Logic lesson

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The Independent Online

A dangerous theme is creeping into the conventional wisdom about education. It was heard again at the teacher union conferences at the weekend. It is that classroom discipline is collapsing because teachers lack effective sanctions. There is a faulty connection here. Few would disagree that school children tend to be less well-behaved than they used to be. It is also true that it is now against the law for teachers to hit children, and that this Government's policy on exclusions has been uncertain. But the link between cause and effect is not so simple.

A dangerous theme is creeping into the conventional wisdom about education. It was heard again at the teacher union conferences at the weekend. It is that classroom discipline is collapsing because teachers lack effective sanctions. There is a faulty connection here. Few would disagree that school children tend to be less well-behaved than they used to be. It is also true that it is now against the law for teachers to hit children, and that this Government's policy on exclusions has been uncertain. But the link between cause and effect is not so simple.

The decline in pupils' respect for teachers is part of a wider erosion of deference which, in schools as well as society as a whole, is more of a good thing than a bad one. We should be clear, too, that it was right to abolish the cane, the strap and the plimsoll.

Any thinking person also knows that exclusion is no simple answer – that, without expensive support for pupils out of school, it only postpones and magnifies the problem.

It is a shame that the teachers' unions would rather complain about how difficult it is to control classes these days than engage in serious analysis of the best ways to encourage considerate behaviour.

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