Week in perspective

21st April 2000 at 01:00
A THIRD of secondary-school children have been victims of bullies in the past year, a poll for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found. The poll, which was published at the start of the ATL's annual conference in Belfast this week, showed that a quarter of pupils had been threatened with violence and one in eight had been physically attacked.

Younger children were the most likely to be victimised. More than half of 11-year-olds reported incidents, compared with one in four 15 and 16-year olds. Almost one in three pupils felt their teachers were not aware of bullying.

Peter Smith, the union's general secretary, described the findings as "shocking". He said: "No matter how hard a school tries to change its culture, bullying has a tendency to rear its ugly head. It seems young people are increasingly becoming the victims of violence."

While delegates were expected to blame the Government's efforts to reduce the number of exclusions from school for the continued decline in discipline, a religious group put forward a more traditional solution.

A report by the Evangelical Alliance, the biblical wing of Anglican and

non-conformist churches, said school-

children should be taught about the Christian view of hell and judgment day to keep them on the straight and narrow. David Hillborn, the main author of the report, said: "We are not trying to frighten five-year-olds but it would be appropriate at secondary level."

The ATL was also centre stage in the continuing row over the tragic case of Pamela Relf, the primary teacher who killed herself after being criticised during an inspection.

Ms Relf was a member of te ATL and after her death the union asked Chris Woodhead the chief inspector to offer his condolences to the family.

However, in a reply Mr Woodhead accused Mr Smith of an "unwarranted and patronising assumption of moral superiority".

Mr Smith said: "My concern is that Chris Woodhead didn't find it within himself to write to Pamela Relf's relatives and express his regret, condolences or sympathy. That would have cost him a first-class stamp."

Teachers feeling the pressure of targets and inspections will be looking to Lord Puttnam, the chairman of the new General Teaching Council, to help. This week, he called for the Government to increase spending on education to the level of other European countries.

Lord Puttnam described the current level of spending as "barmy" and said the first job of the GTC would be to raise teacher morale.

He was speaking after the election of the 25 teacher representatives to the 64-strong council. Almost a third of teachers registered to vote did so and the places were evenly split between union and independent candidates.

Teachers didn't get the chance to vote for the new head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, although they might have liked to.

David Hargreaves, currently joint vice-chair of the Government's standards taskforce has been given the job of taking over the 'timetable and testing" quango.

Professor Hargreaves, who is based at the school of education at Cambridge University, was one of the early advocates of testing and target-setting and is an expert on professional development. He has also supported a more flexible curriculum for older pupils.

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