There was an interesting discussion on teenagers the other morning on the Today programme. IPPR research has suggested that British teenagers are the worst in Europe on almost all measures of anti-social behaviour. Identified as one of the causes for this was, I think, the relatively little time that British young people spend interacting with adults. Another point which came up in the discussion is that Britain’s youth lack the benefits both of the support of the extended family prevalent in Catholic Europe, and of the large family focused welfare state of Nordic Europe.
The rite of passage to adulthood requires interaction between young people and adults. Otherwise there is little to check negative peer influence (it inevitably will sometimes be negative) and no real reference to the adult world.
I was discussing in the pub yesterday the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes an extended ‘family’ and cross-generational interaction.
I’d like to pursue this idea of a school ‘village’. I’d like to see far more adults in and out of schools than currently occurs, both formally in teaching situations and informally (for example running lunch time clubs). In fact, what about a communal space in which adults on their lunch break would interact with pupils? There is almost a need to force interaction – to build a Post Office in the middle of the school canteen, for example. I have a half-formed picture in my mind (half formed over a coffee with a friend of mine who works with architects and engineers) of a central space utilised by, and around which stands, small schools in a federation. The space could include not just necessary school services (the nurse, the library), but work places for adults – offering placements and apprenticeships for young people.