Schools for scandal

What can be done about the increasing levels of violence and bad behaviour in state education?

I AGREE with J.R. Burland (Debate, April 28) that children with behavioural difficulties should be given a reward system to encourage them to stick to classroom rules. This works very well in an environment where everybody has similar problems. In mainstream schools, however, rewarding “naughty” pupils for behaving in a way which is expected as normal for the rest of the class can be perceived as grossly unfair; it may even encourage bad behaviour in some other children and thus exacerbate the problem.

Perhaps a well-led brat camp in every county for the use of schools would be the answer.

Anneliese Sprague, Hawkhurst, Kent


Six of the best

I AM studying at a grammar school in Tonbridge, and our teachers are constantly saying that our behaviour is well above what they expect at most comprehensive schools. I think that this is most worrying because our behaviour is not always the best, to put it mildly.

My friends and I have started comparing our behaviour, both in and out of the classroom, to the days when the use of the cane was acceptable. We have come to the conclusion that the cane was preferable to the lack of discipline now shown by most of the teenage population. Rather worryingly, we want the cane to be reintroduced, and the teachers to have greater powers over the students that they teach.

It is disappointing that it has got to the point where even some of the pupils have this opinion.

A Year 11 student


Things to do

MAKE children’s responsibilities as important as their rights. Stop introducing more bureaucratic change; let schools get on with their job.

Reverse political correctness and allow teachers, parents and police to use old-fashioned discipline, up to and including caning. As the father of school age children, I would far rather my children be subjected to a short physical punishment instead of the drawn- out and often crueller substitutes now in use and often based on pseudopsychology.

Encourage more affordable fee-paying schools, where old-fashioned values prevail. One of my sons goes to such a school and it’s an oasis of decency. Finally, return to a Christian-based society with emphasis on others, not “me, me, me”.

Gordon Smith, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Smaller classes

SMALLER class sizes will help, starting at reception level.

I have been a teacher for 27 years, the past ten in a school for EBD (extreme behavioural difficulty) children. Our maximum class size is eight. Only at these levels can we cope with the children who have been excluded from mainstream schools. It is attention that they need, and this applies to all disruptive children in schools.

Wendy Bishop, Calne, Wiltshire

Food for thought

GO TO the root of the matter — nothing else will work. For years it has been obvious that diet affects behaviour. Introduce Patrick Holford (Food on the Brain) to Jamie Oliver and let them influence parents and children.

As with any sickness, it is better to treat the symptoms rather than suppress them. The people who know what junk food and fizzy drinks do to a child’s mind should be given the opportunity to tell parents that they can have happy children enjoying life, rather than fighting it.

Margaret Hastings, Beckenham, Kent


Corpun file 15747

Yorkshire Post, Leeds, 10 May 2005

Letters to the Editor

Spare the rod … and breed unruly generations

From: Frank Littlewood, Wylam, Northumberland.

I HAVE from time to time read a lot of unmitigated bunkum in Letters to the Editor, but I can think of nothing remotely to compare with the sheer inanity of the views about teachers put up by HH Greaves (May 7).To suggest that large numbers of teachers joined the profession just to enjoy beating children is little short of lunacy; they joined simply because they wanted to teach. In all my 10 years at school, I think I saw no more than three boys caned, all for punishable offences. I too, HH Greaves, am in my eighth decade, and I know of nobody, or ever heard of anybody, who was harmed by getting the cane at school.

Of course there were occasional abuses of corporal punishment, but there has never been any form of human activity that has not been abused. Just think of postal voting and parking cards for handicapped folk.

The letter makes no mention of the classroom chaos all round the country, the sheer teacher frustration, the widespread indiscipline now rife in our schools, all created by the success of STOPP, based on a relatively few complaints and pleas taken to that totally absurd institution, the European Court of Human Rights.

Here’s a “brutal” teacher: he taught at the City of Leeds School, was always smartly clad, would enter the class with his books and his cane, This he quite deliberately hung at the side of his desk, plain for all to see, before beginning his lesson. Then, his job peacefully and successfully completed, he would retrieve it and depart. I never saw him use it, but then he didn’t have to, did he? STOPP created a whole generation of children who quickly learned, after saying Mama and Dada, to add: “Yah, you can’t touch me!”

A teacher friend of mine is continually haunted and taunted with the expression. I remember, back in the 1970s in Sheffield, telling one of STOPP’S adherents: “You are making a rod for your own backs.”

Was I right? Read all about it every morning in the Yorkshire Post.

From: LG Arnott, Athelstan Road, Sheffield.

PERHAPS HH Greaves of Beverley (May 8) and that dangerous group STOPP would care to apologise for the massive damage they have contributed to our social structure in the last couple of decades with their successful and highly undemocratic attempt to see the abolition of corporal punishment in schools.

Uncontrolled yobbery on streets, youth crime at unprecedented levels and a loss of social respect in a great many youngsters now free to bully, have led to reigns of terror and disrupted classrooms. Yes, I know these are a minority. Yes, I know that there have always been those willing to behave badly. Yes, I am quite aware that there are many social factors — sadly, many of the others caused by the fatuous, liberal arguments of people holding similar viewpoints which they have foisted, unasked, on to a suffering society.

Did HH Greaves not see the Classroom Chaos, recently secretly recorded by Channel Five? What punishment, I wonder, would your correspondent advocate for some feral youth whose idea of discipline is to tell staff to **** off, or to wantonly and calculatedly destroy school property? What of threats of violence? Or actual acts of violence?

I expect a flaccid response of “violence begets violence”. Well, precious little evidence of that when I was at school. So what has changed?

It is this well-meaning, out-of-contact-with-reality nonsense which has been so harmful.

Yes, I was caned at school and, interestingly, it was probably because a rather unpleasant headteacher held a grudge against two members of my family. Fortunately, I learned to grow up.

As a teacher, I have taught in state schools where the cane was frugally used for very serious offences and where it was not. I can readily assure you which was the better, more pleasant working environment for staff and pupils alike.

What was really interesting in the school where I saw STOPP get its mad way was that the vast majority of pupils were in favour of the cane.

They, at least, could see what the limp idealists could not.

All rights reserved © 2005 Johnston Press New Media.


Corpun file 15881


Cambridge Evening News, 24 May 2005

Right on caning

IN REPLY to Philip Hodson (“Bring back cane”, Letters, May 18), I totally agree with his sentiments on this.

It is quite apparent that the massive upsurge in hooliganism that we have seen recently is a direct consequence of the abolition of corporal punishment in state schools in 1986.

On November 26 last year I had an article published in this newspaper in which I described in detail how the cane was given to bullies at my boarding school in the mid-1970s.

The bullying ceased at once, and there were no more problems with bullying afterwards as the message had been sent out what the consequences would be.

Those in authority in Britain today have completely and utterly abandoned the concept between right and wrong. Most people know what the solutions are to disciplining the young.

Those who were caned at my school all those years ago were put on the correct path by virtue of the punishment they received.

Today, as the notion of punishment has been totally abandoned, youngsters now live in a moral vacuum in which not only do they suffer, but the whole of the rest of society does also.

How much worse do things have to get before someone in authority wakes up to the fact that something serious is wrong and something must be done?

Gavin Staples
West Wickham Road


Corpun file 15882


Cambridge Evening News, 31 May 2005

Merits of cane

MAY I associate myself with the views expressed by Philip Hodson (Letters, May 18) concerning the supposedly difficult question of school discipline.

We appear in these latter days to have an inflated genius for complicating the most simple of problems.

We are constantly being subjected to windy and outraged rhetoric upon the subject of correction in the application of discipline within the school. It has been built into monumental proportions when, by the use of a little common sense the solution is quite elementary.

Of this our grandparents, in a less argumentative age, were fully aware. Corporal punishment for offences committed was a statutory “six” applied with the ash.

I do recall, however, that at the school I attended, “six” was usually translated as four or three, according to the gravity of the offence. It never failed to achieve its purpose. Initially it deflated the ego and offended the dignity. It caused the offender to pause before transgressing further.

The “victim” as a point of honour and prestige among his fellows was always careful to take his medicine “biting on the bullet”, it being a point of honour to take one’s gruel, thus recognising it to be well-deserved.

There the matter ended, causing no uproar of protestation from angry parents fuming against authority, no outcry or demonstration from vocal “do-gooders”.

Was it not Dr Johnson who (according to Boswell) opined, “There is now less flogging in our schools than formerly, but then less is learned there . . .”

One may pose the question, why is it that we cannot return to wellproven basics and cease to hover and flutter around a situation the answer to which is perfectly obvious.