Notes from Hell

My most read post of the last month (and the third most read this year) was about Susan Pope, the school nurse at Malvern St James who was sacked for smacking her son once on the bottom for repeatedly swearing at her.

Today Mrs Pope has her own say, in a article she wrote for the Mail on Sunday. If you want an inside story on dealing with bureaucrats and police in the face of often bizarre accusations, you must read this. It has been nearly a year since her ordeal began and it is not over yet. Social Services are still infesting the lives of Mrs Pope and her husband, because the Popes won’t back down. Social Services have acted illegally repeatedly and gotten away with it. It is a story of abuse: a harrowing tale of governmental abuse of innocent people.

Social Services are helping to spread the cancer of family breakdown identified by Sir Paul Coleridge, the senior family court judge, as I mentioned yesterday. Sir Paul was not just concerned about marriages falling apart, but about the meltdown of parent-child relationships. Sir Paul’s views made not just the front page headline of the Daily Mail, but also the Daily Telegraph and the The Times. The case of the Popes just hightlights how Social Services can apply the blowtorch of aggressive incompetence to these relationships. Not all families are made of the same mettle. (As a side note, Al Gore will not be happy to know that Sir Paul thinks the breakdown of the family is worse than global warming.)

Mrs Pope mentions the subject of another popular post, former school bursar Denis Smith. It appears he was more involved in Mrs Smith’s sacking than previously suggested, whilst at the same time his own departure from the school was less honourable than reported.

Family Matters

The most senior family court judge in southwest England has diagnosed the cause of the almost every evil in society today. Sir Paul Coleridge blames pretty much everything on the breakdown of the family, which he labels a cancer.

Though he is certainly an expert on these matters, this is not something that requires such a specialist to diagnose. But even though he is stating the obvious, it is something that the Government, with it’s family unfriendly policies, is ignoring. It is not just no-fault divorce. Mr Justice Coleridge includes the “meltdown” of the parent/child relations as well.

So you combine no-fault divorce with all-fault discipline (given the restrictions imposed by the law, compounded with the tendency to assume any discipline exceeds those restrictions) and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster is certainly what we have in this country. Disaster is what we see every day in schools – with a combination of kids who can’t draw their family tree and as they are shifted throughout the week from one parent to another, or sometimes a relative, or a former partner of a parent, with no consistent structure in their life.

If that’s what it’s like in relatively sedate rural areas, think about what other educators face each day in the more urban environments. Several years ago I taught in a city of about 70,000. I was talking to a head of year who was sending out congratulatory letters to parents of children who were performing above expectations in at least five subjects and also letters to parents of children for whom significant concerns had been raised in at least five subjects. As he was looking through the envelopes, he noticed that all of the former were sent to “Mr and Mrs” and all of the latter were sent to single parents or adults of two difference surnames.

This echoes Sir Paul’s statement, “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”