Summertime '77... when the teaching was easy

The Queen may still be on the throne, but discipline no longer reigns in the classroom, according to teachers who remember working during the Silver Jubilee and the coronation.

Punk rockers shocked the nation in 1977 but that youthful irreverence rarely spilled into the classroom, where there remained genuine respect for authority.

"Discipline is much more difficult to maintain now," said Brian Simpson, who taught maths in Aberdeen from 1956 to 1991. "At that time we had corporal punishment. Now, you can send them out of the classroom or give them detention, but it's nowhere near as effective as a simple tap on the hand."

Mr Simpson does, however, believe some things have improved. Education today is more relevant for children than it was in the 1970s when some teachers disregarded spelling and grammar in favour of freedom of expression. "Now they have to get down and work at things again." he said. "But they have a life-support system, called a calculator."

School today is less relaxed than it was 25 years ago, says John Puckrin, national secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and a former social studies teacher.

In 1977, school trips were commonplace, and the curriculum more varied. "It's difficult to overstate the impact the introduction of the national curriculum had," he said. "In some ways it was good: pupils have to do subjects like religious education and languages. But some subjects, such as social studies, have been lost."

Elizabeth Griffiths, too, believes that teachers no longer have the freedom once available to them. "Writing, reading and maths were the important subjects, but we also had woodwork, handicrafts, knitting and applique work," she said.

Mrs Griffiths, 88, was a primary teacher in Holywell, north Wales, in 1952, when King George VI died. She recalls the headmaster announcing his death in school assembly, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the following year.

"We had a party at school. We took several lessons on the coronation, and told the children about the royal family. There were all sorts of discussions of current affairs," she said. "There isn't the respect today that we had in those days."

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