Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 14, 2007

Poor British Children

Headline in The Guardian today: British children: poorer, at greate risk and more insecure.  And you ponder, and ponder a bit more and wonder what that means.  At the same time, feel a bit smug: I’m Dutch after all and so can disassociate myself from the indictment – moreover, the Dutch come top in the league of children feeling well, and being treated well!  So maybe I did alright (you see, my children spent most of their childhoods in the Netherlands).   I don’t quite know what that means though, except to feel hugely depressed at the thought of all these children who are not served well at all by the society and communities in which they live.  And don’t forget the parents, and don’t forget the education system, and welfare system, and everything else that somehow or other play a part in all of this. 

At one time I worked in a mining community as a development manager for a further education college.  Part of the job was to ‘engage’ (I hate that word) with local communities, try and get parents, single mothers, unemployed fathers back into some form of learning, usually in local schools.  It always struck me how terribly bleak some of these schools were, in the worst areas of a village, paint falling off the doors and window sills, and then the corridors and classrooms that made you feel you wanted to get out of the place as quickly as you could.  And that’s where the children were left for their ‘education’, out of the frying pan at home into the most bleak and uninviting environment in the school.  It was not for want of trying as far as teachers were concerned: they were doing their utmost and so there were plenty of cheerful posters trying to hide the dismall state of the furniture and the walls.  Is it surprising though that kids who get second best at home and then second best at school opt out or, minimally, misbehave? 

The same goes for further education colleges: in quite a large number of cases they are quite dismal places to be in, with loos that put you off going for a day so that your bladder is about to burst by the time you get back home, nowhere to go for students during their break, with staff admonishing them for not ‘eating in the corridors’, but where can the poor blighters go on a rainy day?  I know, I know, there are some good ones as well, and staff do the best they can with what they have and we must grin and bear it.  As long as our Child Policies and Health and Safety Policies are in place and can be inspected.  But that’s not good enough! 

So when I read headlines like in today’s Guardian I really wonder where our common sense is: do we really need to write another huge statistical report, cannot we just see the writing on the wall?  I’ve only touched on some very small and basic issues that could make life so much better for ‘British children’ – and why cannot they have it?  Why do we have to spend the money on war with Iraq or on other totally unnecessary ‘projects’?  

If you really want to feel depressed about Britain and its culture, read Theordore Dalrymple’s ‘Our culture, what’s left of it’ and then you really are not surprised by today’s headline.   But only read a bit at the time because you really do want to tear your hairs out!

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