Every time I have trouble getting a foster child to go to school in the morning it turns out the problem lies in the playground.
It never ceases to amaze me that our Education system spends 100% of it's time on what goes on in the classroom.
Teachers, Heads, Ofsted, the Department of Education, everybody who thinks they know about "Education" is fixated that their responsibility to our children begins and ends at the classroom door, that the only thing that matters is book learning.
Actually, our Education system spends 110% of it's time on classroom stuff, because they send our children away each day with homework, which is ALWAYS academic...tables, grammar and all the old stuff.
20% of the time that children are in the care of teachers there is no care going on. Negligence to the point of potential criminality. Seriously.
The playground is where every child learns all the big lessons they carry with them for the rest of their lives. And where is the supervision, the support, the play-leading?
Where are the trained carers of the nation's children? Are they out in the cold, teaching their clients, especially the ones with needs? Or are they in the staff room chinwagging into frothy coffee? Maybe they're using the break to set up the next lesson, I'm not disputing that teachers have to work hard. What I am saying is that schools are oblivious to the lessons being learned out on the asphalt.
There's a great book called "Lord Of The Flies" about what happens when children are left to their own devices without adult help and support. They turn on each other and become murderous.
Every playground, every break and lunchtime, right across the land, is a miniature Lord Of The Flies. Every day. Especially for foster children.
Kids stand around not sure what to do. Factions develop. Kids get left out. Name calling happens. Over in the shed are their bikes and scooters, not allowed. Do not go in the puddles. Stay off the wet grass. The tree is not for climbing. One primary school I know has a £10,000 climbing apparatus, no child is allowed on it because they need to be supervised, so it stands empty. A couple of untrained volunteer parent helpers in fluorescent bibs blow whistles at any child who is doing something extravagantly dangerous such as trying to climb on the roof. The playground surface is etched with fading hopscotch or netball courts, unused. There's masses of bigger boys experimenting with being big by running belligerently past smaller boys and gangs of girls testing their own social standing by gossiping about other girls and probably being mean.
The helpers never blow their whistle when they notice a child who is frightened or confused. They don't pick up on the child who is being teased for being overweight, or wearing uncool trainers.
Foster children often struggle socially more than most. Their social skills can be badly damaged by their experiences. They're more likely to find it hard to join in, merge with a group of friends. They're are more prone to standing around alone. They often have heightened sensitivities, and can be crushed by name-calling.
My foster children come home from school and generally need an hour of TLC to get over each day's little traumas.
Children who go home and cry aren't upset because they only got a six in spelling, it's always because of the social stuff; other kids. In the playground. Not just the playground, the corridors, the unsupervised classroom waiting for the next teacher.
When the ultimate tragedy happens and a child takes their life, the national spotlight falls on bullying for a few days. Does anyone link the bullying to the unsupervised segments of the child's day? Never. Yet it's a no-brainer. One day the parent of a victim will challenge the school on the legality of their policy of leaving hundreds of children to their own devices for an hour and a half every day. If a teacher needs years of training to work a classroom of thirty, how come volunteer helpers need no training to run a playground of hundreds?
I want to say to educationalists that you wouldn't last ten minutes in fostering like this. We don't clock off for a moment when the chid is in our home, our responsibility. We actually don't want to, not only because we care that the child is happy and well all the time, but because it would be all the harder to pick up where we left off, which is something teachers should think about when they wonder why it's hard to get classes to concentrate.
When I was at secondary school we had a young Australian trainee teacher who used to join in playtimes, hang around chatting to us, kicked a football with the lads. The only teacher I remember who wasn't part of the "Them And Us' philosophy. One lunchtime we asked him why. He said;
"I came into teaching because I like kids, not because I like teachers"