Hitting children with sticks does not improve their behaviour, says union

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Hitting children with sticks does not improve behaviour, a teachers’ union has said, in response to a survey on school discipline published today.

The survey, commissioned by the Times Educational Supplement (TES), reveals almost half of parents and a fifth of children believe caning should be brought back to the classroom.

The results, which will be pounced upon by a government planning to give teachers more powers to deal with poor discipline, were given short shrift by teachers’ unions.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “I have no doubt that the Secretary of State for Education will endorse these findings and claim that the Coalition’s behaviour policies aim to do just what parents are asking. Unfortunately, they do exactly the opposite.”

And Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Behavioural problems often stem from very complex issues outside of the classroom and we believe that the use of corporal punishment, which some parents might see as a quick-fix solution, does not work. Teachers already have the power to use reasonable force with pupils if necessary, but unless the interpretation of what is reasonable force is made watertight and clarified, teachers will continue to risk dismissal from school if they have to intervene to prevent a pupil getting seriously hurt.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said:  “Parents and children also quite rightly identify the need for teachers to exercise their professional judgement in the classroom and not be restrained by a prescriptive curriculum. If children and young people are not engaged in the classroom this is a major contributing factor to disruptive behaviour.”

* The statements from both unions are published in full below:

Chris Keates said: “The survey shows a high level of parental and pupil support for teachers and a strong recognition of the importance of their role.

“The overwhelming backing of parents and pupils for teachers being allowed to demonstrate more authority and enforcing tougher discipline will be welcomed by the profession.

“I have no doubt that the Secretary of State for Education will endorse these findings and claim that the Coalition’s behaviour policies aim to do just what parents are asking.

“Unfortunately, they do exactly the opposite.

Mary Bousted said: “Behavioural problems often stem from very complex issues outside of the classroom and we believe that the use of corporal punishment, which some parents might see as a quick-fix solution, does not work. Teachers already have the power to use reasonable force with pupils if necessary, but unless the interpretation of what is reasonable force is made watertight and clarified, teachers will continue to risk dismissal from school if they have to intervene to prevent a pupil getting seriously hurt.

“It is encouraging to see that parents recognise the efforts that teachers put in to their profession and appreciate how vital their role is. In fact ATL believes that building mutual respect between pupils and teachers, and encouraging the support of parents in tackling the issues behind poor behaviour, is more likely to lead to long-term positive change.

“ATL also agrees with parents that the qualities of a ‘great teacher’ include the ability to inspire and a passion for their subject. However, these characteristics are often constrained by the requirement to teach to the test, the restrictions of the curriculum and the impact of excessive accountability. The government needs to realise that teachers want the freedom to teach as they see fit, enabling them to engage pupils in learning and reducing the behavioural problems many of them face on a daily basis.”

Christine Blower said: “The survey overall reflects the general consensus shared by pupils, parents and teachers that schools should be disciplined but in fair environments with an atmosphere conducive to productive teaching and learning. It is worth remembering that this is exactly what happens in the majority of our schools. Parents may have got the erroneous impression from government statements that the classroom is a place of rowdy and disrespectful behaviour. Whilst there are instances of unacceptable behaviour, most inappropriate behaviour is at a relatively low level.

“What teachers need is consistent support from management so that agreed behaviour policies are applied, along with appropriate sanctions and rewards, and teachers feel well supported in administering the policy. At the time of the ban, there was a consensus that corporal punishment should be abolished. A professional approach to the management of children and young people’s behaviour is what all teachers need, not the right to hit children.

“Parents and children also quite rightly identify the need for teachers to exercise their professional judgement in the classroom and not be restrained by a prescriptive curriculum. If children and young people are not engaged in the classroom this is a major contributing factor to disruptive behaviour.”


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