Poll of parents calls for schools to bring back cane

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The Independent Online

More than half of parents support the return of corporal punishment, according to a poll published yesterday. Two-thirds think children's behaviour has deteriorated over the past decade and almost one- quarter believe unruly pupils are one of the biggest challenges facing schools.

More than half of parents support the return of corporal punishment, according to a poll published yesterday. Two-thirds think children's behaviour has deteriorated over the past decade and almost one- quarter believe unruly pupils are one of the biggest challenges facing schools.

Corporal punishment was banned in state schools 14 years ago and in independent schools last year. Only 10 per cent of parents think children's behaviour has improved in the past 10 years and just over one in five believes it has stayed the same. Teachers said yesterday that pupils' behaviour in school could not be separated from their behaviour at home and that schools and parents must work together to tackle disruption in the classroom.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, condemned any return to corporal punishment. "This is contrary to the wishes of virtually every head. I do not know any head or teacher who supports corporal punishment. The blame for indiscipline lies with the parents themselves and it is a bit ironic that parents are complaining."

The poll of 1,000 parents conducted for The Times Educational Supplement by FDS International also reveals support from parents for the traditionalist view that exams are getting easier, despite repeated statements by politicians of all hues that standards are being maintained.

Four out of 10 parents say GCSE and A-level exams are not as hard as the exams they had to take, compared with one-quarter who think they are more difficult. Middle-class parents tend to be more convinced than their working-class counterparts that exams are easier.

Ministers still have some way to go to persuade parents that their policies are working, the poll shows. More than four out of five think the Government spends too little on schools despite the Prime Minister's promise of an extra £19bn for schools over three years.

Funding and discipline emerge at the top of parents' list of the biggest problems facing schools. Though just over half think school standards have improved compared with a quarter who think they have fallen, they give most of the credit to the Conservatives rather than Tony Blair's Government. But two-thirds of parents support David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, in introducing performancerelated pay for teachers.

Meanwhile, Mr Blunkett has to face the fact that only one- third of parents can name him (a similar number knew Jack Straw, the Home Secretary). Even so he does better than Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools. Despite a series of stories last year about the latter's private life, only one- fifth of parents can name him. Of those, 45 per cent say he is doing a good job and 28 per cent a bad job.

Parents are split evenly on the issue of grammar schools, with more than half of professional people backing the use of the 11-plus. The findings suggest that the decision by ministers to allow parents to petition for a vote on the future of the remaining grammar schools will provoke some bitter local battles.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said parents could not be expected to understand performance-related pay when the Government had deliberately concealed the damage it would do to teamwork and its potential to force teachers to concentrate on those pupils whose progress would benefit their pay.

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