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The BBC's Ceri Thompson
"Some say it is the wrong punishment"
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Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, Professor Jean Aitchison
Is swearing acceptable? Listen to the debate
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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 14:02 GMT
Pupils suspended for swearing
two boys
Two of those suspended
Sixty boys have been suspended from a secondary school in Surrey in the past six months for swearing.

Paul Templeman-Wright took over as head teacher at Beverley secondary school in New Malden last year and immediately cracked down on language.

He claims the campaign has reformed the school and won the support of governors, most parents and the police.

And he has hit out about the language of celebrities such as Liam and Noel Gallagher, Jonathan Ross and Elton John.

Mr Templeman-Wright told the Daily Mail newspaper why he took the action.

Society is giving out the wrong signals and the youth of today faces a big culture shock when they come into this school

Paul Templeman-Wright, head teacher

"Society is giving out the wrong signals and the youth of today faces a big culture shock when they come into this school.

"There is no place for such language in the classroom or the workplace."

The head teacher blamed celebrities for spreading bad language.

Gallaghers

"I heard Jonathan Ross use the F-word twice on television before Christmas and Liam and Noel Gallagher are just as bad.

"Elton John also used the word and I don't know why we allow Eminen into the country."

The suspensions have normally lasted between three to five days and have only been among boys in the main part of the school.

Girls are admitted in the sixth form.

The school's action has led to a debate about the place of swearing in society.

Some heads tend to use the gutter language to show they are not elitist, that they are egalitarian.

Peregrine Worsthorne

The former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, agrees that swearing is becoming more common.

"It is part of creating a classless society. It is part of a culture which says instead of emulating the habits and language of the top class, you show your goodwill to the bottom class or gutter by copying the habits and language of that group," he said.

Sir Peregrine said he supported the policies being followed at Beverley School and wished more schools would follow suit.

"I think other heads and teachers tend to use the gutter language to show they are not elitist but egalitarian. No one wants to be seen as an elitist," he said.

But language expert Professor Jean Aitchison of Oxford University says the battle against swearing will never be won.


Nowadays, people often use swear words to show they are being friendly, or informal, to show they are not stuck up or pompous

Professor Aitchison, Oxford University

"Nowadays, people often use swear words to show they are being friendly, or informal, to show they are not stuck up or pompous.

"In the past only very low people swore but then it crept across the board.

"If you listen to children in the street they often don't know what the 'F' or 'C' words mean, they are just trying to send the message across that they are not being pompous."

Professor Aitchison said language was evolving all the time and swear words had gradually become more common.

She said her grandparents used to send her out of the room for saying 'good heavens'.

For Peregrine Worsthorne, an increase in swearing is a sign that the language is being 'dumbed down'.

"They are imitating their parents or adult society in which they live," he said.

"The use of this language is now very common. It's part of the culture."

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Swearing
Should it be tolerated in schools?
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