Without reading any educational research or studying the findings of those who work on how the brain learns, we all know that learning does not happen unless the student is engaged, motivated and stimulated to take responsibility for themselves.  Just dip into that research, read John Abbott’s “Overschooled and Undereducated” and the findings are compelling. Awaken a child’s curiosity, imagination and interest in learning before they enter formal school. Teach the basics in the early years with small groups and lots of support and fun, while a child’s brain is soaking up all it comes across. Then, with basic skills and enthusiasm in place, pupils can stand on their own feet. With teachers who see their responsibility as “opening the windows of their minds and letting them fly, letting their dreams breathe”, (another quote from Daphne Clarke), in a learning environment rich in adults other than teachers they thrive.  She said “Children are disillusioned, disaffected”, and continued “Learning is for life. It is for encouraging children to learn beyond the box the teacher puts the tick in.”

We do indeed seem to have “lost the point of education”. In particular we seem to have lost any sense of the importance of parents, family and community in the process. Parents are at least responsible for the health of a child yet those same newspapers on Oct 17th told us that in Telford and Wrekin NHS Trust area, 23% of pregnant women were still smoking up to delivery. The Trust is to offer vouchers and beauty treatments to encourage them to stop! Why do we have children at all if we are not prepared to give them the best start in life that we can? On that same day a study of 5 year olds, the Millenium Cohort Study of 15,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, told us that children who eat breakfast each day halve their risk of obesity.  It is the children of the jobless who are 3 times more likely to go without breakfast. Is it an economic issue or one of remembering the children? Whatever the reason there is no excuse.

TIME, that special way of spelling LOVE. Only 50% of mothers read to their children each day that report tells us and for fathers, less than a fifth. The findings of the world league table of reading at 10 years old last year, showing England 19th, cannot be a surprise.  The report concludes that living apart from natural mothers and/or fathers can be associated with negative outcomes for children, academically and socially. Parents are a child’s first teacher, role model and the foundation upon which they build their own concepts of fairness, love, security and support for others. Consider another article on Oct 17th.  Nicola Marfleet, governor of Pentonville Prison, interviewed dozens of convicted and expelled teenagers to conclude in her report  that youths dismiss campaigns to discourage them from carrying knives, saying they need to ”protect themselves and cannot rely on anyone else, not even the police, to keep them safe”. Read “Ghosts from the Nursery” by Robin Karr-Morse.

Young people need more and deserve better. We need the skills and potential of all teenagers to survive the current crisis in finance, resources, environmental degradation, climate change and loss of civic responsibility and a common belief in moral values.  Oct 17th, one day’s media presentations, full of wake-up calls, yet failing to raise so much as a ripple in the lives of most people. If it were to solve some of these problems, instead of to counter the poor publicity resulting from the marking fiasco of this last summer’s SATs that the government had reduced testing, we might have cause to celebrate.