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Sack the sneering staff say pupils

The London borough of Croydon should invest in firm but fair teachers, sack the sneering and irrational ones and spend more money on its crumbling school buildings if it wants its pupils to do better, writes Biddy Passmore.

That, at least, is the message from the borough's pupils. In a pioneering move, the local education authority asked a market research company, BMRB International, to find out what motivated and demotivated them.

A randomly selected sample of 100 pupils aged from nine to 16 said they liked strict, fair teachers who reacted predictably.

Irrational behaviour made them feel insecure and lack of respect by teachers made them disrespectful and disaffected. They wanted less emphasis on punishment and more on encouragement and praise. They reacted strongly to the depressing state of their school buildings. Year 5 boys said they would feel happier about going to school if they had a few extra playground facilities.

And eight to 11-year-old girls said that decent toilets would leave them free to concentrate on their work rather than when they could next go to the toilet in comfort.

The survey showed the need for more of a team approach by staff and pupils to encourage positive attitudes throughout the school. Pupils needed to "take ownership" of any scheme for improvement - or toilets would continue to be defiled and lockers vandalised.

The study was commissioned by Croydon's Improving Schools Study Group, chaired by former chief of Her Majesty's Inspectorate Professor Eric Bolton, and will be used to develop a more consumer-friendly approach to teaching.

The borough was recently identified as one of three authorities where GCSE results have got worse over the past four years - in Croydon's case, after improving up to 1991. The findings were considered at a conference on Monday.

Valerie Shawcross, who chairs the borough's education committee, said the results underlined the importance of listening to pupils and had "lots of implications for the way in which secondary schools are run as community-based organisations".

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