Family stress spills into the classroom

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
TEACHERS and other agencies must come to terms with the stresses on young people in their families and communities if they are to restore discipline in the classroom, according to a leading researcher and youth advocate.

The problem is particularly acute among teenage boys and young people themselves must be part of the solution.

As the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association published a survey of nearly 2,500 members highlighting growing problems in lesson after lesson, Adrienne Katz, chief executive of Young Voice, said that the findings came as little surprise against a background of family breakdown.

Ms Katz, who heads north next month to contribute to a conference in Glasgow on working with boys, said problems in class stemmed from problems in the home, on the street and among gangs. Concerns about health, drugs and violence often made boys depressed and teachers were simply in the firing line. "Some children have terrible experiences before school and you have got people angry before their first lesson," she told The TES Scotland.

SSTA delegates repeatedly slated pupil indiscipline amid accusations that many more young people are contemptuous of education and teachers. Some 87 per cent say indiscipline has increased in the past two years and blame parent and pupil attitudes.

Ms Katz said that society was far more polarised with parents far less able to parent. "But why should teachers end up carrying the can? School is only part of it and it cannot do it on its own. It is about a community approach because the problems come from there."

Researchers had found increasing levels of stress and depression among young people as parents split and conflicts, sometimes violent, emerged at home. Money was often a worry.

"Boys who are disruptive are quite worried about school work and put on a tough front in front of their mates. They say they are made to look stupid and to shore up their image they have to fool around," Ms Katz said.

Teenagers were themselves part of the solution in making schools safer places. Their constant plea was to be treated decently. Ms Katz sympathised with hard-pressed teachers who wanted problem pupils out the class and maybe out of school but said that young people had to be worked with.

SSTA conference, page 4 Survey, page 5 Bullying, page 7 Leader, page 22

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