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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 11:34 GMT
Is classroom disruption a problem?
School children with teacher in classroom
About 10% of schools in England are not making 'sufficient progress', Ofsted have announced.

In its annual report, the education watchdog said levels of unsatisfactory behaviour shows no sign of reducing, with most unsatisfactory behaviour involving 'low level disruption'.

The report comes a day after the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, announced plans to tackle 'low level disruption' in classrooms.

Is classroom disruption a problem in England's schools? Is enough being done to improve unsatisfactory schools?

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:

Let's not pretend there is a magical cure for bad behaviour
Alex, UK<
Let's not pretend there is a magical cure for bad behaviour. The causes of bad behaviour are cultural and complex - we cannot simply blame teachers, parents, the "loony left", mobile phones, or even the government - and whether 'problem' pupils are moved to normal schools, special reform schools, borstals or prison, or simply left to hang around the streets, they continue to be a problem somewhere. And please let's not talk about the golden days of good behaviour. Do we really believe that at some glorious time in the past, we created an enlightened generation of enthusiastic young learners by violently beating them and inculcating them with the dates of historical battles? I do wish our leaders would stop using education as a political football.
Alex, UK

I am a teacher - the trouble is too many people who are not teachers think they know how to run schools, simply because they attended one! No one knows, who does not teach, how badly behaved children have become. You only have to see the way they treat their own parents - swearing at them, hitting them, refusing to follow a simple instruction, etc., to see where the problem lies.
I would say, almost without exception, that all the badly behaved children I have to deal with (as a Head of Year) have been badly brought up. They are not only badly behaved in school but also out in society and, if only their parents would admit to it, in their homes as well. Once, when I sent a politely worded letter home to a parent reminding her of the school uniform regulations, she left me a voice mail swearing at me saying I was pathetic. That is your modern parent and that is the reason why the children are so appalling. In the end there will not be anyone left who wants to teach, then they will get the education service they deserve.
J, UK

If David Bell is so sure that inclusion doesn't disrupt then I challenge him to come and do my job, instead of hiding away in his ivory tower, or posing for "meaningful" pictures with kids in middle class schools! I've been teaching since 1990, and the year I noticed behaviour take a massive nosedive was the year Labour brought in its failed inclusion policy and abolished Grant Maintained Status. Give power back to schools and teachers, remove incompetent LEA's (Luton's has failed two Oftsed inspections!)and make Ofsted inspectors have to teach disruptive pupils for a minimum of five years before they are allowed into schools, passing their inaccurate and biased judgements.
S M, Luton, Beds

Given that the recent international league tables showed British schools now in the bottom third of rankings, this seems like a pretty weak report. We need focussed attention paid to discipline in schools, unpopular decisions need to be taken, parents either support their school or their children leave. The right to education also implies the obligation to behave, we hear too little of that side of the deal.
John R Smith, UK

Because of the misuse of the inclusion strategy too many very difficult children have been deposited in mainstream school to the detriment of the school, the staff, other students and the difficulty students themselves. It has been a political exercise not an educational one.
Lee Porter, Taunton, Somerset

This is negative reporting. If 10% are not makin progress, then 90% are! Surely that is good news, so why are the media always looking for the bad?
Bill Potter, England

This is blatant Labour electioneering
Ed Corbett, Bridgend
Ruth Kelly makes grand statements about "Zero Tolerance" but if teachers implemented zero tolerance will Ruth Kelly stand up and be counted when the teachers are denigrated? I don't think so. This is blatant Labour electioneering. What is ADHD? It was not an illness when I went to school.
Ed Corbett, Bridgend

It's no coincidence that a high proportion of prisoners are unable to read or write. They've probably been kicked out of school early in their lives and never returned. It's in all our long-term interests to find an alternative way of educating aggressive or disruptive children.
Anon, London, UK

The teachers are doing the job to the best of their ability. It's obvious you are not a teacher. Thanks to the PC half-wits in this country, discipline has been taken away from both parents and teachers with this 'interfering with their human rights' garbage. We are talking about educating children so that they have a decent chance of a livelihood in the future, with the PC brigade they can't see further than their own noses. Return discipline to teachers and parents without ministerial interference could change a lot for the better. So Sue, don't blame the teachers they are under enough pressure.
George,

Bring back harsh punishment and strict rules. It works
Deanna, Kent, UK
I'm only 21 but when I first started my school, it was a strict Grammar school with strict rules for uniform, respect (stand when a member of staff enters the room) and discipline (no talking in corridors, walk not run). It was too strict some said, but I enjoyed it. I learnt respect and by the time I'd left, the rules had fallen slack and newer kids were gobbier and with more attitude than any I've ever seen. Bring back harsh punishment and strict rules. It works.
Deanna, Kent, UK

The problem is not with the schools themselves but the total lack of control and discipline in the home, if parents where fined and jailed if need be for there children's anti-social behaviour then maybe we could combat the problem.
John Messeter, Scotland

When a teacher has to spend most of their time with one child due to their behaviour, how can they teach the rest of the class.
Caron, England

I sympathise with teachers who cannot deal with unruly pupils in case they receive a complaint or, at worst, legal action. At a recent school reunion, I spoke to an old teacher who said that these days two teachers had to supervise post-school detention because of the risk of malicious complaints by the pupils.
Muzzy, Edinburgh, Scotland

I never experienced disruptive behaviour at least for no more 30 seconds, the cane and slipper cured any rebels and the teachers were fully supported by parents. It would be interesting to see if a national poll would support bringing back the cane.
Ron (aged 60), Manchester UK

Where there is parent support with problem children great progress can be made. Unfortunately most parents of problem children either stay away or blame the school.
Tony Lacey, Birmingham, England

What do you do with pupils who truant and don't want to be in school? Expel them so they don't have to come to school any more. Never quite understood that one!
John, Walsall

Everyone has to live with the results of no discipline in schools
Maurice, Newcastle
Who removed the ability of teaching staff to discipline? Everyone has to live with the results of no discipline in schools on a street in every town and city in the country. Yet those same people who removed the discipline from schools are now complaining, but not holding their hands up and admitting they got it wrong. Are they really fit to deal with a problem of their making? I think not!
Maurice, Newcastle

Confiscation of mobile phones isn't nearly enough to stop pupils having them on in the first place. My partner who is a teacher will answer the phone of any pupil if it rings during lessons. Often it has been the parent on the other end of the line and it's them that gets the telling off for daring to call during their child's lesson. Embarrassment works well among status oriented individuals.
Lee, Shropshire

My class was always well behaved and respectful to the teachers. There was no slipper, cane or any form of corporal punishment however; there was no need for such medieval acts. The difference? Our parents supported the teachers and gave a damn about our education.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex-UK)

What is the point, as so many have suggested on your pages, of throwing kids out or excluding them when this just leads them to be out on the streets causing worse havoc. There should be somewhere residential they can be sent, even if only for a short time, to rehabilitate their behaviour, and I agree that parents should be made to sign an acceptable behaviour contract with the school.
Anya Darr, Devon

It is unfair to the students who can follow the rules and attend class
Simon, Watford, UK
If a child, for example, has ADHD and cannot abide by these classroom rules, then perhaps they should be in a special class. It is unfair to the students who can follow the rules and attend class without causing disruption to be forced to put up with those who will not or cannot behave themselves.
Simon, Watford, UK

It's about time people accepted that a 'one size fits all' solution does not work. It holds back the bright, makes the less able feel inadequate and gives the idiots carte blanche to disrupt the class as and when they feel like it. No wonder children are not interested in school. Thanks again to the loony left for a social experiment that has failed three generations.
Michael, Worcester, England

Why say 1 out of every 10 schools are not improving? What should have been said is 9 out of every 10 schools are improving, why are the media always so negative?
Darren Goldstein, London

I embrace that there should be more control over the student during lessons, but I can't helping thinking that my 7-year-old stepson with ADHD, is already doomed to be expelled on these new rules.
Charlotte, Aylesbury

Classroom Disruption is a real problem in schools and it's not always the kids. The parents are equally culpable, one even bopped me on the nose for calling his child a 'lazy little urchin'!
Jon Murtagh

It must be very galling to those good teachers who really want to impart their knowledge
Tony, Welling, Kent

When are the powers that be going to realise that they have lost this battle. When we had the cane and the slipper and the backing of parents you would be surprised how attentive children could be. It must be very galling to those good teachers who really want to impart their knowledge. However, the impositions laid upon parents by schools, and some of the stories of how teachers themselves behave is getting parents backs up. Time to fundamentally rethink the education system.
Tony, Welling, Kent

Teachers have had their authority removed by the do-gooders who believe discipline and punishment is an infringement of a child's rights. Soon it is likely that parents' ability to discipline their children will suffer the same fate. Perhaps those responsible for such lunacy should be made to stand up and teach a class of disruptive kids and then maybe they will understand the damage they have done.
Mark, UK

I'm in a classroom now and I'm getting away with writing this. Enough said.
Anon, Cumbria

Schools will always have this problem no matter what is proposed to tackle this issue. The only real solution to reduce this problem is just take all of the disruptive ones out of the class and put them into one section where they cannot disrupt the ones who are behaving and working there way up for their GCSEs.
Anthony Inson, Cardiff, Wales

Are we not forgetting parental responsibility? Children have up to four years at home to learn from their parents. Behaviour at school simply represents the liberal times we live in where discipline/deterrent/punishment is an after thought!
Clive, Woking

I think the Tories have the right idea. Giving power back to schools and headmasters to take individual actions will be far more effective that a sweeping top-down approach taken by the government.
Jon Harrison, York University, England

School kids have always played up. Erasers have always been thrown, the teacher has always been mocked behind their back and the kids at the back of the class have always talked. The main difference is that teachers no longer have the powers (or the confidence in the face of increasing an unreasonable threats of legal action) to effectively control this in a manner they see fit. Anything that restores this ability is a good thing.
Adam, Hampshire, UK

How do you deal with the bright child who is bored by the lesson aimed at the lowest denominator?
Barry P, Havant, England

Ms Kelly wants zero tolerance to low level disruption in the classroom. Has this woman any idea what that means? Where does lively debate of a topic become disruption? How do you deal with the bright child who is bored by the lesson aimed at the lowest denominator? How do you deal with the incompetent teacher, the teacher who lacks any charisma, who could not control a group of nuns, or enthuse anyone?

Whilst I am all in favour of a good level of discipline in the classroom, it is apparent that Ms Kelly is not the person to put in charge of the process. Like so many in government, and opposition, the phrase zero tolerance is bandied about by this minister as some sort of mantra, but with no idea as to what it means.
Barry P, Havant, England

Having spent the last few years dealing with so-called "low-level disruption", I have had had the misfortune to deal with some extremely unsupportive parents who don't care when their child doesn't turn up for a detention, or fails to submit coursework, or swears at a member of staff or steals their property. I could go on. Of course, these useless parents are a minority, but the destructive effect that their children have on the learning of other students (not to mention staff sanity) is unacceptable and yes, they should be removed.
Holly, Norfolk

This doesn't go far enough. A legally binding contract between parents and the school, whereby parents must agree that if the child is disruptive, they will be thrown out, no questions asked or answered. This might just get parents to severely discipline their children, without us having to resort to giving back the cane to teachers. Any parent who disagrees has the choice to home-school their child, as is the case already.
Dean Brown, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

I will be leaving the teaching profession and going back into IT, due to the terrible behaviour at my school, but more importantly due to the lack of support from the head and other senior management when we tried to achieve an acceptable level of behaviour. When I received a letter from the Head asking me to reply stating the circumstances surrounding the sending out of two very disruptive year 11 children I knew it was time to quit. As if I didn't have enough else to do?
Greg Brown, Norwich, UK

I nearly spat out my coffee when I read that teachers are to be given powers to stop children talking, fiddling with mobile phones etc. How on earth did it get this bad? I finished my education in the mid eighties (not so long ago!), we knew that talking whilst the teacher was trying to give a class was wrong, we knew that teachers had absolute authority. And it's all been washed away by the liberal elite who are too concerned with the rights of the individual rather than that of the school as a whole.
Nick, UK

Classrooms are much more disrupted since mobiles came out than ever before. Why do parents allow their children to have mobiles when they don't need them? I think the cane should be brought back into schools.
Joe, London

Discipline requires both the carrot and the stick to be effective, but too much stick in the past has resulted in society shying away from it today.
Simon Challands, UK

Children are sent to school to be taught, i.e. learn something. If they are disruptive, I can't see the point in excluding them. What do they then learn? The school must maintain discipline, but it's foremost up to the parents to make sure their little demons are well behaved when they attend school. Obviously there are cases, when even the loveliest little angel will misbehave, but in these cases, a note to the parents, who can then take appropriate action should be enough.
Lillian, West Ealing, London

When parents begin to take responsibility for their children and for their children's behaviour then we will have begun to tackle the root cause. Government inspired initiatives and nanny state interference are just another set of palliatives that will never succeed in changing the way society behaves.
John, Cheshire

Give the power back to the teachers and I'm sure disruption will be a thing of the past
Phillip Holley, UK, Cambs
For teachers to assert any authority in classrooms they need to be given some authority. Kids are well versed in their 'rights' and the boundaries that limit the actions any teacher can take. Give the power back to the teachers and I'm sure disruption will be a thing of the past.
Phillip Holley, UK, Cambs

I agree 100% with Phillip Holley. If teachers were allowed to use common sense and rely on their own professionalism, without a never-ending tide of government edicts, things would improve dramatically.
Rosie Wilson, Cambridge

Too many parents, and most of my students have the misconception that education is their 'right'. Well, it isn't. It is a privilege. If a student does not appreciate it, he/she should be kicked out. Otherwise, we have to put up with bad quality education. Unless, of course, teacher salaries become something like 40K a year.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey

Treat them like adults and the vast majority will respond
Ed, London, UK

The key is immense discipline in primary schools and the lower levels of secondary schools. In years 10, 11 and the 6th form, the students are more mature and desire independence and freedom. Treat them like adults and the vast majority will respond. Special schools for disruptive kids with strict regimes will solve the problems. Higher attainment pays for itself later on.
Ed, London, UK

Hopefully the new measures will help detect learning disabilities quicker with a more effective approach to helping pupils with special needs.
Johanna Kaschke, London, UK

As a teacher I welcome any plans that will allow greater learning to take place and reduce disruption to lessons. But until parents are returned to the child behaviour equation I fear little can be achieved. Politicians of all parties seem unafraid to criticise teachers, while never questioning who allows children to bring mobile phones to school. Who allows children to leave home without breakfast? Who allows children to leave home out of school uniform? Who checks whether children are completing homework? And sadly, who bothers to attend parents' evenings? Until parents of disruptive children recognise there is a problem and work with schools to tackle it, teachers will continue to fight a losing battle against pupils and parents who show little regard for rules, either inside the classroom or in society as a whole. I behaved well at school because I was expected to behave well at home and at school.
Rachel, Hull

Small things like using a calculator on your phone in a class surely can't be a punishable classroom offence. Yes, texting and ringing people is a problem because they don't give a damn about anyone else's education and think they have the right to do so at their own free will. Verbal and physical disruption should see tougher measures than just "step outside, I will speak to you in a minute" or a detention. First and only time, next time the parents are involved. Anyone care to add?
Chris, Leeds, UK

If teachers were doing their jobs properly they would already be dealing with low level disruption
Sue, UK

I can't believe the government needs to act on this. If teachers were doing their jobs properly they would already be dealing with low level disruption. What is wrong with these people? Anyone would think they were scared of the children they are paid to teach.
Sue, UK

To Sue, UK: The teachers aren't scared of the children, they're scared of the parents and the lawyers. How do you discipline a child if the parent immediately complains to your head teacher, the governors and the LEA as soon as you do anything claiming you're victimising their innocent little boy/girl?
Paul Watson, London, UK

They'll work if the teachers are given the power to actually enforce them and if every child doesn't get reinstated on appeal by a bunch of politically-correct council officials overriding the wishes of staff and governors. My main concern though is where are you going to put the thousands of children who get kicked out? Are they going to get specialist schooling and thus benefit from bad behaviour?
David Priddy, Slough, UK

I am currently in dispute with my daughter's school. Her education is being disrupted by unacceptable levels of classroom disruption. The school tell me these pupils have the right to be in a classroom. I say my daughter has the right to an education. These two 'rights' are very different in my opinion and one has no place in education!
Anon, Totton, Southampton

We must be careful though to avoid missing those with real medical reasons for disturbance
John, Watford

Getting tough is fine - indeed it should be undertaken from the earliest school attendance to be effective. We must be careful though to avoid missing those with real medical reasons for disturbance - my daughter has ADHD and was not identified early enough as suffering this medical disorder. Under these guidelines she might have been excluded before medical help was found.
John, Watford

It just goes to show the low level of expectation nowadays, how far school discipline has degenerated and the loss of respect for teaching staff when an Education Secretary deems using a mobile phone in class as low level disruption. What on earth is high level disruption?
Dave, Reading

Too much emphasis is being placed on the problems, particularly problems emanating from pupils. A good teacher, holding the attention of a class, experiences few disruptive problems. Let's get the teaching right and then deal with the few problems, quietly, which will be present in any group of young people. Teaching, teaching resources and teaching content often fall far short of something which could be made interesting for pupils. Emphasis on interest, relevance to the real world and personalising content for individual pupils will do more to both improve teaching and reduce class disruption than any zero tolerance or exclusion regimes.
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

I cost the country the price of a PGCE qualification, but had to get out of the profession sharpish because you spend so much time managing behaviour, and so little teaching. The problem is that a teacher has no sanctions and is permanently scared of parents and litigation.
Christian Tiburtius, Reading, UK

The government and society as a whole should be asking itself the question as to why this situation of ill discipline has arisen. The reason for this in my opinion is that it has been caused by all the do-gooders telling the rest of us all how wrong it is to discipline children in the first place. I hope these people are now happy with the situation they have engineered.
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK

If mobile phones are a problem in the classroom, then ban them! Or would that infringe the human rights of the child involved?! It's time we gave power back to teachers to punish children effectively, including the removal of privileges like mobile phones. Banning much of this from schools entirely might also help solve bullying problems. No fancy phone, no reason for other kids to be jealous or show off.
Iain Hicken, Swindon, UK

I can't believe children are allowed mobile phones in class
Chris, UK
Low level disruption makes it impossible for those that want to learn - it must be stopped immediately and without favour. I can't believe children are allowed mobile phones in class. Most employers don't want mobiles at places of business as they stop people working as they should.
Chris, UK

More focus on why some children are disruptive and helping them through it. Punishing or excluding them won't help them. That's one of the reasons why a teacher's job is so challenging, and you would hope rewarding. The Tories plans go far too far, as per usual; trying to win back the UKIP/BNP vote perhaps?
Iain, Poole

Why should students that want to learn be disrupted by individuals who couldn't care less?
Luke Gomm, Berks
This zero tolerance approach sounds great. Why should students that want to learn be disrupted by individuals who couldn't care less? With regards to mobile phone use, perhaps Ofcom could reconsider their ban on mobile phone jamming devices in the educational sector. The problem these days is that there is nothing for disruptive kids to fear if they do something wrong. Political correctness and the 'nanny' state have had some negative effects on bringing up disciplined children.
Luke Gomm, Berks

Mobiles are anti-social and disruptive and should be switched off, put in a box and handed back at the end of the day; parents can reach pupils via landline (unless they are truanting). Smaller classes will be a vast improvement - more pupils = more disruption and less control. Plus, actually make them do some work for a change, the system is far too easy and illiteracy is commonplace.
Philip Pike, Colchester

Tackling low level disruption could be a good method of preventing higher level disruption
Katherine, London, UK
Tackling low level disruption could be a good method of preventing higher level disruption. Minor situations are always easier to deal with than major ones, and starting intervention early will give pupils a better idea of where the line is being drawn between natural childhood energy and misbehaviour. Anything is worth avoiding the idea of 'special schools' (e.g. borstals) which merely turn into schools for crime.
Katherine, London, UK

About time too. My daughter has to have after-school lessons whilst the pupils who cause disruption during normal class time go scot-free.
Tony, Swindon

Surely confiscating phones until the end of the day would be more effective than excluding pupils.
Kathy, UK

My wife is a teacher and it is clear that for many parents school is nothing more than a glorified babysitting service. It is time for society and governments to stop being apologists and accept that society needs rules and yes, stigma. Without these we see people behaving in unbelievable ways whether in school, in the street on Saturday night, on holiday, etc. Why? Because society's methods of keeping things in check have been eroded to such a degree that no-one has any sense of responsibility for themselves or others, no-one has a sense of dignity and self worth and nobody ever feels ashamed or embarrassed.
Ian, Brechin, Scotland

The government should be tackling the cause, not the symptom. The culture among young people, and especially young boys is one where being educated (or even to show an interest in getting an education) is 'not cool'. Until this is addressed it will be all but impossible to make any significant changes.
Bill, Leicester, UK

Hooray. Anything that can reintroduce some discipline into schools must be a good thing.
Ian, UK

If classroom sizes were smaller it would be much easier to handle disruptive pupils
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK
If classroom sizes were smaller it would be much easier to handle disruptive pupils. Plus it also provides a far better learning environment for non-disruptive pupils alike. Taking children out of school for bad behaviour would look too much like a reward in their eyes. Creating 'turnaround' schools is another attempt at bringing back two tier education where one gets all and the other gets none.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK

The simple way to exert authority over failing schoolchildren is to oblige them to repeat the previous year's class. This helps by making sure slow learners make the grade and gives an incentive to disruptive pupils to avoid acting the fool. (Any disruptive pupil who is actually passing the exams should probably be in a more advanced class.)
Peter, Surrey, UK

They don't go far enough in my opinion. This is not rocket science to resolve - smaller class sizes and more power in the hands of teachers is the answer. The power of disruptive kids at school is based on trying to impress their peers. The child only has power or influence if this can be exercised in front of their peer group. Remove them and it helps all concerned. It is also overly bureaucratic and expensive to set up panels for review. Why can't the school's governors be the 'court of appeal' for parents if a headmaster wants to expel someone?
Paul Brandwood, Exmoor, UK

Surely removing pupils for low level disruption will encourage it, if it gives them access to smaller classes. Not enough attention is given to helping parents control their children at a young age so they don't become a disruptive force in schools.
Mike C, Leeds, UK

Both my parents are teachers (although one is now retired), and both tell me that the levels of violence, threats of violence and general antisocial behaviour has never been as high. Teachers have lost confidence in management and the system and its ability to deal with troublemakers. My Mum was threatened with violence recently and told that her car would be set alight by a 13-year-old - the police took more seriously the threat of arson than the violence, while the school wanted to do nothing. Says it all really.
Rich, Newcastle, UK

It's about time the schools took charge in the classroom
Karen, Berkshire

It's about time the schools took charge in the classroom. I send my son to school to learn, not to sit and fiddle with mobile phones, talk over the teacher and make life a misery for other children. Whenever I hear he's been disruptive he receives the discipline from me that the teacher is unable to give! Hopefully if teachers are given the right to promote zero tolerance, we might see a return to good old fashioned manners and learning within the classroom.
Karen, Berkshire

How does this fit with the government's targets for reducing the number of exclusions from schools? There does not seem to be any consistency. And where are they expecting these kids to go? In a rural comprehensive there are not many other options unless you start bussing kids around the countryside. So who pays for that and who supervises them?
A, Beds

A few disruptive children can wreak havoc in a class
Mike, Bradford, UK

I used to be disruptive and inattentive at school and I've been paying the price ever since. I think a stricter regime, more power and more respect for teachers would benefit all of us. A few disruptive children can wreak havoc in a class. This is bad for the children involved, the other children in the class and the sanity of the staff. Come on, let's get our priorities right.
Mike, Bradford, UK

Make teachers dress appropriately to show authority and command respect, bring back corporal punishment, make schools immune to compensation claims and bring back borstals.
David, England

To David, England: "Make teachers dress appropriately to show authority and command respect" is quite amusing. In the school in which I teach, the children don't respect police officers in full uniform so how I dress will make little impact. There are other, better ways to get respect and authority. Sadly, his view is another from the "I haven't got a clue what I'm talking about" brigade. I would challenge any of these people to actually spend a day working with some of the kids I work with. As for the new plans - nothing new there. You'll find most teachers already have a zero tolerance for low level disruption, especially mobile phones.
Paul, UK

If we so much as talked in class when told not to we were made to stand outside in the hallway. It worked pretty well - if you target the problem before it really starts then it's easy to fix.
Peter, Nottingham





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