Discipline failure

5th January 2001 at 00:00
IT is always tempting - especially for those of us who have long since retired from the chalk-face - to view our educational past through rose-coloured spectacles. It simply is not historically accurate for George Mackintosh to maintain blandly that in the good old days "corporal punishment was effective" (Letters, December 1) as a means of universally maintaining classroom discipline.

In fact in the 1970s an Educational Institute of Scotland-commissioned survey into the effectiveness of corporal punishment demonstrated that at least in most state schools the most persistently disruptive pupils did not change their classroom behaviour as a consequence of being subjected to a dose of the tawse, but instead - apparently - kept coming back for more.

Indeed, in that same decade the problem of "truancy and indiscipline" in Scottish schools was so great - especially i the aftermath of the 1972 raising of the school-leaving age - that the (Labour) Government of the day appointed a committee under Professor Donald Pack to look into the whole raft of issues surrounding it.

The persistence of severe indiscipline problems following the eventual (and reluctant) abolition of corporal punishment in Scottish schools in the mid-1980s can at least partially be attributed to the failure of successive governments to plough sufficient financial resources into the implementation of the Pack committee's (1977) recommendations for tackling "truancy and indiscipline" in a more rational and sustained manner, and for example by means of some sort of separate educational provision - popularly dubbed "sin bins" - for the minority of pupils engaged, then as now, in persistent classroom disruption.

Ian Bayne

Clarence Drive, Glasgow

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