Parents are increasingly looking to schools and teachers to fill the moral vacuum that exists within their own children.

According to a senior headteachers’ leader, pupils lack realistic aspirations and are too heavily influenced by what they see as the “easy” lives of celebrities.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, believes some children have lost the art of conversation because they rarely sit down for a meal with their parents and pinpoints particular issues with working class families.

Maintaining that schools should never take the role of parents, he told the association’s annual conference: “For some children, schools have had to take the place of the institutions that used to set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

“Never have the values of school been more important in children’s lives. Never has the job of school leaders in articulating those values, day by day, week by week, been so important. For many children, school and its values, its clear boundaries and moral framework, are the only solid bedrock in their lives.”

The decision to highlight “working class” families might cause a sharp intake of breath in some quarters, but it shouldn’t deflect from his main point.

There seems growing evidence that many modern parents are simply unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their own actions, let alone their childrens’. This is generally a classless issue and not confined to one socio-economic grouping.

The unwillingness to accept responsibility stretches right across our lives – from the millions of adult internet users who do not believe the buck stops with them for protecting their own personal information online, to the mother of an eight-year-old weighing more than 14 stones (89kg) who appears more inclined to talk to the media about her son’s obesity than tackle the issue herself.

At some recent point it became the norm to shift the blame, to refuse to take any responsibility, to want absolutely everything handed to us on a plate. Far too often we are more inclined to look elsewhere for someone or some other organisation to deal with issues that impact on us.

We point the finger at others, rather than accepting it is something we are capable of taking care of ourselves.

This country has been failing its children for generations. Arguably it started with the Thatcher generation – the success at all costs and selfishness, coupled with the belief that only the strong survive and the weak deserve nothing but contempt.

So are we now seeing that first crop of teenagers abandoned without hope during the Thatcher years and beyond now willingly abdicating all responsibility for their own children?

If so, it is little wonder that this current generation of children is slipping into an ever-increasing and ever-more deadly spiral of discontent, disinterest and despair.

I seem to have written plenty in the last year or so responding to various reports and studies highlighting just how pressurised and horrendous modern life has become for youngsters. I have a huge amount of sympathy for them, not least because it is a situation society as a whole has created for them.

We want kids to grow up far too quickly. They are sexualised at an increasingly early age, repeatedly provided with mixed messages on a variety of issues from body image to school examinations, demonised and lionised in equal measure and spoon fed a diet of ignorance, arrogance, greed, superficiality and egotism from the dubious role models presented by the media in a multitude of formats.

So, where are the parents in all this?

“It’s perhaps a sad indictment on the present age that we accept the need to help parents to play their part – to rediscover what being a parent means,” John Dunford told the conference delegates.

He is right.

But is it already too late?


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