On 24 July 2011, the @EveningNews ran an important article about the Future Education project, following Norfolk County Council’s decision to put the contract out to tender (and then awarding the contract to a provider from outside the East of England, rather than continuing to support a local community initiative – effectively withdrawing funding for Future Education) – please take time to read the article – then show your support for Future Education by ‘liking’ their facebook page.
You can’t outsource community
If you are on twitter – please use it to spread the word (particularly if you know any big names who might lend their support) because, as I said on facebook: “We need local, grass-roots organisations staffed by people who live in, work in and understand their communities to provide these sort of support services. Not corporate-charities with high paid executives who cannot connect with the most vulnerable in our society.”
I was particularly struck by some of the comments on the Evening News article that suggested that problem children are the fault of bad parents and that the state shouldn’t pick up the pieces. I know that is a common view (particularly with the more sanctimonious readers of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph) – however I don’t believe it should go unchallenged. As the Home Secretary Theresa May, on a recent visit to the project, said: “The success of this project is testament to the dedication of many people. It is a great example of how communities can pull together to improve the quality of life on their own doorstep.”
Here’s the reply I tried to post to those comments (unfortunately the EDP’s comment system doesn’t seem to work that well, so this has yet to appear on the site).
It’s not all about parenting
Some people really should read the article and find out more about Future Education before passing their blinkered judgement.
First thing to realise is that Future Education is supported by a charity that is trying to ‘pick up the pieces’ on behalf of society and an education system that cannot cope. All it is asking for is some of funding that state schools (the ones that have failed these children) take for granted.
It is narrow minded to assume that all children with social and educational problems are the product of bad parenting – genetics and other circumstances play their part – not every child fits neatly into the standardised education system. Many talented people have struggled to cope with the rigours of school (often dropping out in high school) and yet have gone on to lead successful lives (look them up on the web if you don’t believe me).
While ‘bad parenting’ may be a factor in some cases, that doesn’t mean society should punish the children. In fact, it is in society’s best interests to invest more at this stage – to prevent these children becoming ‘bad parents’ in their turn. If you can rescue a child from this downward spiral (which can often lead to a life of crime, more dysfunctional families and greater harm to the community) then that has to be a good thing for society as a whole.
Presumably, those who say we shouldn’t expect the state the ‘pick up the pieces’ still ‘expect’ the state to provide police for their protection, an NHS for their well-being, and a transport system for their convenience. If so, they should understand that the state plays many roles in a civilised society. If we abandon people just because of ‘bad parenting’ then our tax bills will quickly rise to pay for such shortsightedness.
What can we do to help?
As mentioned above, one of the main things you can do is to help raise awareness of this issue with friends, local politicians, and community leaders. Start by liking the Future Education facebook page – and sharing it with your facebook friends.
If you use twitter, please tweet about the issue and ask others to do the same. You can share short links to the facebook page and the Evening News stories to give people more information. You can also point them to the Future Projects website. Future Projects is behind the successful Future Radio community station in Norwich and the #BeYourFuture project.
When tweeting, please use the hashtags #SaveFutureEd and #Norwich because this makes it easier for other supporters to see your tweets (I have been using #FutureEducation but have just seen that the project team are using #SaveFutureEd so let’s stick with that) – we can then all retweet them (which amplifies the message).
If you have time to write or email a polite message to your MP and councillors that would also help. The more we talk about this, the more likely it is that the council will listen.