While caring for children, schools should also expose them to challenges. It is through a taste of adversity, struggle and failure that character develops. Competitive sports and activities have a place for all ages.
The wellbeing emphasis in Scottish schools is leading to a therapeutic approach that leaves children with the assumption that professional emotional support is required to face the ups and downs of daily life. It can also undermine the role of families as schools constantly have to present themselves as alternative carers. While children should know that they can speak to school staff about problems at home, schools should not invite children to assess their parents through wellbeing discussions and questionnaires. Schools should positively encourage gratitude, respect and obedience towards parents and a respectful attitude to adults in general.
While it is good to listen to pupils’ views and inform them of their rights, pupils should not be led to believe that the school exists to give them whatever they want. The ubiquitous emphasis on teaching children about their rights can lead to a demanding and selfish mindset, regarding adults as service providers whose primary function is to fulfil their wishes. Teaching children that they are entitled to freedom from adult instruction undermines discipline in both the home and at school.
A national certification in character qualities such as good manners, punctuality, personal presentation, trustworthiness and industriousness should be available to all pupils before they leave school. This would be rigorously assessed against objective criteria over a period of several weeks. This could help pupils focus on these vital qualities and thereby prepare themselves for successful employment. It could also assist schools in maintaining high standards. Failure to gain the certificate could have negative implications for state benefits. Opportunities to complete the assessment could also be available after leaving school.