Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sickening British primary school bottle-feeds 10-year-olds because they 'missed out on love'

Pupils up to the age of 11 are being bottle-fed and mothered in school as part of a radical new move to address poor discipline. A state primary school has become the first in the country to take part in the approach, which was developed in the US to give problem children the love and attention they may have missed out on at a younger age.

Instead of being given a sharp telling off or a few minutes on the naughty chair, they have one on one sessions with a trained school therapist. The children - aged between six and 11 - are bottle-fed like young babies, nursed and encouraged to play games promoting patience and teamwork. Parents who feel they no longer have control over their child can sign up to the Theraplay programme, which lasts up to three years and emphasises the importance of a strong and loving bond with a mother figure.

The controversial approach - developed during the late 1960s - has now been adopted by Rockingham Primary School in Northamptonshire. The technique is based on the assumption that children with behavioural problems have often failed to bond with their parents in infancy. It aims to redress this by making them feel loved and secure once more.

Last night, the school's headteacher Juliet Hart defended the programme amid opposition from critics who claim it prevents children from growing up. "I'm sure there will be some people who won't agree with what we are doing but this form of therapy is recognised around the world for changing behavioural patterns. We are still like any other school. In each classroom children agree appropriate types of behaviour and know the consequences if they are not adhered to, including time-out or missing play-time. They also know that if they work hard they will be rewarded with approval. However, there are some children who need help to develop relationships with their parents. For whatever reason the bond has gone and there is no mutual respect. Through theraplay we encourage that bond to grow so the child feels more secure, calm and happy. It's not about discipline. This is about changing a child's behaviour over time. Admittedly, it will have an impact on discipline but only in the long term."

She added: "For years, teachers have laboured with resistant children and wondered: 'How can I unlock this person'. Once you have emotional literacy, then the learning can begin."

At Rockingham Primary School, which has 180 pupils, they have installed a dedicated Theraplay unit, complete with one-way mirror, run by trained therapist Jo Williams. She works with a handful of children at the school and uses a variety of therapeutic methods to help children who are experiencing problems at home and at school, including calming music and lights. In a typical session she might comb a child's hair, spoon feed them, put cream on their cuts and bruises or wash dirty hands. "It's all about making them feel they're worth looking after," she said. "I had one child who was having trouble bonding with her child. There was little touching and eye contact. By the end, she was bottle-feeding him, he was stroking her hair. She said it was one of the best things that had ever happened to her."

The children who visit her are often from poor and fractured families. Often they come in groups while others come alone whilst a parent watches from a booth.

But campaigners claim Theraplay, by bottle-feeding youngsters as old as 11, holds them back and prevents them from growing up into adults. Dr Dennis Hayes, leader of the education forum at the Institute of Ideas think tank, said: "This is part of the infantilisation of adult life. It's about keeping people permanently as children, not helping them to grow up."

It is not the first time that schools have looked to other non-conventional methods to discipline unruly children. Last year, it emerged children at Liberton and Gracemount high schools in Edinburgh were given lessons in anger management.

Youth workers visited the schools in a bid to reduce classroom violence and cut the number of exclusions. Teachers there reported a noticeable improvement in the children's behaviour during the pilot project.

The theraplay technique was devised in 1967 in Chicago in a bid to build strong families and emotionally healthy children and is now recognised worldwide. They argue that warm and loving relationships are essential to a child's self-worth [if genuine! Not play-acted as here] and as a result help them to gain mutual respect for others around them. The Theraplay Institute, which has 60 therapists in the US and Canada, said it had seen a growing interest from the UK where it has a handful of therapists.

Source. And Dr Helen has some germane comments.

Britain: Half of Muslim schools not inspected for standards

More than half of private Muslim schools have not been inspected for five years, while some have not received a full inspection for a decade. An analysis of the 114 independent Islamic schools in England registered with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has found that Ofsted reports are available for only 53. Most of these involve recent visits, but two reports are for the 1997-98 academic year.

Most of the other 61 schools, and their 6,000 pupils, were inspected five or more years ago but, because of a gap in the law, their reports have never been made public. The law has now been changed, but is not retrospective.

Seventeen schools have no listing on the website of Ofsted - the official inspection body - making it impossible to establish whether they have ever been visited.

News of the apparent gaps in monitoring comes as questions are being raised about whether some Muslim schools are adequately preparing children for life in Britain. The Government recently closed an Islamic school in East Sussex, which was raided by police as part of an anti-terror operation, because it did not meet registration standards.

Last month, King Fahad Academy, a west London school funded by the Saudi government, was condemned for using text books that described Jews as "pigs".

Muslim parents are increasingly choosing the private sector because they feel the state sector does not cater for their children.

Last month, the Muslim Council of Britain accused state schools of failing to respect Muslim wishes and called on headmasters to open prayer rooms, introduce single changing cubicles, overhaul sex education and reschedule exams outside Ramadan.

A report by the Open Society Institute says there has been a threefold increase in the number of private Muslim schools in Britain in the past 10 years. They now educate three per cent of Britain's 400,000 Muslim pupils. An ICM poll of British Muslims in 2004 showed nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. Islamic schools on the DfES register are funded -privately, through the support of local mosques, other private funding and fees - of up to several thousand pounds a year - paid by parents. A number are registered as charities.

Like all the 2,000 independent schools in England registered with the DfES, they are not required to follow the national curriculum. They often devote a lot of time to Islamic studies.

A number of Ofsted reports are critical of poor buildings, inadequate resources, poor management, unqualified teachers and the low level of general education in some Muslim schools.

There are currently seven state-funded Muslim schools with three more in the pipeline. Ministers believe that if the schools are brought into the state system, they will be monitored more closely and have to follow the national curriculum.

David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said: "All schools, whether state sector, independent sector or faith schools, are subject to the Ofsted inspection regime. It is not acceptable that a -significant number in a particular category, namely independent Muslim schools, appear to be escaping the rigour of the inspection regime."

Mohamad Mukadam, the chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said: "Ofsted has the power to inspect independent schools and has not found anything that should worry people about Muslim schools.

"To judge our schools we need to look at the young people that are coming out of them and compare them with those -coming out of the comprehensive system. There is a marked improvement in the academic results being achieved in Muslim schools, a higher amount of young people progressing to higher education, and a far higher proportion going on to work in the professions."

An Ofsted official said: "Since the introduction of the Education Regulations 2003, there has been a cycle for the inspection of all -independent schools who are not members of the Independent Schools Council and covered by their inspectorate.

"Ofsted has not yet completed the first full cycle of reported inspections, but it will be completed by the end of March 2008." If a school had no published report it had not yet had a full reported inspection, but would have one in the next year.


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