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School CP - October 2004
Daily Telegraph, London, 1 October 2004
The Fifties had everything - including the kitchen sink
By Caroline Davies
It was a golden era when children played safely in the street, the local bobby clipped an ear or two at most, and being a stay-at-home mother was something to be proud of.
The glorious Fifties had everything, according to a survey of pensioners today. Well, almost everything. Even the most nostalgic admit that an automatic washing machine would have been handy on a rainy washday Monday, and an inside lavatory and central heating would also have been welcome.
But, overall, there was no better time to be young than in the Fifties when life simply was better, according to nine out of 10 of those questioned.
Children could be children for longer (91 per cent agreed), they were safer too (88 per cent) and they could play outside (85 per cent). There was less crime (85 per cent) and more "bobbies on the beat" (91 per cent). People smiled more, they were kinder, there was a greater innocence and families lived closer together.
Food, public transport, the newborn National Health Service - all were better. Even the music, they agreed, the exceptions being Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey, both stalwart veterans accorded the accolade of appearing in the top six most popular male and female singers for both the Fifties and the present day.
Yet, was this the reality of life 50 years ago, or are the older generation viewing the good old days through rose-tinted spectacles? Recent statistics bear out some, but not all of the memories of the 3,000 65- to 70-year-olds questioned by Yours, a magazine for the over-fifties.
Children could indeed be children for longer - but only if they were in the one third who remained in full-time education after the minimum school leaving age of 15. Two thirds went out to work at 15, or joined the queue down at the Labour Exchange.
Today, with the number of universities increasing from 20 to around 100, more than two thirds of youngsters remain in education for far longer. All very well, but school isn't what it used to be, claim the pensioners. Then, the basics were taught properly, said 94 per cent, children were taught respect for authority (94 per cent) and discipline was a very good thing (96 per cent) with the cane and or slipper acting as a good deterrent (70 per cent). In fact just 13 per cent believed it a good thing that the slipper/cane had since been banned.
They would welcome not only the return of corporal punishment, but also 72 per cent believed that the death penalty should be reinstated.
And, while playing out in the street was the norm, today, letting children climb trees unsupervised or riding bicycles without helmets would be regarded simply as bad parenting if they should come to harm.
Statistically the risk of a child being snatched off the street or from the school gate by a stranger is not greater today than then. About six or seven children each year are murdered by strangers, but more than 80 are killed by parents, carers or someone known to the family. And most child abductions are down to estranged fathers.
Figures do attest to there being less crime - or at least less reported crime - 50 years ago. The number of crimes has risen tenfold, from 513,559 in 1952 to more than five million today. Vehicle crime and mobile telephone thefts have contributed to this huge increase. There were only 2.5 million cars in Britain in 1952 compared with about 25 million today, and no mobile telephones.
But the perception that this could be solved with the re-appearance of the avuncular beat bobby would appear to be a myth. The number of police has doubled in 50 years - unfortunately the number of cases solved has halved.
Modern day society was seen as "crime ridden" (89 per cent), "sleazy and promiscuous" (84 per cent), "foul-mouthed" (84 per cent), "noisy" (72 per cent) and generally "second rate".
BBC News Online, London, 8 October 2004
The trouble with discipline
By Mike Baker
"We will improve school discipline". Cue thunderous applause.
How many times have we heard this during education debates at party political conferences?
This week the Conservative leader, Michael Howard, highlighted school discipline as an educational priority.
He told the Conservative Party conference that on "Day One" of a Conservative government he would "start to give head teachers control over their classrooms".
Promising better discipline is clearly popular with the party faithful. It probably goes down well with voters too.
But just how much influence do politicians really have over school discipline?
Of course, politicians can introduce laws that, at least in theory, may impact on school discipline.
This was what all those debates about caning were about after corporal punishment was abolished in state schools in 1986.
For many years after that, calls for the restoration of corporal punishment were guaranteed to go down well at Conservative Party conferences.
Indeed, in the last months of John Major's Conservative government, Tory backbenchers voted in Parliament to restore it.
It was a popular move on the Tory side but it was defeated because Mr Major imposed the parliamentary "whip" (no pun intended) on Conservative ministers, requiring them to vote against restoration.
Nevertheless nearly 100 Conservative MPs supported the cane. Even the then Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, said her personal view was that the threat of the cane could be a useful deterrent to bad behaviour.
It is a sign of changing times that Michael Howard did not, this week, feel able to promise the return of corporal punishment.
So, with the cane now apparently off limits, what can politicians do which would actually make a difference to classroom behaviour?
The last Labour manifesto promised to "ensure that head teachers have the powers they need to tackle disruption and unacceptable behaviour". But no details were given.
Labour has good reason to be cautious about making big promises on school discipline. In 1997, the newly-elected Labour government promised to reduce permanent exclusions by one-third.
But it soon emerged that cutting the number of school expulsions was not necessarily the same thing as reducing bad behaviour.
Indeed teachers complained that it made discipline worse as schools came under pressure to keep disruptive pupils in the classroom.
It might, of course, be argued that this is as much about perception as about reality. Perhaps if parents knew that exclusion meant exclusion, with no arguments, perhaps it would have an effect on behaviour. Who knows?
But it does underline the reality that, for all their genuine desire to tackle school discipline, politicians lack the means to do anything about it.
And if politicians mean it when they say they do not want to promise what they cannot deliver, then perhaps they should be cautious about their claims to improve classroom discipline.
This is not to underestimate the importance of establishing good order in schools. We know it affects other pupils and that it is one of the main reasons cited by teachers for wanting to leave the profession.
As OFSTED will report next week, the challenge of coping with pupils with behavioural problems is not easy for many schools.
But just because there is a big problem out there does not mean there are any easy answers.
Published: 2004/10/08 23:10:41 GMT
Edinburgh Evening News, 29 October 2004
I AGREE with NC Henderson (Letters, October 21) about the need for firmer discipline for youngsters. I would say, however, that such strictness should not only be administered by parents.
I have been taught in a school in Belfast where corporal punishment was used, and in Edinburgh where it was not. The difference was huge. A lack of respect for teachers and a disruptive and unruly atmosphere was the order of the day in Edinburgh, while in Belfast there was relative calm and a positive teaching environment.
It is indeed a case of spare the rod and spoil the child.
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