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Chris Keates

Whenever teachers are asked what causes them most concern about their job, pupil indiscipline almost always tops the list.

Hence it is no surprise to find that in surveys of parents, pupil behaviour is a high priority for them as well.

The latest TES survey results demonstrate that parents and schools are united by their desire to maintain high standards of behaviour and in their acceptance of the self-evident truth that pupils cannot learn and teachers cannot teach in an environment where there is disruption and violence.

This shared ambition should provide a strong base from which to tackle the problem jointly. Unfortunately, the reality is that some parents take a hard line on discipline but not if their own child is in trouble. This is further complicated because parents' views of suitable punishments vary widely. Schools have to struggle to reconcile these different approaches.

One of the most worrying aspects of the survey is the apparent lack of seriousness parents attach to pupils swearing. Many years of dealing with cases of pupil indiscipline has demonstrated that it is a short step from pupils swearing at staff to physical assault. The effects of verbal abuse are corrosive and can have as devastating an impact on the health of a teacher as a physical assault.

It is important to keep pupil indiscipline in perspective. Only a minority of pupils engage in serious disruption and violence. The vast majority behave well and are engaged positively in learning.

It is gratifying to note that most parents consider that teachers are doing a good job in managing behaviour and believe standards are improving.

Schools and parents working together will always be the most effective solution.

Chris Keates is acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

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Chris Keates

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