Government Minister Condemns Modern Parenting
'Teachers told to step in as parents fail' (The Sunday Mail 20/1/2008)

THE State Government wants teachers to do the job of parents who have "dropped the ball" and created a generation of problem teenagers.

Education Minister Rod Welford has launched a controversial life skills initiative, to be introduced in state schools this year, saying today's youth were the most "under-parented in our history". He said urgent changes were needed to stem bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and self-harm.

Announcing a controversial "social and emotional" education strategy to start in state schools this year, Mr Welford said teachers would be asked to play a bigger parental role.

"Parents have dropped the ball," Mr Welford said. "No one wants to admit it, but as a society we have out-sourced child-raising in ways where kids are missing out on learning those basic skills of life."

The Minister, who has a 21-year-old daughter, wants educators to help schoolchildren cope with anxiety, failure and bad behaviour — lessons, he says, many no longer get at home.

But the Queensland Teachers' Union yesterday slammed the idea, saying teachers should not be expected to replace parents.

"Schools should not be seen as the easy fix to this problem," said union president Steve Ryan.

With the new school year just over a week away, Mr Welford has vowed to push on with a package of reforms — a move supported by the State Government's Youth Violence Taskforce.

The taskforce was set up in 2006 following the bashing death of Brisbane schoolboy Matthew Stanley at a birthday party.

Part of the taskforce's recommendations included calling on the Education Department to

"investigate a range of social and emotional learning packages with a view to having all Queensland state schools deliver a package from Prep through to Year 12 to encourage positive behaviour and social skills in children and young people".

The Minister said the focus of the new initiative would be on prevention and early intervention. He said it would include five core areas: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills.

Mr Welford said change was needed because "under-15-year-olds in Australia are the most under-parented generation in our history".

"This is not necessarily a criticism of parents, but a function of the changing society," he said. "We have got more single-parent families than ever. Where there are two parents, they're out to work. Kids are not getting this mentoring in the early years in the way we all once did ... boys especially are at risk. It is our responsibility to help them grow up."

The Minister said there shouldn't be resistance from teachers to his new learning plan because

"they are already doing it. Traditionally, the education community would say, 'Now hang on, that's the parents' role. I am a teacher, I want to teach them the three Rs, I don't want to have to do that'," he said. "Well, I have two responses to that: first, the greatest teachers have always been mentors of the whole child, not just the academic one; and second, I don't think we have a choice.
"I am encouraging more teachers to pick this up and incorporate it in their normal subject teaching. It can be done in social science, science, English ... use practical life examples."

Mr Welford said the Government would give teachers full support and warned that delivering education in Queensland would be "seriously impeded" if the Government did not address these concerns now.

"I think teachers are acutely aware of the behaviour problem in schools. It is not just about us loading up the education system with additional specialist teachers going around trying to put out spot fires."