As a former teacher, I welcome Tuesday’s speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools and Social Care. Courageously highlighting absent fathers and the breakdown of family life as a root cause of many of the country’s social problems, Michael Wishaw has merely articulated what teachers in Scotland have always known: ‘doowally kids have doowally parents’.
As one of the first education leaders in the country to break the taboo of not speaking publically on the issue, risking the wrath of the mealy mouthed ‘PC’ establishment, Wilshaw did not mince his words saying: ‘Some people will tell you that social breakdown is the result of material poverty...... It’s more than this. These children lack more than money: they lack parents who take responsibility for seeing them raised well.’
As a former deputy head who has chaired hundreds of meetings with parents and their behaviourally challenged children to negotiate a return to school following a period of exclusion, I can categorically state that in most cases, the troubled behaviour of the child was rooted in fecklessness of their parent(s). Indeed some of the parents I encountered were less mature than their child.
Wilshire’ analysis of feckless failing families is supported by data from the Office for National Statistics showing that the proportion of babies born to married couples is at its lowest ever having dropped to 53 per cent last year from 59 per cent a decade previously. In 1962, the figure was 93 per cent.
Further shocking statistics reveal the extent of the dysfunctional family unit in the UK today. Earlier in the year the Marriage Foundation reported that: ‘nearly nine out of ten babies born to co-habiting parents this year will have seen their family break up by the time they are 16. For babies born to married parents, the prospects are enormously better’. The Centre for Social Justice also reports that a million children are growing up without a father, with the number of single-parent families is increasing by 20,000 a year.
In his speech, Sir Michael Wilshire claimed that 100,000 children are being raised by people addicted to hard drugs. As he spoke, Ofsted reported that 700,000 young people in England and Wales grow up in homes blighted by drug or alcohol addiction.
Many write off such families as part of an inevitable underclass which will always be present in society. Not so!!!
As a Christian I know that every adult and child matters to God. The Bible is clear about the premium God places on the family and the role of mothers and fathers. The church itself is referred to as the family of God.
The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Ephesus said: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.’
We should pray for and encourage our churches to be more relevantly involved with families. Let’s have fewer expensive empty church buildings and more investment in Christian community outreach workers who have the credibility and skills to positively support families.