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School CP - July 2004

Corpun file 13781

Western Mail, Cardiff, 28 July 2004

Task of imposing discipline 'now more difficult'

By Jenny Rees
The Western Mail

A TEACHERS' leader has protested against declining standards of behaviour since the end of corporal punishment.

Stressing that "it does everyone some good to look back", Barry Matthews, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers said today's children had too much freedom, which made it difficult to teach them discipline.

Changing laws and the banning of corporal punishment had made the task of imposing discipline more difficult for both teachers and parents, Mr Matthews indicated at PAT's annual conference in Bournemouth.

"As a child, I knew that there were certain actions that could reap unfavourable rewards.

"I did not enjoy having the cane - having the cane in those days was normal but we have moved on and the cane is now an historical artefact - or having to stay in after school any more than the next person.

"But I knew that if I stepped out of line I could be subjected to some kind of punishment."

Teachers now faced having their authority questioned by both pupils and their parents, Mr Matthews went on.

"This has resulted in the need to develop deeply innovative ways to establish authority without violating the law, which has put an additional strain on the teacher.

"I had many discussions with teachers and parents who find it difficult to impose discipline on a child because they are concerned with breaking the law and finding themselves in trouble for applying disciplinary action to a child that steps out of line.

"If the local bobby, to use the vernacular of my youth, caught me doing something wrong whilst out playing, I would most likely have got a clip round the ear," he said.

"I would not have considered it sensible to run home and tell my parents - my reward for being honest might have been that I would have got another clip round the ear."

Gethin Lewis, secretary of NUT Cymru said that society had become more violent and teachers' number one complaint was the standard of behaviour.

"The NUT would not wish to go back to corporal punishment but people have got to realise that the disruptive child in a classroom will affect the education of every pupil in that classroom.

"Some children are too naughty and disruptive to be taught in mainstream education and have to be excluded. But once that decision has been made by the headteacher and governors, it must be supported. It is wrong for independent appeal panels to overturn that professional judgement.

"There is still not enough in place to stop aggression from spilling over into the classroom and we need trained educational psychologists to support children."

Geraint Davies, secretary of NASUWT Cymru said he was "firmly of the opinion that parents are not doing as much as they should be doing in terms of disciplining and instilling discipline in their own children.

"Children know how far they can push the boundaries because they know schools do not have the sanctions to discipline them appropriately."

Corpun file 13823

Bristol Evening Post, 30 July 2004


Spare the rod, spoil the child, and what then?

The words could have come out of the mouth of any one of the thousands of parents whose children go off the rails. "My son is no angel," says the mother of the Keynsham schoolboy who has become one of the youngest children in Britain to be the subject of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. "But his behaviour is no worse than any other 10-year-old." Magistrates disagreed after hearing that this "good kid" was part of a gang which terrorised local people. The child stood accused of vandalism, making threats, theft and animal cruelty.

Anyone who is tempted to offer the old-fashioned solution to this kind of behaviour - a "good clip round the ear" - is deemed politically incorrect these days. More's the pity.

On exactly the same day as this lad was appearing in court, a teachers' leader was uttering the most sensible verdict we have heard in a long time on the root cause of a nationwide decline in discipline.

Many of the problems among young people, said Barry Matthews, head of the Professional Association of Teachers, can be traced back to the end of corporal punishment in schools.

Children face softer discipline than they did in the 1940s and 1950s, and enjoy an "extreme degree of freedom", said this top teacher.

Freedom to do what? Stay out late, drink too much, stay glued to the TV for hours and watch their parents call in the lawyers when teachers try to punish their unruly children.

Mr Matthews will have rung a bell with millions of middle-aged people when he recalled what happened if the local bobby caught him doing something wrong: "I most likely would have got a clip round the ear; I would not have run home and told my parents - my reward would have been another clip round the ear." Tree-hugging, human rights campaigners managed over the years to steer our law-makers away from this kind of basic, simple, workable way of dealing with the natural inclination of children to see what they can get away with.

The liberals have a lot to answer for.

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