The misery of some British children’s lives could come straight out of a Dickensian novel, according to the head of a teaching union.
Many do not know the identity of the father figure in their home from month to month, said Lesley Ward, the President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
It is “next to impossible” for schools to counter the effects of family breakdown, bad parenting and deprivation in some areas, she warned.
Mrs Ward, who has been a primary school teacher in Doncaster for almost 35 years, spoke of “perfectly healthy children who enter school not yet toilet-trained”.
She continued: “Children who cannot dress themselves, children who only know how to eat with a spoon and fingers, and have never sat around a table to enjoy a home-cooked family meal.
“Children who think that the word ‘no’ means if you throw a wobbly it will miraculously turn into yes.
“Children who get themselves, and sometimes their younger siblings, up in the morning. Children who bring themselves to school at very young ages.
“Children who sometimes don’t know who will be at home when they get home – if anyone.”
Earlier this week a horrific attack by two Doncaster children on two of their peers prompted renewed warnings about the effects of family dysfunction in British communities.
The ten and eleven-year-olds accused of the attack were abused by their father, while their mother has a total of seven children by three different fathers.
The Independent’s Bruce Anderson compared the circumstances of the Doncaster boys with those of 17-month-old Baby Peter, who died at the hands of his mother and her live-in boyfriend.
He said, “we have allowed an underclass to come into being” based on “seven deadly sins”.
“First, the collapse of the family. Second, the collapse of fatherhood; Dad’s sole role is impregnation. Third, the collapse of all inhibitions about producing children. Fourth, the collapse of the work ethic. Fifth, crime. Sixth, drugs. Seventh, and underpinning the lot, promiscuous welfare.”
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said: “The inconvenient reality is that, in Britain today, there are a growing number of dysfunctional families with multiple children who will, in turn, go on to breed even more dysfunctional children.”