Teachers Without Borders: would you change the name?

Am rung with the news that GB (not Great Britain – but he who would be PM) has announced £20 million for children’s education in war zones in Africa. So three cheers! I cannot help but notice that since the introduction of the Liberal Democrat campaign to set up an education version of the Red Cross Gordon has been a bit more visible on this issue.

Which reminds me – I am mulling over the name of our campaign. Perhaps we should call it the Ed Cross instead of Teachers without Borders? When I was looking for a catchy title for an International emergency education response team – an education version of the Red Cross in fact – someone suggested the Ed Cross, but I thought it might upset the Red Cross at the time. However, as our campaign progresses I have come round to thinking that Ed Cross expresses what we are trying to deliver much better than Teachers without Borders. What do you think?

Anyway – back to Gordon’s £20 million for African war zones given to Unicef. Save the Children – who are leading the campaign to get the government to accept education as part of first humanitarian response – identified that out of 80 million children not in education in the developing world nearly 40 million are in war or conflict-affected zones. That means Gordon’s beneficence – whilst very welcome – is delivering about 50p per war zone child without education – albeit that his money is earmarked for Africa only whilst the 40 million children I refer to are across the whole developing world. So – not looking a gift horse in the mouth – but there is much more still to do.

Dads and Doughnuts

They’re Photo of father and childthe subject of my latest column:

In the end if our children run riot or fail to flourish then that is our own responsibility first and foremost. Yes – the government and various authorities have an important role to play to – and they may fail our children in terms of their schooling or us in some or many ways – but in the end we are the parents.

The recent UNICEF report on children’s well-being doesn’t paint a pretty picture of how we are doing – placing British children at the bottom of the heap in the twenty-one rich countries that they looked at.

You can read me thoughts on the solutions to these problems in the full article.

Gun and gang culture

A gunDid the Politics Show on gun crime in London today. It is the big story at the moment, courtesy of a spate of killings and the shocking ages involved – but gang culture and guns have been running for years.

So – yes it’s right to look at lowering the age at which the mandatory sentence for being in possession of an illegal gun can be prosecuted from the current 21 to 17 or 18. But don’t just put them in prison – where youngsters can simply learn in crime’s best university how to be on the wrong side of everything for the rest of their lives. Use that period also to invest in trying to give them real rehabilitation and pathways to a better life.

The one bit of the proposals from Blair that I thought was spot on was the need to introduce protection for witnesses that come forward to give evidence against members of a gang. But neither legislation nor police powers will change the real malaise. These gang members need such a range of support – from somewhere to go, alternative adults to care about them if their parents or parent don’t, life chances and real commitment for long periods from others. There was a guy on the Politics Show from Boyhood to Manhood, who work in South London. We need to ensure that more of that work is going on to support and sustain the individuals and the communities. It’s no good just appointing blame. This has to be about bringing support to lone parents and creating means for fathers to be with their children even if the partnership is long gone – or indeed never was. And this gang and gun culture (and I had a bit of bother saying that on TV – it came out gung!) is specific to this particular criminal culture. It is not endemic across all communities. But we all have to help resolve and resource this long term – not just now the spotlight is on it. One idea I would like to see tried more widely here is an American one – where they started something called something like ‘dads and doughnuts’. These are evenings organised by schools to bring in fathers with their children – not the mothers. Particularly useful where the parents has split up and aren’t getting on as this way – rather than only the mother attending parents’ evenings and the like – the fathers are more involved and engaged with the school and the progress of their child there.

Combined with the UNICEF report that puts our children at the bottom of the rich nation heap – it has been an eye-opening week. We are doing badly. I don’t think you can conflate the two – the gun and drug criminal culture is way beyond the norm. However, we do have a ‘behaviour crisis’ in terms of the more general findings of the UNICEF report – and I hope it is a wake-up call.

I have some sympathy with the Government in as much as so much of the damage was done under the Tories – and the Labour Government has at least made tackling child poverty one of its priorities. The child tax credits, for example, were not a bad idea – just badly executed.

However, it is clear from the report that we, all of us adults, had better have a look at ourselves and our behaviour – because we are letting our children down.