At an educational conference in Manchester last week one of the speakers, Julian Perfect, called for schools to be allowed to have tougher behaviour sanctions. Claiming that something which rivalled corporal punishment was urgently needed as a means of dealing with badly-behaved pupils, Mr Perfect said existing measures were no longer effective.
Corporal punishment was abolished in 1986, and not before time. However, it is argued that behavioural standards have dropped since then, and that the threat of a caning or a slipper was a very real deterrent.
Commentators at the conference noted that for some pupils a detention is a badge of honour, and being suspended is treated like a surprise holiday.
I doubt that Julian Perfect speaks for the entire teaching profession, but there is a clear sense of frustration if he is calling for something, anything, to rival corporal punishment.
In his speech he insisted he did not want a return to corporal punishment, but put forward a motion stating that current forms of discipline available to teachers are ‘totally inadequate’.
There seems to be a lot of grumbling but no real solutions. On a recent radio phone-in I asked what people thought might be an effective deterrent, along with suggestions of what worked in the classroom when they were at school.
The responses were in some ways predictable, with many voices calling for a return of the cane. But how on earth can we call ourselves a civilised society if we allow an adult to inflict physical pain on a child, no matter how badly-behaved the little swine may be? There are also countless examples of how ’legitimate’ violence only serves to create or encourage more violent behaviour.
Some suggested an effective deterrent would be to confiscate a pupil’s mobile phone, although a teacher told me some kids are wise to this and simply remove the SIM card for the device when handing the phone over. This means the teacher may well have the phone, but the child simply puts the card into another phone, thus rendering the punishment meaningless.
The suggestions that remain lodged in my mind were that detentions should be held at weekends instead of after school and that they should also include the pupil’s parents.
Another idea was the creation of detention centres where a school pupil who cannot behave gets sent to for a weekend.
Are these the only methods to get discipline back in schools and subsequently into society?
I understand the frustration felt by Julian Perfect and his colleagues and I am frequently appalled by the stories I hear from teachers about what they face on a daily basis in the classroom.
Mr Perfect has raised a question I fear most of us do not have a reasonable answer to.
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