No respect for authority?

What we have now is a situation where the school sometimes has to face two elements opposing it: the student and the parents

We are going to proceed carefully, with a plan, but also in an assertive manner. It is completely unacceptable for any worker to feel unsafe in their place of work, let alone if this place is a school
We are going to proceed carefully, with a plan, but also in an assertive manner. It is completely unacceptable for any worker to feel unsafe in their place of work, let alone if this place is a school

Today’s generation has no respect for authority’ is a common statement bandied about following the issues relating to school security that made the news this week.

Without entering into the merits of the case, I think one has to be careful about generalisation. It is clear in my mind that each and every school has different realities and different situations. It would be too simplistic to say there is one clear or simple solution for all educational institutions. The realities which merge in each and every community, together with the structure of that particular school, means that we must reason things out on an individual level.

Today’s teacher is facing a much more difficult task than 20 years ago. Today there are a number of social and cultural backgrounds that perhaps in the past you wouldn’t have had. The qualities and needs of each student are different, and the teacher has to be able to juggle all this.

The origins of the behavioural issues are even more complex, and Heads of School tell me this regularly. In the past, parents mostly respected and backed the school. This is no longer the case and the reasons for this are complex. You will notice I will be using this word not to fog the road to solutions but because they are indeed.

What we have now is a situation where the school sometimes has to face two elements opposing it: the student and the parents.
Common sense tells me this shouldn’t take place and the steps that educators, and the school, take to help the student in question should be backed by parents. But this is not always the case.

It is important to understand all this because, more often than not, misbehaviour and in the worst case scenarios, violence, is an effect. In order to find solutions, we must tackle the cause.

I am all in favour of security measures in schools which require them. In the last budget, the Government voted a substantially higher budget for this. However, we must look further into the reasons why this is happening. The truth is we can build the strongest fortress but if the issues are happening within the confines of a school, it only solves part of the problem.

One has to put all this into context. Alarm bells aren’t going off in all our schools, but only in a very small minority. Other schools might report an increase in poor behaviour. But the truth is that even one case of violence is too much.

Over the next months we will be working to introduce harsher laws for any aggression or violence taking place in an educational institution. We are already working with stakeholders to take effective short-to-medium -term measures in key areas while prioritising a long-term strategy and framework. This is something that I think all parties are committed to achieve.

As Minister responsible for schools, teachers and educators I promise them this will not be a stop-gap solution because of newspaper headlines. We are going to be proceed carefully, with a plan, but also in an assertive manner. It is completely unacceptable for any worker to feel unsafe in their place of work, let alone if this place is a school.

We have to work hard to instil values and respect back. These are things which we’re losing as a society. I think it’s not something solely tied with education, but across the board. While acknowledging that automatic respect because of a role may be something of the past, it is unacceptable that some think it is acceptable to degrade, attack and humiliate. I’ve said this many times over the past years and I will keep on repeating it: there will be zero tolerance to these attacks and they will find no refuge whatsoever. To add to that, we’re making laws harsher to make sure of it.

My final plea is to parents: let us work together. If you feel something was amiss in your child’s education use the structures.

I understand that sometimes there are some frustrating processes in the system. But never diminish the teacher, an educator or the school in the eyes of your child with inappropriate behaviour towards them. Your children are absorbing every word you say and every decision you make. We must work together because, ultimately, the goal is the same: to provide a better future for tomorrow’s generation.

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