Pupils' lack of social skills 'leading to chaos'
TOO many children are not taught basic social standards by their parents, leading to classroom indiscipline, a teachers’ leader claimed yesterday.
David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said the standard of behaviour in schools was decreasing because parents were not teaching even things such as toilet-training or how to use knives and forks.
In his last speech before he retires, Mr Hart told the NAHT’s annual conference that the idea of "parent power" could backfire. He warned against allowing irresponsible parents to get even more power.
He said teaching staff were having to waste time teaching basics that should be taught in the home.
"By far and away the greatest problem is the number of pupils who lack basic social standards," he said. "They are not toilet-trained. They don’t know how to use a knife and fork - that means that the teachers and support staff have got to spend their time sorting them out so that they are ready to be educated."
He said the negative effect of such children was passed on to other pupils, whose behaviour then deteriorates.
Delegates, who gave him a standing ovation, also heard him launch into an attack on parents who use verbal and physical threats, abuse, foul language, harassment and bullying when dealing with headteachers and their staff.
"And, by the way, giving more power to those parents who lack responsibility is like putting an alcoholic in charge of a bar," he said, in a reference aimed at the English education secretary, Ruth Kelly, who has said she wants to give parents more power in the classroom.
The problem of discipline has been a particular problem in schools in Scotland. Last week, Bill McGregor, the general secretary of the Headteachers Association Scotland, called on local authorities to use anti-social behaviour orders to protect teachers. He said that, if necessary, there should be an exclusion zone around school grounds for certain particularly violent pupils.
The most recent statistics, published more than a year ago, suggested that, on average, a teacher was attacked in Scotland every 12 minutes, and that the number of physical and verbal assaults on teachers and auxiliary staff had risen nine-fold in five years.
Last night, Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of the Education Institute of Scotland, said that a co-ordinated response to the problems of violence in schools was needed, involving teachers, parents, police and councils. He said: "All bad behaviour in society, whether it be the type you see on street corners on a Saturday night or the violence you see at some football matches, is brought into schools.
"We need to try to tackle anti-social behaviour in a co- ordinated way. Not just the schools, not just the parents and not just the police - we need to all have a set of standards that are acceptable to everyone and we need to all try to make them work."
Although he agreed with some of what Mr Hart said, he added that it was "obvious he is retiring". Mr Smith went on: "There are lots of kids that do not behave badly in schools. But the way they behave is often connected to home circumstances, be it difficult family circumstances or parents that do not instil the standards and behaviours that they should.
"The important thing for parents should not be how much power they have over the school. It is how much they take an interest in their children’s education and work with the school."
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