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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
London children not 'monsters'
South African school
South African schools are losing teachers to England
A parents' leader rejects claims from overseas teachers that children in London schools are badly-behaved "monsters".

Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations says that she does not accept the negative portrayal of pupils given by South African teachers who had worked in London.

Two South African teachers are said to be setting up a support group for colleagues who have been traumatised by time spent teaching in England.

Eldrid Petersen and Renee Fahrenfort said that England was "getting the children it deserves" and described pupils they had encountered in schools in Hackney in east London as "monsters".

"I am from one of South Africa's most violent communities. I believed if I could survive there London wouldn't be that bad. But it is much worse than you could ever imagine," said Mr Petersen.

The teachers were reported to have been appalled by the lack of discipline in schools and the bad behaviour of pupils.

Ms Morrissey said that such comments did not "paint a true picture" of schools in the capital - based on her own experience as an inspector in east London.

"I've never ever really seen a bad child - children respond to what adults do to them and if children are monsters, it is adults that have made that happen."

Inner-city

But she suggested that overseas teachers might need training to prepare them for inner-city schools.

Thousands of overseas teachers have been recruited by supply agencies and local authorities to help tackle a serious teacher shortage in schools in the United Kingdom.

Alongside the longstanding influx of teachers from Australia and New Zealand, schools have been looking increasingly to South Africa and neighbouring countries as a source of new recruits.

In the United Kingdom, where many schools depend on overseas teachers, there are concerns that the dispute could adversely affect future recruitment.

The managing director of one of the biggest supply agencies, Tish Seabourne of TimePlan, said she had been appalled by the apparent lack of support Hackney had given the South Africans.

It had made her company's job recruiting in South Africa much harder.

"I could go and murder someone in Hackney just now," she said.

But in South Africa there have already been concerns that the over-recruitment of teachers for schools in the United Kingdom could cause local shortages of teachers.

See also:

16 Feb 01 | Africa
UK 'behind SA brain drain'
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