I’m delighted that Mark Rogers, Chief Executive at Birmingham City Council, has taken the time to comment on my latest blog, ‘Notes on a Scandal’. For those who may not have read it, the blog deals with the (sometimes) systematic grooming and abuse of children in local authority care. It is highly likely that this has been happening for decades in Birmingham – thus suggesting that places such as Rotherham are by no means isolated cases.
I hope that interest from such a senior figure as this signals intent to investigate these matters further.
The following is Mr Rogers’ response, which I thought warranted posting as a separate blog in its own right:
‘Rotherham has reminded me of many issues, of which three recur frequently.
Firstly, we so so rarely consider sufficiently the deeper questions the deeper reasons for these things happening – ie why (not how) is abuse too often ignored, misunderstood or condoned? And I don’t just mean amongst professionals; this is a societal question. Which may be why it’s easier to focus on blaming professionals and the systems in which they work – a whole lot simpler than tackling human motivations and behaviour. But we are going to have to face up – as we are starting to do with another of the endemic abuses, namely domestic violence – to the reality that the long term solutions to CSE don’t lie solely (or even largely) with the constant chastisement and reformation of the various professions (appropriate though that may be at times). It seems to me that the failings of public services are the symptom not the cause of a wider societal malaise – but, of course, it’s easier to tackle professional failure than societal dysfunction.
Secondly, we really aren’t yet comfortable as a society in dealing with with our own ignorance and fears about ethnic and/or religious differences. For some (possibly many) the fear of causing offence is greater than the fear of tackling a difficult issues or situation.
Thirdly, when it comes to professionals (I include myself in that category as a qualified, if “resting”, teacher) we just haven’t paid enough attention to the importance of selection by values – and, therefore, attitudes and behaviours. My teacher training gave me some sufficient initial technical competences, along with some basic knowledge and understanding of child development and psychology, to let me loose in the classroom. But my recruitment to the PGCE course – and every teaching job I ever subsequently secured – never once seriously addressed the matter of my values. Oh yes, lots of psychometrics over the years, but no formal “values-based recruitment”. We should not, therefore, be surprised that some children’s services professionals do not have empathy with children.
These are the deeper issues in my view that need attention. And when we don’t, then how can we be surprised that abuse continues.’
Whilst not necessarily being in full agreement with all points, I thank Mr Rogers for this lengthy and considered response. As with fellow bloggers who recently met with senior figures at Ofsted, one of the excellent side-effects of being a blogger is that it sometimes gives us the opportunity to share opinions, views and dialogue with senior people who we may never otherwise reasonably expect to encounter.
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