Michael Morpurgo urges respect for parents and teachers

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

image captionThe former children's laureate, Michael Morpurgo, is a champion of children's rights

Parents and teachers deserve greater respect for the role they play in children's lives, a writer says.

Former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo says teaching is a noble profession, and mothers should not feel inadequate for being "only a mother".

The author of over 120 books, including War Horse, says working with or for children has too low a status.

The writer delivered his speech - Set our Children Free - in the 35th Richard Dimbleby Lecture on Tuesday.

"If we are to make real progress in enriching the lives of children, and enhancing their education, we have to put the people who are responsible for their upbringing first - that is, parents and teachers," he said.

"How often I have come across a mother in a book signing queue who tells me, when I ask what she does, that she is 'only a mother'.

"And how often do we hear that tired old jibe, 'if you can't do it, teach it'? This, about what is surely one of the noblest professions.

"If we are to change things around, really change them around, then we have to have greater respect and admiration for the people who do the work.

"The trouble is that the status of those who work with and for children in this country is low, and I'm not thinking here simply of the financial rewards, although that is part of the problem.

Children's TV

"Whether we are talking about children's theatre, children's television programmes, or children's films, or children's books, it is the same, you are at the bottom of the pile. It's just for children.

"And even within these worlds, the younger the children concerned, it seems, the less status there is for those involved."

He said parents and teachers are preparing children and young people for a host of decisions they will have to make in their lives.

"We must remember that we are preparing children not simply for employment and for the contribution they can make to the common good, but for the difficult decisions they will have to make in their personal lives, in those moments when they have to take responsibility for themselves, when they decide whether or not to have sex with someone new, to be tempted into drugs, bully a school mate on the internet, carry a knife, or throw a brick through a window.

"In those critical moments their decisions, the choices they take, rely so much on the good relationships they made when they are young - with their parents and their teachers - built on self worth and self confidence - and there is no league table for relationships."

Mr Morpurgo also reflected on the former imprisonment of children at the Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre and on his visit to the Middle East in his role as ambassador for Save the Children.

The former children's laureate has long been a champion of children's rights.

He appeared on BBC Newsnight on Monday, presenting a piece on how children are being targeted in the war in the Middle East.

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