From the archive - Union savages anti-cane group

28th January 2011 at 00:00
2 February 1978: Activities of 'wrong-headed' teachers set back efforts to cope with undesirable behaviour

A group campaigning to abolish corporal punishment in schools was criticised this week by a teachers' union.

The NASUWT singled out the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP) as undermining efforts to maintain standards.

Mr Fred Smithies, the union's assistant general secretary, said STOPP was one of a small, but influential and destructive, group of teachers who were making it difficult to improve education.

"They have wrong-headed views," he said. "Their activities have made it harder for many teachers to be firm in coping with undesirable pupil behaviour as they otherwise would have been," he said.

And there were other groups setting back efforts to maintain academic standards. "There are all sorts of people, including some teachers, who take the line that there should be no attempts to discriminate against pupils in their standard of performance. They are the 'no-testers'," said Mr Smithies.

These groups were distributed widely throughout the country. Sometimes they were ginger groups or pressure groups within teacher organisations - but there was at present none within the NASUWT.

Mrs Shirley Williams, the education secretary, has been warned about the activities of the groups. The union this week sent her a statement which said that many teachers felt frustration and despair that real opportunities to improve education had been missed because of economic problems, lack of real community support and opposition by pressure groups.

New ideas, teaching methods and activities which were loaded on to the curriculum were also criticised in the statement.

"The curriculum is flexible but it is not unbreakably elastic," it said. "A particular problem of curriculum change is that, without adequate in-service training, teachers are often using methods and organisational arrangements in which they have no real belief andor for which they are unprepared."

It also said that in a British Market Research Bureau report only one in four teachers engaged in mixed ability classes believed it to be the most effective approach.

"This is a recipe for disaster," the statement concluded.

Local inspectors and advisers, who had promulgated many of these new approaches, would have been better advised to evaluate the ideas before propagating them, the statement said.

The statement called for "an intelligent system of assessment" and warned of the dangers of relying on simplistic interpretation of examination results.

"No system of evaluation of school performance should result in comparison of schools on the grounds simply of examination or test results." This could lead to attacks on schools which, although not at the top of the exam league, were doing exceptionally well.

The union favoured a single examination at the 16-plus and the proposed Certificate of Extended Education for those over 17. Records on children should be made available to parents, and teachers should be consistent in compiling them.

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