Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Fear That for Decades We Have Been Taking Away the Right of Parents to Parent

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Fear That for Decades We Have Been Taking Away the Right of Parents to Parent

Article excerpt


THE headlines are stark: 90 children sent home every day for attacking teachers or classmates and 17,000 suspended for racial abuse, physical assault and threatening behaviour. In other words, anarchy in the classroom.

Well, not quite. The vast majority of children in Britain's schools are as sunny as ever and teachers firmly in control. Nevertheless, statistics like that can't be ignored.

Figures issued by the Department for Education show that while the number of secondary pupils being suspended or expelled is falling, there is a worsening picture at primary level (although the fall in secondary school suspension may be due to schools' increasing use of 'managed moves', which transfer disruptive pupils to other secondaries).

The figures also show that boys are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than girls.

Various explanations are being offered, among them violent computer games and poor parenting. Those who would blame poverty point to the finding that pupils eligible for free school meals are four times more likely to be expelled than those who are not and yet, when times were harder than they are now, generations of children were law-abiding and polite, in school and out.

In addition, according to the report, the worst deterioration in behaviour is seen in the most affluent parts of the country. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "A minority of children are very aware of their rights, have a total disregard of school rules and are rather less aware of their responsibility for their own learning and how to show respect to staff and other students. This can apply as much to over-indulged middle-class children as those from challenging families."

The psychologist, Dr Tanya Byron, has warned that parents who are afraid to discipline their children, and instead try to act as their friend, are creating an unruly generation.

During last summer's riots, MP David Lammy, who represents the area of North London where the disturbances started, says working-class parents need to be able to discipline their children to deter them from joining gangs and getting involved in knife crime.

He said: "Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour government, saying, 'You guys stopped us being able to smack our children'. They no longer feel sovereign in their own homes.

"Parents in my constituency are frightened that if they smack their children, a social worker will come knocking at the door ... the ability to exercise their own judgment in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away.

"We should return to the law as it existed for 150 years before it was changed in 2004."

I know there are parents who couldn't care less what their children do but I think they're rarer than we think. …

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