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Taxes and Targets


I was listening to a fascinating discussion on the radio this morning about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor across the world. In the opinion of the contributors to the programme, taxing the rich is not likely to be highly successful; the issue is how to make the poor a little better off. I am certainly in favour of that, particularly when it comes to supporting mothers and fathers to be the best parents they can be and want to be. I know that good parenting doesn’t depend on your financial status, but nor am I naïve enough to think that having enough money to live on doesn’t make parenting a little easier.

Such thoughts were to the forefront of my mind last week when I spent time helping a young mother try to sort out some long-standing debts that she simply couldn’t pay and which were now threatening her and her family’s well-being – the roof over their heads; eating for the rest of the week; buying enough calorgas to be able to heat one room in the house without turning on the central heating, etc.

The principal concern of the mother, however, was her daughter’s school outing next month. The outing costs £12 and the school allows parents to pay in instalments. She’d already paid £3 – an achievement that both of us referred to several times during our conversation, but the next instalment of £3 was due the next day and she didn’t have £3.

You can see the point I am making. I think it would be great to have universal antenatal and postnatal education which included advice for mothers and fathers in straightened (and not so straightened) circumstances on how to make an inadequate weekly income go as far as it can. However, as I struggled with this mother to see how we could make ends meet, I was assailed with the thought of the number of school outings that just 1% of unpaid corporate tax might fund and the number of very poor families whose misery it might relieve. There is indeed something ‘rotten at the heart of Denmark’ (replace Scandinavian country featured in ‘Hamlet’ with name of our own and any other post-industrial country you might like to think of) when such a situation is tolerated. In the run-up to a general election, it seems to me that all of us involved in educating and supporting families with young children are bound to become activists.

And another idiocy that struck me last week – but one that a singularly brave and creative woman had tried to address – concerns setting universal targets for children regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses. I was very moved by the obituary of a woman of whom I’d never heard (but wish very much that I had been fortunate enough to meet) called Penny Lacey who was a Special Educational Needs teacher. She revolted against the often completely inappropriate targets set for the children whom she taught, such as teaching a little girl with Down syndrome to shake hands who then, thrilled by her own accomplishment, sought to shake hands with everyone whom she met, without understanding the social mores underpinning the gesture.

Penny Lacey replaced SMART targets with SCRUFFY ones.

Student-led

Creative

Relevant

Unspecified

FunFor Youngsters

I henceforth intend to adopt SCRUFFY targets in all my session with mothers, fathers and student health and family care professionals. My students may not be youngsters but they all want to do their best to support youngsters either directly or indirectly. So I am going to ensure that my sessions are ‘Student-led’, ‘Creative’ and ‘Relevant’ and will lead to ‘Unspecified Fun’ for the ‘Youngsters’ whom the students, whether their parents or others, want to cherish.

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