Lessons from Rhys and Baby P

Adam Nichols
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Today I heard a report about the teachers and students at Croxteth School in Liverpool, which is under threat of closure in 2010.   The school is in a troubled area, close to where Rhys Jones was murdered.  One of the teachers described how the school was relatively small with a very mixed intake of different faiths, but by using their social intelligence teachers were able to stop problems before they started. I found this interesting particularly in the light of the helplessness people are feeling about the social care issues highlighted by the cases of Baby P and Shannon Matthews.   The teachers at Croxteth School seemed to be fully in touch with their pupils, and to treat them all as individuals, rather than as potential causes for alarm.  In cases in which the social services are seen to be wanting, the same comments come up time and time again.  “Well we thought it was strange but we presumed that social services were dealing with it.” The instinct that alerts us when something is not right about a child, or young person, or household, has been blunted by a presumption that society knows better and that we are not entitled to question or become involved. 

If we withdraw from our young people, and allow ourselves to take a defensive stance based on general reputation rather than using our social intelligence to gauge the positive attributes inside each individual we will create a generation of isolated young people whose own social intelligence will be lacking, as they will have seen no evidence of it in practise.  I am not advocating the ‘Hug a Hoodie approach’; I simply believe that re-engaging our social intelligence will help us to avoid dismissing an entire generation.