Nicholas Griffin, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers, told its annual conference in Loughborough, Leicestershire: 'Parents must now be held responsible for the indiscipline of their offspring. It is time that society realised that it is the role of the teacher to teach. It is not the role of the teacher to be a surrogate parent or a social worker, or, heaven help us, a policeman.'
Mr Griffin's suggestion that the Secretary of State for Education, should explore ways of withholding social security payments from the parents of troublemakers, made outside the conference, follows controversy at last year's gathering. Peter Dawson, general secretary of the 41,000-member no-strike association, provoked anger when he said the children of one-parent families were causing teachers appalling problems.
Mr Griffin said: 'Hitting parents in the pocket could be a way of forcing them to take control and responsibility for their children.' A former head in Barnet, London, he told the conference that teachers had been given little help despite rising indiscipline. Sanctions, including corporal punishment, had gradually disappeared. 'Some way must be found of making parents of the truculent few responsible for the behaviour of their children in the interests of the vast majority of well-behaved children who are eager to learn.'
Donald Dewar, Labour's social security spokesman, said it was arrogant to assume that misbehaving children came only from families receiving benefits. Discipline problems in schools must be dealt with 'but withdrawal of benefits is not the answer'.