Thatcher blamed for lack of respect in classrooms

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The Independent Online

The legacy of Thatcherism is behind plummeting standards of behaviour in the classroom and a lack of respect for authority among young people, a teachers' leader has claimed.

Brian Garvey made the comments yesterday as figures released by the second largest teachers' union, the NASUWT, showed that compensation payouts to its members had leapt to £7.6m for the first time amid a rise in pupil violence.

The union's new president blamed former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for the decline in discipline and traditional values. He told its annual conference in Birmingham that this lack of respect in society was the reason why a minority of children now regularly disrupted lessons while a few had even physically attacked their teachers.

"I make no apology in adding my name to the long list of people who feel that Margaret Thatcher did more harm to the society in which we live than anyone else in modern times," he said. "The 'I'm all right Jack' culture which she encouraged did more to destroy our society's social structures than anything else did.

"We must also put some of the blame... on the over-liberalised attitudes of the Sixties and Seventies."

The NASUWT revealed that its members had been awarded £7,635,042 last year for personal injury and employment tribunal cases, including payouts for violent assault by pupils - £850,000 more than in 2004. A teacher in London won £27,500 after being assaulted by a 12-year-old pupil, while a teacher in Preston received £129,600 after she was hit on the head by a brick thrown by a child from a neighbouring school.

Jim Quigley, the union's legal officer, said bad behaviour from pupils was "increasing dramatically". But the cases which resulted in payouts were just a few of many, he said, arguing that many teachers were bullied into dropping complaints.

"An employer's defence generally is that it was not foreseeable that a child would have assaulted a teacher in these circumstances," he said. "There are lots of cases where teachers are assaulted and ... they will be dissuaded from reporting it by the school because it doesn't look good."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), another union, warned that the number of serious physical assaults on teachers has almost tripled within four years.