Alison Dickie: Named Persons Bill will help protect vulnerable

POLICY formalises best practice that already exists in teaching '“ it won't mean snooping on families, writes Alison Dickie

Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 10:39 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 10:42 am
The Named Persons Bill is aimed at protecting children. File picture: John Devlin

‘Good luck Mrs Dickie, go and use that really loud voice of yours in Parliament!”

A backhanded compliment? Possibly, but as the schools broke up for the Easter holiday, I began my official election leave and this message was among the many cards I received from my fantastic primary seven class.

It goes without saying that the party I am standing for in May had never been discussed in the classroom, and – as with the wider school – they were simply wishing me well as their teacher, their colleague, and a candidate from the real life world of education.

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I entered this world in 2010 after ten years as a civil servant. It was, pardon the pun, the best learning experience, as I gained first-hand insight into how the policies of the politicians affected the grassroots, as education has too often been a political football over the years.

It has been no different during this Holyrood election campaign.

In recent weeks, I have been dismayed at how the Named Person policy has been kicked about the media in response to politically driven cries of “pause” from Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson, when only two short years ago, Labour joined the SNP in backing the bill and the Conservatives abstained.

As a teacher, it should come as no surprise that I am fully supportive of this policy. Without doubt, it supports vulnerable children and their families, potentially saves lives, and is already working pretty well right here in Edinburgh, and indeed across much of Scotland.

As part of the wider Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy and its partnership approach, I welcome a potential point of contact for every child, and a policy that does not assume which children will find themselves in a vulnerable position at any time – surely to do that is a form of stigmatisation and a lack of understanding about the diverse real-life stories that come in through the classroom door?

Unfortunately, Labour and the Tories are happy to lead the charge on the misconceptions out there. In the multi-juggling environment of teaching, however, the one I find most ludicrous is the accusation that we teachers, or indeed the named head teachers, have copious amounts of time to snoop on families in a quest to gather screeds of meaningless data on every child.

Instead, I prefer to promote a better understanding of how this is nothing more than a formal nod to the best practice that already exists, and how parents and carers, with very few exceptions, are still regarded as the best people to raise their own families.

We teachers, health professionals and other partners will simply continue to be there as part of that wider support network, doing just what we currently do.

I am left then with the thought that maybe the energy of the other parties would be better spent focussing on the policies that do seriously affect our families, such as the austerity they both voted through.

It is that invasion, that failure to understand real life and the multi-faceted nature of poverty, that brings many more to the GIRFEC and Named Person’s door.

Alison Dickie is SNP candidate in the Edinburgh Central constituency