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Vicious circle

Indiscipline is another problem being made worse by teacher shortages. As a new Office for Standards in Education report says, the number of schools where behaviour is unsatisfactory has risen to one in 12 (see page 8). Like heads in our vacancies survey, it blamed temporary teachers for contributing to this trend.

This follows a TES poll published in January which found that a quarter of teachers were threatened by pupils last year. We are in danger of creating a vicious circle in which a lack of regular teachers encourages pupils to misbehave, which then puts more stress on all staf and leads more to leave the profession. As chief inspector Mike Tomlinson said, schools alone cannot improve young people's behaviour. Parents and wider society need to take responsibility for the values passed on to young people.

But many of the 100 secondary schools which account for 10 per cent of all permanent exclusions could do more to help themselves. In particular, as OFSTED reports, black pupils are often excluded for longer than their white peers for similar offences. This is not acceptable. To win the respect of pupils, schools need to be fair as well as firm.

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