Thursday, 1 August 2013

Daniel Pelka - seen but not heard

In among the storm of justified outrage about the starving and eventual killing of Daniel Pelka by his parents I see only Daniel and wonder why no one seems to have talked to him.

We will have to wait for the findings of the 'serious case review' to find out the details of what happened and what all the teachers, social workers and doubtless many other professionals were trying to do about it - incidentally that is why none of them are available for comment at the moment in case they incriminate themselves or others ahead of the serious case review. But here was a little boy at primary school. He wasn't a baby at home, he was out in the community and he could talk. Had someone asked him why he was searching the rubbish bins for food he might have told them but we don't know yet whether anyone did ask him.

Had he thought they could help him he might have asked a teacher or some other kindly adult to help him, but so far it appears he did not ask. And that is where my concern lies. Is it right that children in primary school are apparently not encouraged to confide in their teacher, classroom assistant, playground assistant or dinner nanny? Who or what prevents them? Why is there a culture in school that does not encourage that sharing? Are we comfortable with the idea that school is only about 'processing' a cohort of children through each year? That the human relationships between adults (not just teachers) in school and children is somehow at best a luxury or at worst irrelevant?

Children are not little creatures to be 'parented', 'educated', 'trained' or 'managed' until they eventually, to the relief of everyone, turn into adults. From birth they are people, the same as adults have been people from birth. Children are citizens the same as everyone else but they deserve and need extra care from all adults because they do not (yet) have the capacities that adults do. And every adult has a responsibility to look out for children for the simple and obvious reason that we are all part of the human race; the care of children is everyone's business not just the province of some professionals who have it in their job description.

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