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Schools 'become surrogate parents'

Schools are often forced to act as "surrogate parents" in a sometimes self-obsessed culture that fails to instil good values in children, Sir Michael Wilshaw has suggested.

The Ofsted chief inspector said that many youngsters are exposed to "double standards" - while bad behaviour and violence is condemned, it is also "endlessly available as entertainment".

A focus on "celebrity and instant gratification" does not promote effort and diligence, both of which children will need in life.

Schools can step into the vacuum and set good examples, particularly if pupils do not get this at home, Sir Michael said. In many cases, youngsters are growing up without family, cultural and community values.

Addressing the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference in Birmingham, Sir Michael said that much is expected of heads today and "moral purpose has never been more important".

"Whilst our work is deeply appreciated by many people, our society should occasionally just stand back and reflect on whether it is giving enough support to our schools and their leaders.

"A culture which is sometimes self-obsessed and puts such emphasis on celebrity and instant gratification doesn't necessarily foster in our young people the essential virtues of effort and diligence which are so fundamental to success at schools and colleges and in life.

"Our youngsters are too often exposed to double standards, where bad behaviour and violence are publicly condemned but endlessly available as entertainment.

"As a result, schools are too often asked to make up for much wider failings within families and communities. Too often, children grow up without the family, cultural and community values they need to thrive.

"This is not, I hasten to add, a counsel of despair - far from it - simply a belief, grounded in experience, that schools can step into the vacuum and make a difference; even if this means being unfashionable, counter-cultural and setting good examples where few exist at home. I have often said that schools in the most difficult circumstances have no option but to be surrogate parents so that children can achieve, and I don't retreat from that position."


From Belfast Telegraph