Should schools be responsible for teaching children good manners?
Teachers at a primary school in Margate have become so concerned about standards of courtesy they have started to teach good manners.
Meanwhile, thousands of thumb stickers bearing the message 'Manners Matter' have been distributed around schools as part of National Day of Courtesy.
The theme of this year's initiative is 'Thumbs up for Courtesy' and aims to promote good manners in children.
Should teaching manners be the responsibility of schools? Have the standard of manners slipped? If so, why? What constitutes good or manners?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
If parenting legislation allowed for disciplinary smacking then more children would start school with at least a basic inkling about how to behave. This is the tip of an iceberg in which stretches from four-year-olds at primary school all the way up to binge drinking 16-year-olds. If you want our young people to behave, then let us show them that they cannot get away with any kind of anti-social behaviour. It never did me any harm.
Rob, Corby, England
Modern schools are overladen with responsibilites that should lie with parents. Subjects of a more personal or moral nature are obviously going to be more effectivley taught at an individual level, and preferably before a kid ever sets foot in a classroom. Apathetic, lassez-faire parenting is root behind todays disrespectful society
Jono Pike, Exeter, UK
My 15-year-old daughter says thankyou to me every time I drive her to school in the car. Of course, she has grown up in Switzerland and France. My wife, who is French, works at the reception in a very nice local hotel and rates British customers as some of the most arrogant. The other morning she had a postcard thrust in her face with a growled "How much?" Her calm and friendly response of "Good morning sir." met with embarrassed confusion and a complete change of manner from the client.
Roger Oliver (British Citizen), Le Soler, France
My partner has just spent three weeks back in the UK. When I asked him what it was like being back in Britain, his immediate reply was "The kids are rude". So there's obviously a need for someone to teach manners, but schools will never succeed if the lessons are not reinforced at home.
Sue Brownbridge, Barcelona, Spain
Hold on, were paying for greater child care than ever, more and more nursery places, after school clubs and a multitude of other scheme. Along with teaching basic nutrition, cooking and social skills at school┐ This parenting scam is starting to sound like the best job in the country, drop a few kids sit back and relax as the state takes over!
Having had a Yr 10 boy say to me today at school "Bitch - give me headphones!" I would say it does matter provided they are taught and the teaching of them is reinforced at school. I see teaching respect for the rights of others as the responsibility of us all.
Daphne, Sussex, UK
This makes me wonder, where are the parents in all this? If the child is not being taught 'civility' at home, what chance has the schools got in installing it?
Chris Duggan, Swansea, Wales
Well they need teaching somewhere, because frankly the manners that some of the kids come to school with disgust me. If I had a pound for every time I've had a student yell "I need a pen" at me across the classroom, or say "what?" so rudely you want to slap them, I'd have enough money to retire.
Kate, Manchester, UK
After a day of being ignored by people I hold the door open for, being ignored or glared at by shop staff, people ignoring the queue totally at the bus stop, and being repeatedly rammed by pushchairs to get me to move rather than the less painful use of 'excuse me', I believe manners should be taught but to adults, not school children. Most of the rude behaviour I encounter comes from pensioners, or people with pushchairs.
It's appalling that manners have to be taught at school. What are the parents doing? Yet another reason why parents need lessons these days in nutrition, manners and responsibility. Monkey see monkey do. My dog has better manners than our neighbours' children.
Alison, Leeds, UK
No, another case of bad/lazy parents trying to shift their responsibilities onto schools.
Peter, Sussex, UK
Good manners should be promoted by parents, teachers, institutions and the media setting good examples. And if it gets the message over, perhaps we should even have reality shows called Manners Makeover or Courtesy Call.
Nicola, Bristol, UK
My neighbour (a local GP) complained that she was paying a lot of money to send her children to private schools but that they were not being taught to say please and thank you. Surely children should be taught basic manners at home before they even go to school?
Julie Wright, West Midlands
Teaching manners is not going to help. The children need to be taught how to respect themselves, their elders and other people's property. Once they have the basics, manners can be taught. Unfortunately in this modern world more and more kids are being brought up by teen parents who have no inkling of what self respect is about.
Rory, Fleet, Hampshire
Some of the older generation could do with gaining a few manners as well as the younger generation. Men in their 40s and 50s in suits seem to be the rudest, as they think that just because they have to have a well paid job that everyone should always stand aside for them.
Nathan James, Consett, UK
Is there any of society's problems left that aren't to be solved by schools and/or the government? My mother works in a primary school and remarks how bad some kids are now compared to a few years ago. The kids aren't different, but the parenting is.
I have been teaching in Kent for almost 10 years and even in that short time I have seen the manners of children I teach decline. I feel that teaching these in schools is a great idea... at least they would learn please and thank you at a minimum.
It should be the parents' responsibility and needs to be instilled at a young age, but as there are many parents who hardly see their children and take every opportunity to put them in some sort of day care its hardly surprising that they have little influence over their children.
Steve, High Wycombe, England
I don't think it should be the responsibility of the schools to teach good manners, it should have been instilled in children before they reach school age. However, it doesn't seem to be happening that way, so we'll have to rely on the education system to put good manners on the curriculum (like they don't have enough to do). Society is increasingly rude and selfish and this is being passed down to the kids. I am shocked (albeit pleasantly) when someone lets me on the train before them, usually grown men barge passed me to get on first, it shouldn't be this way, but sadly it is. We all need to check our behaviour and have a more social conscience.
Maria, Beckenham, UK
Good manners is a recipe for refined moral values. It is imperative that schools facilitate the efforts of parents in instilling good manners. There is a lot that obtains in school, among pupils, their interactions with peers, relationship with teachers, etc. Schools indeed have a cardinal role to play in cultivating good manners.
Ekena Wesley, Ghana
I think it's a great think and at the same time they should drag those parents in that let their kids run riot at all times and educate them at the same time too. Isn't the age old adage Learning Begins at home?
After the train journey I just had into work, during which a group of teenagers shouted, screamed, and played music through their tinny phones for the entire journey, apparently oblivious to the presence of anyone else on the train, YES!!
Yes I believe good manners have slipped but surely this should come from parents and the home environment!
Schools should enforce the good manners which parents should instil into their children before they go to school. Simple things like saying "please" and "thank you" should be normal in children when they begin school. So should not interrupting people when they are speaking, not barging in front of other people when trying to get through a door, even opening a door and standing aside to allow someone older to get through. Parents cannot abdicate every activity to teachers - what next? Potty training by teachers?
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, UK
What should be taught by teachers and parents alike is what is right and what is wrong. Clearly defined areas and what the consequences are for doing wrong. These consequences must be followed up. Respect is the base for good manners.
Chris Kisch, Milton Keynes, UK
I think most kids are just being kids and are well mannered most of the time. But what's a child supposed to think when their parent is foul mouthed and abusive, we have all heard these parents in the street or supermarket it's just one swear word after the other a child is going to think this is normal and acceptable behaviour for adults. A school has no chance trying to sort that out.
Steve, Blackburn, UK
In a world of deplorable standards anything to help redress the balance is a help. With my grandchildren, their teachers are like gods, and can do no wrong. They take a lot of notice of what teacher says. But parents have to accept most of the responsibility, as the children are at home far longer than at school. Lead by example.
Brian, Glos., uk
It's not just children who are bad mannered. Some of the rudest people I've encountered have been pensioners. Perhaps if the adults who children are expected to look up to and respect acted properly the children themselves might follow suit.
Andrew, Cardiff, UK
Isn't this something parents should be doing? What is happening to children in this country? Child rearing seems to have hit an all time low. I can't recall manners being taught in school, it was taught at home, and simply reinforced in school. This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in months. What on earth are parents doing with their children?
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
No. It is a job for the parents.
Steve, Bedford, UK
Every Saturday I take my 3yearold daughter to her ballet class. Many of the kids there are appallingly behaved - running around, not doing what the teacher says, etc. But even more shocking is the behaviour of their parents, who quite happily sit around the edge of the class and talk to each other loudly throughout the class. Often it's impossible to hear the teacher over this racket. Yes our kids have no manners, but they learn their bad manners from us - we only have ourselves to blame.
Andrew, London UK
Why do the schools have to teach the children everything these days. How to eat healthily, manners, respect etc. Guess the parent are to lazy to teach the kids themselves.
Phil, Bristol UK
Parents should teach them and schools should merely reinforce them.
Nick, West Midlands
No, schools should not be responsible for teaching good manners, they ought to be complementary to goods manners taught and learnt at home. At the moment people seem to want schools to be responsible for everything as far as children are concerned whereas children are first and foremost the responsibility of their parents. The more we demand from schools, the less parents will do themselves as they will see it as not being their responsibility or duty. Stop blaming schools for everything that's 'wrong' with children!
Liz, Grenoble, France
What an excellent idea -what possible harm can it do? And while they are on, perhaps they could get over the message that personal actions can have far-reaching consequences - something I suspect that present-day children don't fully appreciate.
Geordie, Romford, Essex
There are basic manners which are obviously not being taught by some parents, so this now must fall to the teachers. At school we were always taught not to be a "litterbugs", to respect others and to say please and thank you. The amount of people who do not even hold a door open for others when out shopping or help someone struggling with their pram at a set of steps is a great pity to see.
Claire Herbert, London, UK
In these modern age of IT and innovation, this is priority or we lose our kids to IT. We are already losing the grip on the manners of the children as they grip the iPods and mystic PC games.
Firozali A. Mulla, Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
I believe that good manners should be taught at home, but if that is not the case then the schools shall pick up this task. However, let's not kid ourselves that firstly it's only kids who display bad social etiquette (I have only had older people skip in front of me at the bus stop) or that secondly that it is only today's youngsters that get up to no good. Unfortunately, the children of today feel invincible because nobody can punish them. As has been said before, they know all their rights but none of their responsibilities.
Well is it any wonder why the youth in this day and age act like they do? They have no respect for anybody and that is why we see anti-social behaviour in these youths. Yes I do blame the schools for not teaching good manners. The way that youths speak to other members of the public is a disgrace.
Ann Marie Lynch, Liverpool, England
Please, thank you, pardon, excuse me. These four phrases are all common courtesy. Eh, wah (formally known as "what"), ta, cheers, etc are not polite. These phrases can make the recipient feel worthless. As for door opening, etc. This is up to the individual. Obviously if there is someone behind you, you don't leave the door to slam in their face. I have no problem with the guys at work opening the doors for me and the looks on their faces are funny when I return the favour.
Good manners and good behaviour should be taught in the home and reinforced by teachers. Today bad manners are displayed as "cool" and role models are well rewarded despite appalling behaviour. "Respect" is seen as being gained not by good behaviour but by threats and intimidation. It will take a lot of effort to reverse these trends and I am not sure that we have the will to attempt it.
Colin, Swindon, UK
Children should be taught manners in school. Unfortunately, this is not done at home in many cases.
Angela Carkett, Plymouth
Don't our teachers have enough to do? Once again we find ourselves discussing something that should be instilled by parents. I always assumed it was a given that you taught your child good manners? What responsible parent wouldn't?
Good manners and respect should automatically be part of a school's ethos. They should not have to set up separate lessons to teach manners if from day one the children are made aware of the school's expectations of them. But if the school in Margate has had to take such extreme measures it just shows the level that parenting has sunk to as well as the dreadful damage successive governments have done to our schools.
Maria del Nevo, London, UK
Unfortunately I believe that if children start school with little or no manners then it is essential that this is one of the first things they are taught throughout the school day. Today many young children do not know even know how to sit and listen quietly, treat others, eat politely or say please and thank you. These basic behaviours are the building blocks of respect, courtesy and tolerance and ultimately to a sense of social responsibility. It's long overdue and parents have to accept that if they fail to enforce basic standards schools will insist on them.
Kim Dixon, Plymouth
Manners are important in society for example, job interviews, conferences and daily life. It is important for children to learn manners in order to obtain the best job possible.
Leanne Pibworth, London, UK
These lessons, ASBOs and TV programs such as Supernanny' all seem to suggest that there has been a slip in manners, and perhaps even in the parenting skills of a minority of adults. Anything that helps to address the imbalance could be good for this and the future generation of parents.
Paul, Bristol, UK
Yes they should (and, indeed, they do to some extent) so long as the differentiation is observed between good manners (basically, consideration for others) and etiquette (an artificial social code designed to foster a sense of social superiority).
Teaching manners is the parents responsibility, however since parents nowadays seemed to be quite "chilled" as far as educating their children it is a good incentive on behalf of schools to teach their students manners. Unfortunately the problem is the usual one, if parents do not cooperate students would not take the subject seriously.
Richard, London, UK
A very good idea considering the general standard of courtesy in society today. It might be an idea to bring a few of the parents in on these lessons considering most social behaviour is learnt, by example, at home prior to starting school.
Jo, Nottingham, UK
No it shouldn't but it needs to be done. There are a lot of good parents out there but a lot of bad ones who are dragging their children up rather than raising them. If these children, who aren't being taught good manners at home, are not taught them elsewhere, then when they are adults, and breed, then that's a whole new generation of rude louts to contend with. Good manners needs to be the norm, not the exception or a surprise, like it was yesterday when I collected my child from school and he asked his teacher for something by starting the sentence with, 'Excuse me,'. Another adult over heard and said 'Gosh isn't he polite?' Yes he is, and I'm proud of that, but it shouldn't be something that is commented on as an oddity.
Of course they should - and bad manners should be reprimanded/punished. Good manners can be largely taught by example - ie by teachers treating students with the same courtesy that they'd expect in return.
Jane, Guildford, UK