Friday, 23 July 2010

A Modern Truth



It's a sad state of affairs to know that our young people are not being taught social and team building skills in school these days.

But Dave Cameron has an answer - albeit the wrong answer. Yesterday he expanded on his vision for the Big Society when he outlined plans for a National Citizen Service (NCS) for all 16-year-olds in England, as voluntary sector leaders warned they faced major cuts in their budgets for many existing youth programmes.

Under the Prime Minister's proposals young people will be encouraged to volunteer for eight weeks in the summer after finishing their GCSEs. The first 10,000 children will begin taking part next year, completing a three-stage programme which will include 10 nights away from home.

He said: "National Citizen Service will help change the fact that too many teenagers appear lost and feel their lives lack shape and direction. A kind of non-military national service, it's going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn't happen right now."

The first problem I see with this proposal is that it sounds unhealthy. Not that these youngsters will be denied their 5-a-day unhealthy, but it smacks of indoctrination. These schools could churn out young people very much 'on message' - a younger and more brainwashed version of the Righteous whose sole ambition in life is to meddle in the lives of others. Messages regarding smoking, eating, drinking, exercise could well be pumped into the social atmosphere until we all take to our homes and never venture out again.

Stephen Bubb, head of Acevo which represents leaders in the voluntary sector, said that these summer schools will be 'colonised' by children of middle class parents, but his statement shows his obvious lack of knowledge of children. Many whose parents are 'middle class' are just as demotivated as children of any other class.

Appropriate and well qualified staff will also be essential. Over the years I've worked with many professional educationalists but few who would be suitable for a front line position in such a project. It would be good to see ex-military employed and trained to do a share of the front-line work, along with the likes of Scout leaders and Guide leaders - people who actually know children. That would ensure each child was treated equally.

It's a sad, modern truth that the introduction of comprehensive schools has done nothing to integrate children from all backgrounds. Wasn't that one of the main reasons given for doing away with grammar schools and academies?


10 comments:

Sophia Pangloss said...

It smells a wee bit Hitler-youth-like tae me, or else like yin o' thae American fat-camps ye see oan the telly. Either way it disnae sound awfy British. The idea's choc-a-bloc wi problems. Fer a start wha's staffin these camps? Is it teachers, an' if it is wha's payin them tae work right through their holidays? Long holidays are a benefit-in-kind tae a lot o' teachers, an' they'll soon be complainin o' extra stress if they tak this oan. An' ah can see a bit o' middle-class-colonisation, in that it'll be the pushy-parents that'll be settin agendas an' likely dominatin the thing.

Still, at least this sounds like jist anither o' thon 'English' education policies, we should rest easy up here, ah cannae see it happenin in Fauldhoose or Stoneyburn.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Under the Prime Minister's proposals young people will be encouraged to volunteer for eight weeks in the summer after finishing their GCSEs. The first 10,000 children will begin taking part next year, completing a three-stage programme which will include 10 nights away from home.

Assisting the local workers collective farm to gather the crops?

WHERE have I heard THAT before....?

subrosa said...

Sophia, ye've read ma mind so ye hiv. Jist as lang is it steys doon yonder I'll be fine. Naw, it's indoctrination.

subrosa said...

Possibly in the same place I have Furor. ;)

George Laird said...

Dear Subrosa

I would disagree with you that the idea of Big Society is wrong, the application maybe.

Everyone is familiar with young adults going on Gap years, the poor don’t get such opportunities and the problems of social mobility are widely known.

Why shouldn’t poor children from disadvantaged backgrounds have their horizons broadened?

I spent many years of my life doing volunteering to help people; we don’t have enough of that kind of attitude.

Last year on the bus on the way home, an elderly woman took a heart attack on a bus of about 25 people.

I was up the back, the alarm was raised and the bus pulled over. I thought the driver would jump in and give CPR; he just stood there, hands in pockets.

Half the bus got up and left immediately to get the bus behind and the rest of the passengers stay in their seats.

When I realised what was going on I immediately went to help the woman before I thought the driver would act.

I was the only person out of about 25 to act, I did CPR till the medics came, I don’t know if she survive or expired, the Police never turned up.

Maybe a National Citizen Service has merit but it has to be set up properly and run properly not for the benefit of the government but for the end user.

We need more people to volunteer.

Cameron said:

"National Citizen Service will help change the fact that too many teenagers appear lost and feel their lives lack shape and direction. A kind of non-military national service, it's going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn't happen right now."

He should have said:

‘The National Citizen Service is a volunteer scheme to allow young teenagers the opportunity to have experiences that they would otherwise be denied. It is a volunteer service which doesn’t bar people because of their financial situation and as such it's going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn't happen right now.’

If he had phrased it in that fashion and wanted to achieve that outcome it would have been better.

In Scotland, poor kids will not get that opportunity, only the rest of the UK.

This scheme is one I have taken an interest in to see how it works in practice; the idea is sound, the application maybe a different story.

Such a scheme shouldn’t be compulsory because there is no such thing as compulsory volunteering.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

subrosa said...

Dear George

I have no problem whatsoever with any child's horizon's being broadened, in fact I very much welcome it.

But I do have problems with this. It's too short for a start because it's intensive and not spread over a period of time such as many successful schemes in other western countries.

There's nothing about the subject matter, which, worryingly, allows the government to set the agenda - although of course we'll hear there was 'parent' input. Nobody asks the likes of me to input to such things. I could tell them quite a bit about how to widen the horizons of children.

More people to volunteer? Do you know how many volunteers are treated George? I don't think so. I've done volunteering for some years and I'm sick to death of doing the jobs of those who sit there in quanqos claiming to be 'qualified' plus claiming rather handsome salaries. I could go on...

You see George, when they did away with the Academies and secondary moderns, which I admit didn't work together in many areas of Scotland, they thought the social classes would be integrated. I know headmasters of comprehensives spend more time dealing with what boil down to be 'class' issues than anything else.

True, there's no such thing as mandatory volunteering. Where does that leave the children who lack in self confidence?

banned said...

SR, this scheme is not for all 16 year olds, it s for 16 year olds leaving education; ie those NEETS whose life has already failed and who are most likely not to volunteer for such a programme except that other social support will be denied them until they reach 18.

subrosa said...

Ah right banned. The info I had was it was for those who had just sat their GCSEs - all of them.

In that case the 'middle class' children won't be involved will they? They're said to have parents who support them (although I disagree with that sweeping statement).

George Laird said...

Dear Subrosa

Some different stories on volunteering for additional information!

"Do you know how many volunteers are treated George? I don't think so".

As a volunteer (qualified) I taught at Glasgow University for free, not even expenses Subrosa.

I was treated like dirt by the University of Glasgow staff as a volunteer, like dirt.

When I was taking my exams to get qualifications staff denied me the same courtesy extended to other coaches.

When I asked for additional hours of access which was granted to others, I was refused, and remember I was paying for the qualifications myself, no grant, and my tuition was free and available to the entire university community.

As well as that the staff disrupted my classes during practical sessions in the run up to the exams.

That is my experience of volunteering.

Here is a politic story that happened at the Westminster count in Glasgow.

A volunteer who helped out on several people's campaigns went over to see people in their branch. The volunteer was there on a ticket from another branch so wasn’t part of their home branch team doing ballot sampling.

After saying hello to another activist, a Glasgow Councillor came up and asked why that person wasn’t doing ballot sampling.

The person joking reply:

“don’t I do enough work for you for free”, that didn’t go down well.

The Glasgow Councillor then proceeded in an angry manner to swear at the volunteer in front of other activists in the hall at the SECC.

The volunteer didn’t return the abuse.

Since that incident, the volunteer hasn’t received an apology from the Councillor for the way they were treated.

What political party do you think the volunteer was helping?

I give you some help it wasn’t Labour, Tory or the Lib Dems.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

subrosa said...

Hi George. I misled you perhaps. I was meaning volunteers for some of these 'charities' and no, I won't name names. They know how they treat volunteers.

George, I'm not going to give details of my years as a political party volunteer. Suffice to say I was rather naive so it took me quite a while to see the 'system. That is why I'm not a member of any party.

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