I was struck by an article in, of all places, today’s Daily Telegraph. Apparently Guy Claxton, a visiting professor at King’s College, London, has labelled erasers in schools ‘instruments of the devil'. He says that they encourage children to feel ashamed about mistakes.
He believes that instead of a culture in which children are encouraged to feel shame about their errors, there is a need for a culture in which children are not afraid to make mistakes. Children should be encouraged to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes and should not be made to believe that the best way to succeed is by getting the right answer quickly.
There is a need to ban erasers in child protection too. For too long in Britain, and elsewhere, there has been a climate of shame and blame surrounding error in child protection. Without an acknowledgement that mistakes not only happen, but are an integral part of providing complex services in challenging safety critical circumstances, learning from error is frustrated and improvements in safety and quality inhibited.
What, I wonder, would Ofsted inspectors make of a local authority child protection team that greeted them with the statement: “We make lots of errors here.” I expect it would be hands up in horror and reaching for the ‘inadequate’ stamp, but the truth of the matter is that such a team is likely to be much safer than a team that believed its practice to be error free. By and large you don’t learn a great deal from denying your weaknesses; you learn from acknowledging them and making the necessary changes.