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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Archbishop's attack on league tables
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales
Dr Williams is concerned about the loss of childhood

Head teachers have said they agree with concerns about school league tables expressed by the newly named Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

In a book first published two years ago, Dr Williams denounces school leagues as leading to "a spiral of failure for the less successful competitors".

"Choice in education is a term that must be stripped of its false innocence," he writes.

Dr Williams also attacks the Disney empire, saying it is turning children into consumers, by marketing strategies which link toys, sweets and comics to films.

And he accuses the corporation of creating characters in children's films which are inappropriately sexual.

The comments are made in a book called Lost Icons, published by Continuum, which is being serialised in The Times newspaper.


The focus of education should be on the needs of the child

Eric Spear, NAHT president
Dr Williams, who takes over from Dr George Carey as Archbishop in October, has struck a chord with teachers and heads around the country.

President of the National Association of Head Teachers, Eric Spear said his words gave credibility to the teaching profession's concerns.

"This struck a chord with me - we're delighted that someone in such a position can stand up in public and support the line that we as a profession have consistently taken ever since league tables were introduced," said Mr Spear.

"There are moral dimensions to all this - it's not just about accountability, which is how the government tries to portray it."

Mr Spear said the "obsession" with measuring pupils' academic performance ignored the other needs - social and emotional - of children.

"The focus of education should be on the needs of the child, but now it's on the needs of big business and the competitive world," he said.

And too many children felt under pressure to perform well in tests and exams, he added.

Protecting childhood

Dr Williams' book raises concerns about the corruption and premature sexualisation of children in a consumer society.

He singles out the Disney empire for criticism of its "tie-ins" of comics, sweets and toys with forthcoming films.

"Children must be free of the pressure to make adult choices if they are to learn how to make such choices," Dr Williams writes.


This may be a moment for society to realise that a child is a child, not a miniature adult

National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations
"For them to be free for irresponsibility and fantasy, free from the commitments of purchasing and consuming, is for them to have time to absorb what is involved in adult choice.

"Failure to understand this is losing the very concept of childhood."

Dr Williams' concerns over the exploitation of children and the erosion of an innocent childhood were welcomed by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations.

"We fully support the need to preserve childhood," said spokeswoman Margaret Morrissey.

"We as an organisation have worked for many years to persuade companies to adopt less aggressive advertising tactics towards children," she said.

"This may be a moment for society to realise that a child is a child, not a miniature adult."

Welcome appointment

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was also encouraged by Dr Williams' words.

"The NSPCC welcomes the appointment of Dr Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury and his concerns about children," a spokesman said.

"As the current archbishop is a patron of the NSPCC we look forward to discussing issues with Dr Williams.

"The NSPCC believes children should not be treated in an adult way and should have the opportunity to enjoy normal childhood experiences."


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