Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Mentoring in school

Dominque has been asked to be a buddy or mentor at her junior school, for smaller children. We were pleased at this: it is something which she will take seriously and do well, and will be good for her too.
However, at the weekend she brought home the booklet which she had been issued on completion of her training as a mentor (something we had not been aware she was being required to undergo). This had been delivered by an outside ‘expert’ brought into the school.

We learned that in the name of confidentiality, she had been told that while normally mentoring conversations were confidential, there were some which must be reported to an adult: if a child revealed that he was the victim of violence, bullying or abuse, for example; so far so good.

The adult nominated for child protection issues was named, and the fallback was to talk to the class teacher. Under no circumstances were you to reveal anything to your parents or family members (or a whole host of other people). This was printed in bold to make it carry more weight.

We have several problems with this:

One is that many of the problems which beset our society are the result of the breakdown of communications between parents and children. To have the school teaching our daughter not to talk to us is abhorrent to us.

Another problem is the implicit message: your teachers are more trustworthy than your parents.

A third is the demands this might place on a young child: Dom is only ten; she would take this commitment seriously. But why should she be put in a position where she is potentially distressed and not allowed, a priori, to talk to her mum, her dad or her big sister (Ant, to whom she is very close) about it?

Further, all this was done without our knowledge, let alone consent.

So we rang the school and were pleased that they understood our concern, and agreed that we could tell Dom that she was always able to talk to either of us, or her biggest sister, in confidence, about anything that might arise. Further the head said that she would talk to all the mentors to the same effect: she had been unaware of this particular element of the mentor training. (If I were ungracious, I would wonder why she should be ignorant of such a thing in her own school....)

And there were more problems with the mentoring training - but I’ll post again on those.

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