Why living with our assumptions can be incredibly dangerous

It is a notion widely believed that when someone is in difficulty in a public place no one will come to help.

The view is even backed up by research evidence from the late 1960s which suggested that when people witness something untoward going on the majority either turn away or simply watch. It is the “by-stander effect”.

But there is a problem.  First, when attempts have been made to measure how many people turn away or just stand and watch, the percentage of non-interventionists is incredibly varied.  Second the number of total non-intervention incidents is never zero.  Invariably some people stand up for the innocent party under attack or, at the very least, help the injured.

And that is where the research has stood for decades until someone had the idea of actually measuring the number of people who do intervene by using surveillance cameras in three countries, including England.

The findings turn on its head the old view that people stand and look or turn away and showed that people are willing to help those in need of help and to take practical action to protect their communities.

Now I have written this up today because it is for me a perfect example of how assumptions are made and continue to be held, often because there is no counter-evidence.  The story begins, people repeat it, the story continues.

Sometimes, of course, there are facts: like the fact that under the present administration in England school budgets have been cut.

That is true, but behind that fact there are a number of realities.  One is that the number of pupils and students in schools is rising so overall schools are getting a lot more money.

Another is that because of the way teacher salaries have been held back, and because of a disastrous advertising campaign aimed at recruiting teachers, there is a shortage of teachers.

When a school cannot recruit all the teachers it needs, it still keeps the money given to it by the state and/or local authority, and it spends it on something else.  There is money to spend.

But in these ever-changing circumstances different ways of advertising are needed, and those companies that are using the different approaches can find that the sales are there to be had.  Not least because the number of companies advertising to schools is lower.

It is not a simple picture, but it is one in which money is available.  And of course we are at a moment when the Prime Minister has promised to raise spending in schools to at least £5000 per pupil.

If you would like to talk about your advertising to schools from September onwards please do call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk  And you can also take advantage of our offer of one or two free advertisements right at the start of term to get your campaign going.

Tony Attwood

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