The bad old days of behaviour

31st March 2006 at 01:00
The article "Ten reasons for bad behaviour" (TES, March 10) is flawed at a basic level, namely its assumption that behaviour really has got worse in the past 30 years.

It is, of course, undeniable that teachers generally remember discipline as being better in the past, but memories can be selective and unreliable. A little research would have revealed that discipline in the schools of the mid-1970s was far from perfect.

It is common, for instance, to see teaching unions complaining at the time of violence against teachers. In 1971 Terry Casey, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters, complained that bad behaviour and violence were rising and that teachers were getting little support from managers.

The following year the Union of Women Teachers made a similar complaint, protesting that headteachers rarely told police about violent incidents. In 1974 Michael McGowan of the Assistant Masters Association raised the same issue, noting how children responsible for "absolutely horrifying"

incidents were punished with suspensions of a few days.

The reasons that were suggested for such bad behaviour were little different from those discussed today. A review of behaviour by The Times in 1971 claimed that indiscipline was caused by inadequate parenting, single-parent families and the presence of children with special needs in mainstream schools.

It is likely that levels of indiscipline have varied over time, though without reliable research it would be hard to say exactly how and when behaviour has changed.

However, behaviour problems in modern schools are certainly not unprecedented and would be instantly recognised by teachers of the past.

Perhaps the problems of modern schools might be better understood with a little more perspective.

Jacob Middleton

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