK educational summit discusses youth problems

Schools are last hope to instill traditional values

GMT 15:15 2012 Saturday ,24 March

Arab Today, arab today Schools are last hope to instill traditional values

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UK School The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that today's youngsters need to be taught to sort out their differences in a ''rational and restrained'' way. At the same time they are surrounded by TV programmes, such as soaps, that show people constantly shouting at each other and reality shows that suggest there are ''quick'' ways to become successful.
Speaking at ASCL's annual conference in Birmingham, general secretary Brian Lightman said: ''Children are faced with a lot of different role models these days, not all of which are the most positive. They see examples on TV, in celebrity culture, of people not speaking the right way and not interacting in a way we would expect people to. ''In many ways schools are the last bastions of those traditional values. ''We do assert old fashioned standards of discipline and we do that unashamedly because we do see it as our job to educate children in that way.'' He said that soap operas show ''people shouting at each other, using very, very emotive language, everything's very dramatic, histrionic.''
Schools try to teach pupils to ''understand people's differences in a much more rational and perhaps restrained way,'' Mr Lightman added.
In her speech to the conference, ASCL president Joan McVittie suggested that schools are teaching many pupils good values because they are not learning them at home.
''Many young people learn their values in schools,'' she said.
''Sadly some of their parents are unable to provide guidance and often the values provided by their peer groups takes precedence over all else.
''This is a huge responsibility for all of us and top of the responsibility of educating.
''It is a great deal to ask of us, and not neatly pinned down and packaged in sound bites and performance tables.
''And yet this is what we constantly try to do and for which - perhaps the most important part of our job - we gain so little credit.''
She added: ''So not only do we have to teach about values and responsibility; we have to try and understand the context in which our young people are living and help them back on to the right path when they fall by the wayside.''
Mrs McVittie raised concerns that TV talent or reality shows promote a "quick fix" in terms of how to be successful.
"We've run an assembly looking at statistics of how many people are successful on the X Factor and then at the same time running the statistics on the relationship between attendance in school, how that impacts on overall GCSE results, and how that then leads on to earning power later on in life.
"We try to work students through the fact that, actually, it's mostly through hard work that you're successful and attain the things that you need.
"Very few people are actually able to walk on to the X Factor and achieve that instant success."
As well as running assemblies on values, many schools also teach lessons where pupils work through various scenarios and discuss how they would respond to them.
Mrs McVittie, who is headteacher of Woodside High School in Wood Green, north London, close to where rioting took place last summer, said: "When we talk to our students about rights and responsibilities, what they have to remember is that their rights are not entitled to override those of everybody else - they have a responsibility to think of other people."
Mr Lightman said pupils have to learn that sometimes they have to "restrain your feelings, that you can't just sound off every time you're a little bit angry".
"I think that these things are desperately important in terms of employability skills. Because you're going to have to work with all kinds of people, to learn how to work with people who you may not want to have as your best friend."
In her speech, Mrs McVittie told delegates she had experienced behaviour similar to that seen in last summer's riots when she worked in Moss Side, Manchester, in the 1980s.
"The 2011 riots had a very different feel to them," she said.
"Watching television and seeing young adults looting and carrying home their spoils made me wonder what has happened in our society."
She added: "I was worried in case my own students had been caught up - perhaps affected by peer pressure and carried away with the intoxicating excitement of the moment.
"Fortunately I discovered that none of my students had taken part. The local area was devastated and the impact mostly on our young people had been to frighten them."
Mrs McVittie also warned that it has become "fashionable to criticise school and college leaders for all the ills in society".
"This is wearing and risky: if we aren't careful it will drive good people out of the profession."
Mrs McVittie said there have been "many times" that she has almost walked away from teaching because of such criticism.
"We must support our colleagues, particularly when they are experiencing hard times," she said.
Mrs McVittie also told delegates: "Nothing short of walking on water is expected of us on a daily basis.
"Expectations - whether they be from the Government, the media or the Chief Inspector - have never been higher. And the price of failure has never been greater.
"And yet... school leaders are right up there with doctors at the top of the list of people trusted by the public, while our political masters languish at the bottom with estate agents and bankers."

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