Richard Garner: Chaos in class is so bad, teachers are ready to quit profession

Staff believe they are not supported by headteacher in disciplining children

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Yesterday's strike at Darwen High School in Blackburn over disciplinary issues will have struck a raw nerve in the minds of many teachers. A poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, shows six out of 10 teachers believe behaviour is worse now than it was a decade ago. Seven out of 10 have considered quitting.

Strike action over bad behaviour is rare. The last major case centred on the Ridings School in Calderdale in 1996 when teachers demanded that 60 unruly pupils should be excluded from the school. Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, was called in and a new head appointed. The school's fortunes were turned around and the new head, Anna White, was honoured by the Blair government. But disciplinary problems resurfaced after she left and it was closed.

More commonly, both the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) institute a refusal to teach unruly pupils. Last year the NASUWT authorised nine ballots for industrial action on this and the NUT six.

But Darwen high school is not in the Ridings category; the nub of the problem is over relations between staff and senior management, with teachers believing they are not being supported on issues such as confiscating mobile telephones from pupils who use them in class.

The school was given a clean bill of health recently by Ofsted, which said discipline was "good". The key bone of contention between the staff and the headteacher is over the suspension of teachers after allegations of abuse by pupils; one complained he had been scratched when a teacher removed his mobile phone.

Teachers are frequently named and shamed before any allegation is proven. This, along with the general discipline issue, is one that Education Secretary Michael Gove is keen to address.

He believes teachers should have the right to anonymity until an allegation is proven against them. He also believes mobiles should be banned from the classroom, as he indicated earlier this week when he announced a new crackdown on discipline.

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