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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 17:13 GMT
Clampdown on unruly pupils
Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris told teachers the tide had to be turned

Mothers and fathers whose children persistently misbehave in school could be brought before the courts and ordered to attend "parenting classes" - or face a 1,000 fine, as the government seeks to crack down on violence in schools.

Until now, parenting orders could only be used if a child had committed a criminal offence or persistently truanted.

But the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, has announced plans to extend these orders to cover pupils whose anti-social behaviour causes disruption in school.

The "tide had to be turned" on the minority of pupils whose unruly behaviour stopped teachers getting on with their job, Ms Morris told delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference in Cardiff.


"Behaviour that attracts the attention of the police and courts outside school must attract attention in school, " Ms Morris said.

"The boundaries laid down by teachers should be supported by parents - there are too many incidents of parents challenging a teacher's right to discipline children in school.

"It's time to be honest about the damage done by the few people who don't support you in what you do," Ms Morris

Ms Morris stressed that the orders would not be used against those parents who were genuinely struggling to raise their child, but those who attitude gave children the impression that teachers and their authority were not to be respected.

Human rights abuse

Ms Morris's announcement followed a unanimous vote by ATL members on Tuesday to urge the government to do more to protect teachers and school staff from abusive and violent parents and pupils.

The teachers said their human rights were being abused on a daily basis.

"I haven't been physically assaulted at school - apart from being kicked, bitten, hit, scratched and pushed over the last 27 years," Doncaster primary school teacher Lesley Ward told the conference.

The ATL said its list of assault cases had risen dramatically over the past five years, with 34 incidents reported in 1998 and 120 in 2001.


ATL president Julie Grant welcomed the secretary of state's announcement, but said the union would be closely monitoring its effects.

"She's given us something that is supporting us and we've got to do some to try and encourage people into the profession so that potential recruits are not put off," she said.

"The idea is that parents take on the responsibility of training a child how to behave in a social environment."

These children are brought up in an ethos of abuse and violence where, if you don't like something, you give it a good kicking

Margaret Morrissey, PTA
But Ms Grant expressed concern that many parents may not be able to afford the 1,000 fine.

Ms Morris said fines were an accepted part of the judicial process and should provide parents with a strong incentive to attend the parenting classes.

Parenting orders have been in place since June 2000, but only just over 215 have been issued so far, mostly for truancy.

It had been widely trailed that Ms Morris would talk about the need for local education authorities to use their powers to crack down on unruly pupils and parents.

Her decision to extend the use of parenting orders may be seen as recognition of the teaching unions' concerns over disruptive pupils.

Local government officials had also hit back at claims they were not using their existing powers fully.

The Local Government Association (LGA) argued that councils were doing as much as they could under current legislation.

The new-look parenting orders were rubbished by Margaret Morrissey from the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, who said it was an easy announcement to make at a teachers' conference.

"These children are brought up in an ethos of abuse and violence where, if you don't like something, you give it a good kicking.

"Most of these families are known to social services before the children are conceived," she said.

Ms Morrissey said a half hour of parenting class would not make the job any easier and said she had "real concerns" about the scheme.

The BBC's Mike Baker
"There has been a big rise in the number of teacher assaults by pupils and parents reported to the unions"

Your views on unruly children
See also:

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