There’s a bit of a hoo-ha about Every Child Matters turning every teacher into a social worker. Good. All teachers should be social workers.
Is the following not an absolute first principle of education? The obvious metaphor is a journey. The teacher knows how to get somewhere. The pupil doesn’t. Otherwise he wouldn’t be a pupil. The pupil might know half of the route – he might have travelled half of the route already, he might even have travelled half of the route already in half the time the teacher took. Or he might know the whole route, but in vague terms. Or he might not have started and have no idea what the route might be. But the teacher knows the route. So the teacher looks at where the pupil is, meets him there, and takes him on to the end of the journey.
The point is that you have to know where a pupil is, in order to move him on. For some kids the principal barrier to learning about the French Revolution is the conceptual problem of absolute monarchy, for others it is poor literacy preventing them from reading the textbook, for others it is the fact that they are conditioned to use avoidance tactics, like anger, whenever they come up against a challenge. As a teacher we have to overcome each of these barriers and many more.
I don’t understand the argument that refuses to accept that there are some emotional, or social, or physical prerequisites to education. Yes, some people have tough lives and learn anyway. But for most of us, if we are too cold or too hungry or too angry we don’t learn particularly well. A teacher’s job is to teach something. If there are barriers to teaching something, we work out how to overcome them.
The Every Child Matters agenda may be emblematic of a bureaucratised formalisation of professional relationships; but in rejecting it on the grounds that it introduces ‘social work’ into the job description of a teacher, we are in danger of ourselves denying the essential humanity, and unique importance of holistic relationships, of teaching as a profession.