Met working with schools in bid to offer an escape route
Michael Gove: Stop the whingeing and get teaching
Anna Davis, Education Correspondent
31 Oct 2011
Schools are having to act as “surrogate families” for pupils because parents are failing even to feed their children, the new education watchdog warned today.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief of Ofsted, said teachers are taking the place of mothers and fathers who do not fulfil basic parenting tasks.
Schools are going so far beyond the call of duty that they now hold the key to solving London’s gang crisis, he added, as they teach children the difference between “good and evil”.
Sir Michael, 64, is the former head of pioneering Mossbourne Academy in Hackney. He told the Evening Standard teachers should be on “a mission”, adding: “Schools more and more are becoming surrogate parents.
“Often children come from homes that are dysfunctional, where parents may love their children but not be able to support them for a variety of reasons, where there are problems with gang culture.
“Schools – and my school is one of them in Hackney – take on a parenting role. We become surrogate parents for a lot of our children, and that means working with them beyond the school day well into the evening.
“Giving them an evening meal, mentoring, supporting them in a way that a family would do. Doing what is absolutely necessary to ensure they have a secure and safe life.” Tomorrow a government report will set out plans to tackle London’s gang crisis.
Sir Michael said none of the pupils at Mossbourne Academy were involved in the summer’s riots – despite living in the middle of the affected areas – as the school had taught them the difference between “good and evil”.
In an interview with the Standard, he said he made sure students who can’t read are given tutoring at 7.30am until they catch up: “Parents should be [reading with children] but often they don’t. It’s up to the school to promote literacy.”
He said he makes it clear to all staff that “this is a mission and a mission doesn’t end at 3.30 in the evening. It’s a mission to be a family for the children who need that level of support.
“Gang culture is a very complex issue, but the theory is that a lot of young men join to be part of a family that they don’t get at home. They feel safe in a gang, they are cared for in a gang, and the gang then develops a sort of hierarchy. We have to demonstrate to our children there is an alternative, that there is a family that’s going to care for you at school that will look after you and show you another way.”
Children on the periphery of joining gangs have often done badly at school and feel like failures, he said: “Once they see themselves doing well and their confidence is boosted they be-come much more interested in school and learning. Our job is to give them that self-confidence and self-esteem to show them that education is the way out of poverty and deprivation.”
Sir Michael, who is also director of education at academy operator ARK Schools, added: “Academies in the main are going into really challenging areas, poor areas where things haven’t been good.” Of his time at Mossbourne, he said: “We talk a lot about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.”
At a conference on academies organised by ARK today, education secretary Michael Gove said all headteachers needed to ask themselves why their school was not doing as well as Mossbourne.
Tomorrow’s government strategy will argue that many children join gangs as a substitute for the discipline, loyalty and structure usually found in families. Sir Michael has told how his pupils speak “eloquently” on the subject.
Many say they are pressured to join a gang from as early as age nine, and are bullied and ostracised if they do not. At least a dozen Mossbourne staff escort pupils to bus stops and stations every day.