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From the archive - 07.10.1983

A case of follow my leader for tough heads

Mrs Thatcher's tough image is seen to have inspired many independent school headmasters to take a much firmer line on school discipline.

Christopher Turner, headmaster of Stowe School, which expelled 12 of its 650 boarders last term for taking drugs, said that heads were no longer afraid to be "authoritarian" and to insist that boys stuck to the rules.

Some of the credit for this shift in attitude should go to the prime minister, he said. "You may not like her policies, but people have responded to her tough line. It has been a success, and that's had an effect on schools."

Headmasters had generally cast off the permissive legacy of the 1960s, when "dangerous and destructive influences", notably the drug culture, had penetrated schools.

Mr Turner added: "At that time, there was the theory you should not overfill an adolescent's time, because you had to let him develop in his own way. Unfortunately, that gave him time to be bored and take up with destructive cultures. There is a feeling we went too far."

School rules, at one time either defunct or non-existent, were now again in force, though not the "petty" regulations about, say, how boys buttoned their jackets. Heads were not loath to read the riot act to the whole school if the situation warranted it.

Regulations prohibiting smoking and illicit drinking were being systematically enforced by heads, masters and prefects, and wrongdoers face tough sanctions.

At Stowe, these range from the cane to military-style punishments such as making boys do "hard labour" - cleaning school property, clearing waste ground, shifting heavy objects - and instructing them to "parade" in the early hours of the morning.

Parents, aware of their children's need for good qualifications, and fearful they might turn to drink and drugs, fully supported the crackdown, said Mr Turner.

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