Mon, Mar 02, 2009
The Straits Times
Spare the rod, spoil the child

LONDON, UK - Parents in Britain believe that corporal punishment was an 'effective method of control' when they were at school, says new government research.

The parents said the decision to outlaw physical chastisement contributed to a fall in discipline, The Telegraph has reported.

The study, backed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, comes just months after a fifth of teachers in the country called for the cane to be reintroduced to restore order in the classroom.

It follows another report published earlier this week by Ofsted which suggested that traditional discipline methods such as suspending hundreds of troublemakers at a time and banning children with shaven heads and designer trainers were good deterrent measures.

Britain abolished corporal punishment including the use of the cane and rule in state schools in 1987. In the fee-paying sector, it was abolished in 1998.

In the latest study, the Department for Children, Schools and Families held in-depth interviews with 48 adults to gauge their perception of behaviour among young people.

When asked to describe what they felt was behind a decline in discipline, they made a series of observations.

These included the 'increasing demands on teachers - paperwork, planning, etc - leaving them less effective to teach and discipline effectively'.

The group, which included 32 parents, also cited the 'suitability of some teachers to the profession', suggesting that some lacked an ability to 'instil respect and good behaviour amongst teenage students'.

They added that 'the removal of corporal punishment in schools, which many felt had been an effective method of control in their day', also affected discipline standards.

Ms Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: 'I really do believe that the problem for the deteriorating behaviour is the political correctness of the last 10 years that has told children to stand up and complain the moment someone tries to tell them off.'

In the study, parents also blamed the fact that 'children and young people (were) becoming more vocal and demanding and at the same time less afraid of authority'.

Increasing pressure on children to be academically successful was also cited, The Telegraph said.

A survey of more than 6,000 teachers last year found more than a fifth believed the cane should be brought back.

One supply teacher told researchers: 'Children's behaviour is now absolutely outrageous in the majority of schools. I am a supply teacher, so I see very many schools and there are no sanctions.'

But Ms Morrissey said she was not convinced that corporal punishment will make a comeback in the present climate. 'Can you imagine the number of compensation claims it would lead to?' she pointed out.

Mr John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 'Thankfully, corporal punishment is no longer on the agenda, except in the most uncivilised countries. I am sure that this barbaric punishment has disappeared forever.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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