On Tuesday Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club drew attention to the NSPCC’s new campaign to keep children safe from their music teachers. Of particular note was this frankly weird and disturbing video – made by the NSPCC in collaboration with the musicians union – pushing a”no touch” line for instrument teachers:
I mean, really! There were monents during that video when I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a spoof. One must wonder what exactly are the NSPCC are trying to achieve here. For a start, despite the millions of music lessons taking place every year, cases of abuse appear to be very very rare: google “‘cello teachers’ abuse” and the only relevant thing that comes up is an article on the NSPCC’s new campaign. But assuming that there are some paedophiles posing as cello teachers, they are hardly going to be put off by being told not to adjust a kids fingers on the fingerboard. On the other hand, if this video is aimed at the rest of the profession, then I really do not find it plausible that altering a students technique could easily slip into something more sinister. P
Yet, while this campaign may not do much good, I can see how it may well do harm. Music teaching is one of the few areas of education – and indeed of child-adult interaction – that isn’t thoroughly institutionalised, and that isn’t facilitated by compulsion. How much do we want to drum in to the heads of students that all their teachers are potential paedophiles? Do we want them to look with suspicion at any teacher who physically adjusts their technique.
None of this would matter very much if the NSPCC simply stuck to posting faintly ridiculous videos on youtube. However they are, in fact, a superpower of the third sector, whose (arguably warped) perspective is highly influential on government policy. Nothing is done in the world of child protection without speaking to them. The NSPCC supported the introduction of the vetting and and barring scheme – a draconian system that allows the state to throw unconvicted individuals out of their jobs on the flimsiest of pretexts, even those not even accused of any criminal act. Now that the Con Dems, in one of their few intelligent acts, have halted the scheme so as to put it under review, the NSPCC are lobbying in its defence.
Nobody would doubt that the NSPCC do incredibly valuable work in protecting children from harm. Yet it is also possible that those working in child protection – and dealing everyday with stories of abuse – develop a very particular perspective on the nature of child adult interaction. This, indeed, might explain the embarrassing level of support that the NSPCC gave to the outbreak of hysteria over non-existent satanic ritual abuse. It is high time the media stopped giving this organisation a free pass, and that other voices were heard – not least those who actually work with children on a day to day basis.