tough toddler

The challenge of dealing with bad behaviour among young people remains on the British government’s agenda following last summers riots, and lectures to the parents cannot be relied on to produce the necessary reform. Family life is always in the too hard basket for governments — except when they want to give marriage and adoption rights to same-sex partners, but I digress.

Not surprisingly, then, the latest development is a report recommending that the crack-down on unruly behaviour should begin in nursery schools, because children at risk of going off the rails can be spotted at the age of two. Nurseries should identify toddlers showing early signs of aggression and give them special tuition on acceptable behaviour, says Charlie Taylor, headmaster of a special school and the government’s behaviour tsar.

Like me you may be thinking, But aren’t there studies showing that being placed in daycare by the age of two may actually cause aggression in some kids? Isn’t a deficit of parental attention the main reason that kids’ behaviour becomes unbearable? To be fair, some parents need a lot of help with the task of raising children, and, to be honest, the problems often go back to the fact that a parent is missing or was never there, which goes back to the real marriage issue Mr Cameron and co should be grappling with, but I digress again.

Mr Taylor also suggests that some five- and six-year-olds with the most serious difficulties could profitably spend time at institutes for the most unruly pupils.

These institutes, dubbed “sin-bin schools” by the media, have already been given the green light by the government. They are to be different from older pupil referral units where expelled pupils were often dumped and given little formal schooling. Instead, these units will concentrate on basic skills — including vocational — and have longer teaching days. Like mainstream academies, the schools will be able to teach their own curriculum and pay staff “appropriately”. Teachers would be specially trained for the units.

Last October the government education ministry Ofsted issued a 43-point discipline checklist (22 tips for heads and 21 for teachers) and instructed school staff to display all school rules — and sanctions — clearly in each classroom to set proper boundaries. The document stressed acknowledging decent behaviour, with rewards for the best pupils.

Well, though it’s all ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff, it is worth a try. Especially if the guys running the country are going to persist in addressing all the wrong issues about marriage and family life. 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet