Monday, May 14, 2007

another world

In Britain you need to get Criminal Records disclosures (which can take months to come through and you need a new one for each post/role you take on), a couple of references and fill in various forms to be able to do any work with children, even just looking after them for Childrens' Meeting some Sunday mornings.

Last week I popped round to the local primary school (which is literally next door) and had a short discussion with someone asking if they needed any volunteers to help with reading etc. Today I went back round, met a couple of teachers with the Principal for a couple of minutes at the end of playtime - could I start tomorrow doing 1 to 1 work?!?

No doubt there will be forms etc to follow but the whole attitude to working with children is just so different here. At times it scares the living daylights out of me when I realise the lack of expectation for training for things like outdoor activities, swimming supervision etc, but at others it is refreshing and a breath of fresh air. It's a reminder of what it used to be like before everyone started getting paranoid. Some of it is the lack of blame culture - if a kid gets hurt doing something then the prevailing attitude here seems to be well the kid'll learn not to do that again rather than who was to blame for not stopping it happen.

It's quite sad really to realise just how much blame I expect to have to take when responsible for other people's children - somehow we're expected in Britain to be infailable, to be experts, to have eye's all round our head and to be conscious of what is happening in our sleep. And this is expected as much of the 18 yr old first time staff member of a camp as someone who has brought up four kids who are all now adults and/or who has taught for over 20 years.

Having lived with the British culture of child protection (and studied it at uni during a time of big changes to the law) my brain immediately starts thinking about issues like not being in closed spaces alone with a child, keeping doors open, always making sure people know you are there, not being alone with a child of the opposite sex (which has always seemed crazy as it assumes a certain sexual orientation!) - all the things that have been drummed into me so much that they are second nature now, no matter how overly cautious they seemed when they first came out. Now it's almost unnerving not to be expected to take these things into account as a matter of course! I know only too well how damaging unfounded allegations can be, but also what can and does go on behind closed doors in supposedly safe settings like schools.

It's certainly going to be interesting learning more about what it's like in schools here compared to how it is at Quaker camps, how the attitudes to such things vary and what is expected of me.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

I hear what you are saying. At Rua's nursery there are so many rules about what they can and can't do. If he poos I have to go in and change him as they are 'not allowed' to do it.

Both Morgan and Ruaridh are not allowed to have someone put their sun-cream on them - so I have to put it on in the morning to last the day!

It has gone a bit crazy here - and I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

Anna - you can look after my kids anytime! *wink*