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'Children are not the enemy'

Difficult and disruptive children who appear impossible to teach are not the enemies of teachers or of society, Peter Clarke told SCEW's annual conference.

Responding to claims that a growing number of children, devoid of parental control, were not prepared to conform, listen or behave, Mr Clarke insisted: "We should not blame the children. They are the symptoms of what is happening.

"We should be careful not to hark back to some golden age which never existed. If children are finding it hard to obey rules we should work out what to do about it."

Mr Clarke added: "I do not believe these children are the enemy of teachers or of society. When we have a perfect education system, perfect buildings and a perfect complaints procedure then I might address these points.

"It's a complete cop-out to identify an anarchistic swelling coming up to destroy our society. Think of the way children have reacted to the Tsunami relief fund and Africa Day."

But Mr Clarke felt the Government's attitude had "amplified" tabloid headlines about the threat youngsters posed.

"You would think they are a threat to civilisation as well as to our bus shelters. The term 'young people' is hardly ever used in a positive context."

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