Schools are being expected to pick up the pieces as society turns its back on the traditional family, says the head of teachers’ union, Voice.
For some children, school provides the “only certainty and stability in their lives,” said General Secretary Philip Parkin at the union’s 2008 conference.
At the worst end of the spectrum, children without a functioning parent figure are suffering from “emotional deprivation” and living in “chaos”, he said.
The “character of childhood” has been significantly affected by the disruption of family structures, the creation of many more step families and the shortening length of many relationships, he said.
There is now more focus on “the primacy of the individual, rather than community” and more emphasis on parents working, so that less value is placed on the role of the full-time parent.
Meanwhile, Mr Parkin argued, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has placed too many new requirements on teachers.
He said: “The government is only too willing to place duties upon schools in respect of child well-being – and I refer you back to the founding principles of this union and its commitment to the well-being of pupils – but has it gone too far in this respect?
“My impression is that recent DCSF work on the parent agenda has concentrated more on the rights of parents than their responsibilities.”
He said that teachers are being asked to deal with a growing list of problems outside education, such as obesity, gang membership, underage drinking and drug use, which parents are failing to address.
“I feel very uncomfortable about the direction in which our society is going,” he added.
Mr Parkin is the latest public figure to speak out on the way family breakdown is damaging children. Earlier this month, comments from Barbara Wilding, the Chief Constable of South Wales Police, were published, in which she described an “angry” generation of young people seeking to replace their broken family ties with the tribal loyalty of gangs.