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Shock tactics in war on violence

One in five children under 16 has been hit by their parents with instruments such as belts, rulers or pieces of furniture, and nearly all have been smacked, according to government figures.

A quarter of women suffer domestic violence, usually witnessed by their children. Sixty per cent of young people have been bullied at school.

These depressing statistics are contained in a new report from the Forum on Children and Violence. The forum, a group of leading children's charities, this week launched "Checkpoints for Schools", advice for teachers on tackling the problem of violence.

The figures were released as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children launched a TV advert and its own Full Stop campaign to combat violence against children.

"These statistics paint an alarming picture of violence in all levels of our society," said George Varnava, author of the report. "For some children, only school represents security in a rapidly changing and often hostile world."

Mr Varnava says schools should tackle violence through home-school agreements, train staff in conflict management and provide "quiet" spaces for pupils.

George Hoskins, research co-ordinator for Worldwide Alternatives to Violence, said more needed to be done to tackle the cause, and not just the symptoms of violent behaviour in children. He said: "All children need rules, discipline and boundaries. Discipline can be given in a loving way or with a belt across the face. Only the loving way works."

Research from Oxford University, also published this week, found many young men felt emotionally and physically unsafe at school.

The report, Leading Lads, said macho attitudes and a "school is uncool" culture had created a generation of boys lacking in confidence, optimism and motivation. Bullying was prevalent. More than half of the 1,400 13 to 19-year-old boys interviewed had been threatened, and many had become depressed.

"Checkpoints for Schools" is available from the Forum on Children and Violence, price pound;2.50 (incl pamp;p). Tel: 0171 843 6309.

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