Who's to say what's right and wrong?: John Patten wants morality back in the school curriculum, but is this practical in an age of diverse values? - If you don't like it, the door's there

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The Independent Online
Sir Rhodes Boyson, former head of Highbury Grove school, London; now MP for Brent North

THE LIBERAL approach doesn't work. The school has to take charge. You have to be inducted into good behaviour in the beginning, until it becomes second nature.

If you leave it for children to find out for themselves, then you are back in the animal kingdom, and the very fact that the peak of male criminality is now the age of 14 is an outcome of a moral vacuum in schools.

You have to sit children down and tell them, as I always used to tell them in my school: 'These are the standards of this school, and if you don't like them, the door's there. Go and tell your parents. This is what they committed you to when they came to this school.'

And I also believe that every school should have a daily assembly, with the religious input being that of the overwhelming number of the children who attend the school. We do not have it now because of the decline of belief in religion and morality from the top, and because many headmasters of large schools probably would not actually be capable of controlling their assemblies. I believe that the assembly should be used by the head and staff to put a moral imprint on the school.

I don't just blame the schools. I also blame the lack of precision and determination of - particularly - the Christian community.

The Jewish community looks after its young people, and the same applies to the Muslim community. There are enough ministers of religion to look around and see what is happening, and enough practising Christians. They should make sure that the schools are doing their job.

I do not feel optimistic about us being able to recover the situation because people do not have the will-power to do so. John Patten, when he talked about the question of hell and was sat upon by everybody, was right. Mr Patten is concerned about this, but society as a whole - including the Christian church - is mealy-mouthed, apologetic and, at times, pathetic.

It can be sorted out, but there is little sign of it being sorted out. And children are growing up in a moral vacuum, to their own disadvantage and the disadvantage of society.