TV and families to blame

24th October 2003 at 01:00
Schools believe that parents could do more to help improve pupils' behaviour. William Stewart reports

Teachers consider bad parenting, dysfunctional families and the television to be three of the most significant factors behind a decline in pupil behaviour, according to new research.

The findings of the study, carried out for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers by Leicester university, came as the union revealed the list of cases where it has balloted members this year to refuse to teach pupils.

They included a boy who set fire to his classmates, another who left his teacher with internal bleeding after hitting her in the stomach with a brush handle and two cases of teachers being subjected to abuse via the internet.

The research reveals that primary and secondary teachers believe some parents need to attend classes to tackle their children's poor behaviour.

They think that dysfunctional family life causes indiscipline, that schools provide the only stable place for some young people and that pupils mimic behaviour shown on television and through the media.

Eamonn O'Kane, NASUWT general secretary, said: "While the Government has begun to realise the seriousness of this issue, many of the programmes it has initiated have yet to be fully evaluated.

"This is a problem which cannot be addressed solely by schools. Everyone has a part to play including parents whose support, or lack of it, teachers regard as absolutely crucial in maintaining reasonable standards of behaviour."

The research found that parents had little awareness of the preventative measures used within schools to tackle indiscipline and only knew about punishments such as detention or exclusions.

Young people believed such punishments, though often appropriate, were used inconsistently by teachers.

And, in contrast to teachers, they thought the factor with the biggest impact on their behaviour was the amount of time teachers spent getting to know and value them as individuals. They also felt reduced class sizes and "circle time" could prevent disruption.

The study found research showed that indiscipline and violence in schools in the United States, Ireland, France and Spain was of a similar nature and scale to that in the UK.

The NASUWT has carried out 25 refusal ballots so far this year because of pupil behaviour. The figure leaves it on course to equal the 32 cases of 2002 but numbers are likely to have halved compared to the 61 cases in each of the two previous years.

NASUWT refusal to teach ballots in 2003 have included:

* A 10-year-old boy who attacked every member of staff in his small Yorkshire school. In one incident three teachers were needed to restrain him and police were called. He also bullied fellow pupils, leaving one too scared to attend school.

* A 12-year-old boy in a Hampshire secondary, with a history of violence, who hit a teacher in the stomach with a brush handle leaving her with internal bleeding.

* A 15-year-old in a Sussex secondary who sprayed other pupils with lighter fluid and set fire to them.

* Two boys from Years 10 and 11 in an Essex school who punched and kicked a disabled cleaner who had to go to hospital and was left so traumatised by the incident he was unable to return to school.

* A 12-year-old boy in Wales who posted sexually explicit abuse about a female teacher on the internet.

The Issue, Friday magazine 11

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