This, quite simply, is a blog all about the concerns with physical contact in primary schools. Although I am focusing fundamentally on UK schools, I still have a deep interest in the subject around the world.

I am a (male) trainee primary school teacher and have a particular interest in the restrictions and 'taboo' around the simple concept of the student teacher bond and the role of physical contact at school.

Ultimately, I hope to use the blog to provoke discussion and inform my self and anyone else interested, please don't hesitate to agree, disagree, argue, discuss or just have a read.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Positive action?

Here's a great article from the Telegraph involving the current Education Secretary Michael Gove. I think Gove shows a brave attitude, taking steps towards re-affirming the importance of touch in education. Although this article is only regarding teaching music, I still think it sends an obvious and positive message.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Why I was called to the Headmaster's office...

A couple of years ago I was working as a volunteer in a small primary school, out in the sticks near my home in Devon. The school only had around 100 students enrolled and was based in a small village where everyone seemed to know one another. I also worked at (and was once a pupil of) the pre-school which was linked to the school, out of which a large proportion of the children in the primary school had attended prior to going to 'big school'. This meant I knew many of the children in the school very well and had good relationships with them, which inevitably meant them and I were comfortable with physical contact.

Nothing wrong with that. Is there?

A few months into the new school year there was a fresh intake of pupils into the 'Reception' class. At the time I was mainly working with that group and was happy to do so due to my familiarity with most of the kids. The intake consisted mainly of children from the pre-school I worked at, including one particularly tough little chap who I will refer to as Bobby. I knew Bobby's parents and both of his brothers who also attended the school, so I felt relaxed and contented with our bond. However this little chap was to be the reason I have decided to undertake such a project, this little chap was to be the final straw in my unquestioning tolerance for the PC brigade in schools, this little chap ignited my interest in this subject and, most importantly, this little chap was why I was called to the Headmaster's office... 

About a week into Bobby's new start at 'big school' he was settling in fairly well, a little disruptive at times, but  myself and all of the other teachers knew that it just ran in the family (what with the brothers being at the school too). As I mentioned before, Bobby was a TOUGH little man, he played football with the year 6's, cricket with the year 5's and galloped around the playground. For the two and a bit years I'd known him, I had never seen him cry.

One day at lunch-time, Bobby was not his usual boisterous self and was sat alone at a picnic table whilst the other children played around him. I was the first to spot something different about the child and decided to approach him. I asked Bobby what was wrong and all I got in return was a grunt, a wimper and the back of his head (he had his face pressed against the table - charming way to greet a teaching assistant). Obviously this wasn't right and I was even more concerned by the fact that it was Bobby who was behaving like this. Bobby was crying! His brothers ran to the scene and explained that Bobby had an ear infection but "Mummy had given him medicine this morning". I asked Bobby if he was going to be OK to which his response was a very loud wail and "I want my Mum". It doesn't take a genius to realise that the lad was seriously distressed and in some pain, so I asked if he wanted to come up to his classroom while someone called his Mother to pick him up. Bobby straight up refused to move from the table, he said he can't and he won't because it "hurts too much". For me that was heart-breaking. It's not only my job to care for children, but it's my natural instinct. I asked Bobby if he wanted me to carry him upstairs to which he nodded, bearing in mind I had known and cared for him for two years, I knew his family, he had only just started this scary big school and he was crying. If this didn't call for a bit of love and care I don't know what does. At the back of my mind I knew this wasn't really 'allowed', but I didn't care. I picked him up, gave him a hug and told him he was going to be OK and his Mummy would be there soon.

After lunch, when Bobby had left, the teacher I was working closely with in the reception class asked to talk about the incident. I explained what had happened and he seemed pleased with how I dealt with it. However he did inform me that I would need to pay a visit to the Headmaster.

There's no other way to put this so here goes: I was sat down in front of the Headmaster, asked what happened at lunch with Bobby, and, basically, given a telling off for what I did. Told off for looking after a child.

It turns out one of the other teachers had put in some form of complaint about my conduct, stating it was unnecessary and inappropriate. I could not believe it. I had my CRB check, in fact I had about four separate ones! The family hadn't complained, the child had thanked me and all was well. But, for some reason I was still in the wrong!

Following the 'telling off' I was embarrassed, confused and actually quite angry. How could I be a good teacher, instilling good values and promoting a friendly atmosphere (amongst a thousand other things) when I wasn't even allowed to touch the children I teach? Touch is under-rated, it creates comfort, it consoles, it encourages and it is important.

Although I understand why what I did can be perceived as 'wrong', I still don't believe it is. I created this blog  because I want to see what everyone else thinks. I want to generate a picture of opinions and I want to cultivate discussion, debate and controversy. After all, this is a controversial topic.

In the end, all I can say is I care for children, and the way it seems to me, every single other person in the room when I told this story for the first time felt the same. Yes, of course there were a few who seemed to hold the same issues with the situation regarding professional judgement and litigation perhaps, but it surely cannot be denied that a teacher is not only an educator, but a carer.

How can you care for someone without physical contact? I sure as hell don't know.