By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff at the HMC conference
Pupil care must be improved in an effort to overcome modern society's "selfish and self-indulgent attitudes", a leading head teacher has said.
Graham Able complains of "selfish and self-indulgent attitudes"
Graham Able, chairman of the private schools' Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), praised the traditional family unit.
He said adolescent boys in particular suffered if both mother and father were not in the household.
And he criticised advocates of the legalisation of "so-called soft drugs".
Speaking at the HMC's annual conference, in Dublin, Mr Able - head of Dulwich College, south London - said recent research showed "a strong link between regular cannabis use and the increased rate of suicide in teenage boys".
Rights and responsibilities
He said: "The problem of absent or non-existent fathers can be particularly difficult for adolescent boys.
"It would be refreshing if society and our legal system concentrated rather more on the duties of parents to their children, rather than their rights to self-gratification no matter what the cost to others."
Dealing more with pupils' social and spiritual problems was particularly important, given recent sexual scandals in the Roman Catholic church and the ongoing debate about homosexuality within the Church of England, he said.
Mr Able said he detected a "real interest among young people in spiritual matters", adding: "Perhaps their generation will bring more understanding, wisdom and tolerance and less ignorance, dogma and arrogance."
Amid concerns over exam results and league tables, it was important to "provide space for the important co-curricular programmes which contribute greatly to the overall educational experience of our pupils - and to their eventual employability and fulfilment.
"Our schools have always been much more than teaching academies and our commitment to high standards and wide participation in sport, music, drama, service activities and clubs remains important in opening additional doors for students."