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Five-year-old will never beat the so-called great and good
Southampton schools chief, councillor Jeremy Moulton says he cannot step in to help five-year-old Leah Johnston whose school has refused to help her put on her eczema cream Without someone’s help, little Leah, who suffers from a severe form of the skin condition, is unable to reach her back and must spend the day in pain.
Councillor Moulton backs teachers who say the school has a no-touching policy and can do no more than watch as Leah spreads the cream herself.
Not only is this stance backed by the head teacher at Woolston Infants School where Leah attends class, but teaching unions say they back the decision. The school should employ a nurse, they say. It is not the role of teachers to administer medicine.
And so the great and the good, the very people who should be helping a five-year-old in pain, stand by and squabble over petty rules and regulations.
Councillor Moulton says it is important not to compare Leah’s plight with, say, a child that falls over the playground. Of course a teacher could touch that child to offer help, he says.
But if a teacher spreads cream on a child without their parent’s permission that would be wrong, he adds. But of course that misses the point completely. Leah’s mother Kerry has given her agreement and is distraught that no one at the school will help.
This is nothing to do with the well-being of the child here, but all about staff at Woolston Infants. No one believes a teacher at the school would assault Leah, but the no-touching policy is there to protect staff from false accusations of inappropriate behaviour. Why the school cannot have a second adult in the room to monitor the cream-spreading and remove any fears of misunderstandings and accusations no one has yet explained.
The depth of concern among teachers over the threat of false accusations should not be under-estimated. A new law was recently passed that no accusations against teachers can be reported by the press – indeed spoken of by anyone – unless that staff member is charged with a crime. This is the only profession now given such protection under the law: that is how powerful the teaching lobby is at the heart of government.
Faced with such opposition – the teachers, the deputy leader of the council, the unions, the government, the courts – poor Leah faces little chance of having a dab of soothing cream rubbed into her poor, cracked skin.
I hope they are all proud of themselves.
• Southampton’s education department says it is perfectly acceptable for girls as young as 13 to be given contraceptive implants without informing their parents. But it is wrong, they say, for teachers to put a little cream on a five-year-old child’s cracked skin even with her parent’s permission so she must live in pain. Go figure.