Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 26 April 2012


On Friday I had a meeting with three parent support advisers. This is the name given to a person engaged by a school to support parents who are going through a tough time and could do with a helping hand. There is no shame in this. It might be a short term predicament - we all go through tough times: husband away in Afghanistan, mum and dad separating, one partner lost her job, domestic violence, serious illness in the family, the onset of mental health challenges – it could be any of these sudden strikes or a combination or something else. Naturally these times of turbulence impact the children, which in turn impact the school.

It might be longer term volatility. I see many people in my surgeries – yes even in this supposedly affluent area- with whom I would not like to trade places, whose lives lurch from one degree of instability to another.  Whether we like it or not, many children today grow up in homes of flux, some of them in homes of chaos. This obviously impacts how a child behaves at school and as we know this can disrupt the classroom for everybody else. It therefore makes sense for the schools to do all they can to minimise disruption both for the sake of the child and his or her peers. It is unfair and ineffective to expect hard-pressed teachers to act as social workers as well as educators and yet somebody has to play that role. Because a school is in daily contact with these homes, through their children, it makes sense to base the support in the school.

The idea started life under the last government and has slightly fallen victim to the unavoidable cuts that we have been forced to make. Although the budget for PSA's is still there in theory it was not ring-fenced and some schools have chosen to spend it elsewhere. I believe this may be short-sighted.  Social conditions are not going to get any easier. Teachers are not suddenly going to find spare hours in the day. Schools need to put investment and effort into doing all they can to improve the lives of the children who enter their gravitational pull and that sometimes means supporting parents. I no longer see this as a luxury to be funded when times are good, but a sad necessity to shore up the next generation; a priority even in times of austerity.

posted by Gary @ 10:08