Shocking: According to neurologists the sizeable difference between these two brains has one primary cause – the way were treated by their mothers
Our increasing dysfunctional society produces individuals who are marginalized. Every problem in our country is self-inflicted, from the Bush wars to gas prices that jump 30 cents but never fall 10 cents. The following stories from the UK also reflect our society, according to a teacher I know.
They wear nappies, drink cola and don’t know how to open a book. One teacher’s terrifying insight into 5-year-olds failed by their parents
More than 40% of children fail to meet key development indicators such as being able to dress and undress independently
They also show inability to maintain concentration or understand the difference between right and wrong
By ALEX EVANS
Last updated at 7:05 PM on 16th February 2012
England is failing its young children ‘on a grand scale’ when it comes to achieving basic levels of social and emotional development, experts have warned. Sir Michael Marmot, director of the University College London Institute of Health Equity, said social inequality is leaving two in every five children unable to perform simple life skills by the age of five.
He said markers of early child development were closely linked with deprivation – with the UK ranking ‘badly’ compared with other nations. These indicators include being able to dress and undress independently.
They also measure children’s ability to maintain concentration, the level of interest shown in classroom activities. Other areas children might be scored on include understanding the difference between right and wrong, ability to use language, recognising familiar words and developing an interest in books.
Here, one teacher – the Mail knows her identity but has given her a nom de plume – describes a day in the life of an affluent primary school. What she says will shock you…
Glancing at the clock, I realise it’s time for me to change Lily’s nappy. Past experience tells me she will make a fuss, so I doubt it will be a smooth operation. Of course, most babies dislike having their nappies changed, but that’s the problem: Lily isn’t a baby, she is five years old.
What’s more, I’m not her mother, I am her primary school teacher. And Lily isn’t the only child in my class who still wears nappies.
It’s not as if I am a teacher in a sink school, either. I work in an affluent town in the South of England, yet every day at my school we are dealing with the fallout of what can, at best, be described as parental irresponsibility, at worst, downright negligence.
I teach children aged four and five, and, of course, accidents do happen when it comes to young children using the loo. But almost every day I have to clear up after a child who has soiled themselves.
Problems: A schoolboy tries to solve a problem. A teacher’s report reveals children aged five are not potty trained – and are left with rotten teeth (posed by models)
These children don’t have a medical condition. What they have are parents who think children will learn to use the lavatory by themselves, or that it is a school’s responsibility to teach them.
So the news last week that most teachers have witnessed an increase in the number of children soiling themselves came as no surprise to me.
A survey carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, along with the charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence, also found that teachers believe primary schoolchildren are less independent than they were a decade ago. That, too, strikes a chord with me.
There is a child in my class who has serious dental problems because of her consumption of fizzy, sugary drinks. That’s bad in itself, but the most worrying thing is that, at age five, she isn’t independent enough to drink from a cup. She drinks these fizzy drinks from a baby’s bottle.
Lucy doesn’t bring the bottle into school, but she told me without a hint of self-consciousness that she still drinks ‘fizzy’ from her ‘baby bottle’.
And her terrible tooth decay is testament to that. Her front teeth are like little black pegs.
The poor child also has real problems with speech. She can’t pronounce many of the sounds because one needs a full set of teeth to do so.
I rang her home umpteen times to ask her mother to make a dental appointment. Eventually, under tremendous pressure from the school and the welfare department, whom I alerted, she did — and I assume the matter is being dealt with.
I have been a primary school teacher for eight years, and over the past few years I’ve witnessed a shocking decline in children’s basic skills.
The school makes it clear that we expect children to be able to use a lavatory, button their coats and eat with a knife and fork by the time they begin full-time education, but far too many of them just can’t. They’ve never been taught how.
These parents seem to believe that giving their children fundamental life skills isn’t their responsibility. They think that it’s the job ofteachers.
Some parents see no problem at all with sending their little ones to school incontinent and unable to grasp even the most basic concepts of learning, with no ability to sit still even for a couple of minutes and a propensity to thump other children.
Every summer, I visit the homes of the 30 children who will join my class in the new school year. In about two-thirds of those homes, I see all the latest gadgets on display, including plasma television sets, games consoles and state-of-the-art computer equipment. What I don’t see are any toys or books.
I make these visits both to introduce myself and to allay any fears that the children or their parents may have about the big step of starting school.
Sadly, in many cases, I really needn’t bother. The parents don’t even show me the courtesy of turning off the television during my visit. Asking what they hope for from school and what their worries are, I’m met with blank stares.
When youngsters have absolutely no concept of numbers, it’s simply impossible for teachers to focus on teaching what’s called the Early Years Foundation Curriculum, which sets out very basic attainment targets — for example, being able to count from one to ten.
It might seem hard to believe, but many parents barely speak to their children, far less bother to educate them. A colleague told me that children in her class of five-year-olds are unable to speak in proper sentences. ‘Give pencil,’ a child will say.
I put it down to parents dumping their children in front of the TV rather than interacting with them. I’ve even had to give up on activities such as painting because many of the children in my classroom can’t hold a paintbrush.
They’ve never done it at home, and they have such short concentration spans that after the first hesitant stroke of brush on paper, they are off, running up and down the classroom.
We are trained to teach the four and five-year-olds through play, but the sad truth is that many of our children just don’t know how to play. They have never been exposed to imaginary games or make- believe at home.
They have never had to concentrate on building a tower out of Lego, never set up a toy railway track and pushed trains around it.
Tommy, a five-year-old in my class, was a whizz on the computer. He could manipulate a mouse with ease and was adept at opening programmes, but he had no idea how to even open a book.
When I sat down with this little boy and tried to read with him, he tried to pull it open from its spine. He had no idea how to hold a pencil, and when I asked him what letter the word ‘red’ started with, it became apparent that he wasn’t even sure what the colour red looked like. He didn’t know his colours.
Sadly, Tommy isn’t alone. Many of the little ones I teach have trouble grasping the most basic of concepts. I tried to do a project on the seasons, but most of the class couldn’t name them. When I mentioned that a daffodil was growing, several children looked puzzled and asked me what the word ‘growing’ meant.
Of course, many parents do a wonderful job and try hard to expose their children to books, toys and time outdoors — but some parents don’t.
As for bedtime, many of the children I teach simply don’t have one. Some of my pupils arrive at school so exhausted from playing on their computers until the early hours of the morning that I regularly have to put them down for a nap in the afternoon.
They fall asleep instantly and miss out on whatever activity the rest of the class is engaged in. I think the school I work in is probably a microcosm of Britain as a whole.
Some pupils’ parents are stockbrokers and bankers who commute to work in the City of London, but our catchment area also includes a deprived council estate where mainly white working-class families live. Some of the children I teach are immigrants.
What happens in my classroom is in no way extraordinary. Speaking to colleagues in other schools, my experience is representative of classrooms across the country.
It just seems to me that many mums and dads have no understanding of their own responsibilities. And, working in this school, I sometimes feel that my heart will break because these children are so defenceless against the incompetence of their parents.
I love the little ones in my class, and it makes me sad and angry that some of them come to school in the winter without socks on. And let me be clear here: this is not down to poverty. Parents are simply failing to attend to such details. Instead, I keep a few pairs in my handbag, together with clean underwear.
Hard workers: While these children from a Welsh primary engage, Alex Evans – given a nom de plume by the Mail – reveals many parents don’t see it as their responsibility to give their youngsters life skills
No child should have cold feet, and no child should sit in soiled underclothes, but their parents don’t seem to agree with those basic requirements.
It is very difficult to work with children when their parents seem to work against you. Teachers who try to instil boundaries and a sense of right and wrong often end up castigated by enraged parents — and, sadly, the senior management can’t always be relied upon to stand up for their staff.
There was one boy, Jamie, in my class, who was quite a handful and was constantly spitting at other children. He seemed to especially dislike another little boy, Darren, calling him horrible names, hitting him and spitting at him.
Taking Jamie’s mum aside one afternoon when she came to pick him up, I asked if we could have a quiet word. ‘Would you mind backing me up on what I’ve told Jamie, that he can’t spit at other children?’ I asked her, smiling.
Her response left me flabbergasted. ‘You’re picking on my son. How dare you tell me how to bring him up!’ she fumed.
She then made a formal complaint against me to the headmaster, and to my amazement, he advised that I apologise.
I did so because it didn’t seem worth the hassle or aggravation of refusing. I didn’t want her son, difficult as he was, to think he wasn’t welcome in my classroom.
I love my job, and I love seeing children grow, learn and flourish. What is so distressing is witnessing the way so many parents have simply abdicated responsibility over the past decade.
Some mums and dads seem to think that their job is to give their children whatever they want, and the dreary stuff — manners, discipline and boundaries — should be left to teachers like me.
But the joy of childhood isn’t about having free rein to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t inconvenience their parents.
Surely, the joy of childhood is about the incredible journeys of discovery that children make. Surely, the wonder of being a child lies in the abundance of learning — from the colours in the rainbow to how to eat like a grown-up.
Tragically, many of the youngsters in my classroom are experiencing a horribly stunted childhood. They are painfully aware of adult concepts like binge-drinking, yet can’t recite a single nursery rhyme.
I shudder to think what the future holds for them.
The angry generation: Lack of parental discipline is blamed for aggressive and anti-social children
By LAURA CLARK, EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
Last updated at 11:59 AM on 27th February 2012
Parents who fail to discipline their offspring properly are creating a generation of angry children who lash out in the classroom, a study has found.
Pupils are twice as likely to be aggressive and disruptive if they had parents who were violent, critical or inconsistent in what they allowed them to get away with at home, research suggests.
In contrast, children tended to be better behaved if their parents combined warmth with clear and consistent rules and boundaries.
For the study, nearly 300 families with children aged four to seven were assessed for both the children’s behaviour and their parents’ discipline techniques.
The researchers, led by Professor Stephen Scott, director of the National Academy for Parenting Research, said: ‘A negative parenting style, characterised by harsh, inconsistent discipline, was clearly associated with more severe child anti-social behaviour.
‘Parents who used negative discipline had twice the rate of children with severe behaviour problems compared to the other parents.’
The finding follows claims by experts that some middle-class parents lavish material possessions on their children but are distant and barely involved in their upbringing.
Poor supervision of children’s activities and mothers suffering depression were also linked to bad behaviour.
The researchers said they were unable to rule out the argument that ‘irritating’ children were themselves to blame for ‘evoking harsher parenting’.
But they added: ‘A whole range of studies has shown the causal effect is there too, and that harsh parenting trains children to become anti-social.’ These children were at risk of underperforming at school and even turning to crime and drug or alcohol abuse.
The researchers claimed that their study, which was funded by the Government, reinforced the benefits of parenting lessons to teach mothers and fathers across all sections of society how to discipline their children.
Ministers are already preparing a two-year trial of parenting classes in three areas as part of a £5million experiment which will deal with issues such as discipline, communication and managing conflict.
From the summer, the lessons will be introduced for about 50,000 families in Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire, and Camden in North London.
But ministers hope that if the scheme proves successful they will eventually extend it across the country and make the classes available to all parents.
The research team reported that mothers who were less educated and had lower incomes were more likely to resort to negative parenting. However they admitted the link was ‘weak’ and urged against viewing the problem as being confined to these types of families.
The report added: ‘It underlines the fact that there is the opportunity to improve children’s life chances through directly intervening with programmes that are effective in changing parenting styles.’
Child literacy expert Sue Palmer blamed parents relying on ‘electronic babysitters’, and claimed in her book Toxic Childhood that many children starting school had led a ‘very solitary, sedentary, screen-based existence’.
She added: ‘Many children now watch bedtime TV rather than sharing a bedtime story, songs and chat with parents. This is a serious erosion of important family time.