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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Tories demand pupil discipline
Tim Collins MP
Tim Collins wants an end to bad behaviour in schools
The Conservatives are promising to back teachers by smoothing the way for laws to strengthen classroom discipline.

Spokesman Tim Collins told an education union conference that bad behaviour by parents and pupils should no longer be ignored.

His comments come as the NASUWT union, at its annual conference, was deploring increased violence against its members.

It claims a teacher is physically or verbally assaulted every seven minutes - but that it can go unreported.

Delegates want a nationally agreed system of recording violence - and security checks in a sample of schools to assess the scale of the problem.

'Sensible legislation'

In the past year, the union has organised ballots authorising members to refuse to teach violent or disruptive pupils in 31 primary and secondary schools.

In some cases the problem was resolved but industrial action went ahead in two dozen schools, union leaders report.

In his speech to the conference, being held in Llandudno in north Wales, Tim Collins said his party would ease the passage through Parliament of "sensible legislation designed to strengthen the ability of teachers to impose discipline in the classroom".

He said there should be "no more turning of a blind eye to the behaviour of the yobbish parents or thuggish pupils".

He took issue with one remark which hit the headlines at the start of the conference - when the union's current president, Pat Lerew, blamed a rise in pupil aggression on the legacy of "devil take the hindmost" Thatcherism.

Better to look at the general "fashionable erosion of respect for all forms of authority" and the "demolition" of the traditional family unit, Mr Collins believes - the work of the political left, not the right, he said.

Abuse allegations

On Wednesday, the conference demanded anonymity for teachers facing allegations from pupils, the vast majority of which are false or never proved.

It also called for the legal right to sue pupils for compensation if they made false allegations.

Mr Collins agrees teachers should get anonymity.

He also says there should be "a clear strengthening of the presumption of innocence for teachers", especially if the only evidence against them is the uncorroborated allegation of a child.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, who spoke at the conference on Wednesday, indicated a willingness to discuss ways of protecting teachers from the "blame culture" in relation to school trips.

Mr Collins said this was not enough, especially in view of the "scandalous abuse of public money" - an estimated 200m - as schools meet legal challenges over matters which used to be thought of as unfortunate but no-one's fault.


He called on Mr Clarke to bring in legislation, with Conservative Party support, to give teachers protected legal status.

The NASUWT conference also played host on Thursday to Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh.

He also said the government should step up its support for the teaching profession.

He told delegates they had a right to know their schools were properly funded and that teaching must be recognised as a profession which is adequately rewarded and properly protected.

Mr Pugh, himself a former teacher, likened the English education inspectorate, Ofsted, to the Soviet KGB secret service - and accused the Department for Education and Skills of having "Maoist" tendencies.

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