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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 April 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Teachers decry 'culture of cool'
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website, at the NUT conference

Children play computer game
Children have plenty of distractions from studying

Teachers are complaining that a "culture of cool" is undermining positive pupil attitudes, in school and out.

A debate at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) on Sunday heard complaints about the "relentless commercial targeting of children".

This had increased peer pressure on pupils not to apply themselves in the classroom, delegates said.

NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said too many pupils thought it was just not "cool" to work hard.

"Far too many boys in particular - think it's cool not to work hard at school, that it is cool to be disdainful and rude about those pupils who do work hard and the teachers who encourage them," he said.

Sean Foward: "I can't think it's any worse today than it's ever been."
Geoff Duce: "It's not cool to do well at school."

Delegates discussed calls for parenting skills programmes and parental support networks to be made available to combat such negative influences.

Birmingham teacher Nigel Baker said children were "victims of rampant commercialisation".

In an ideal world, the parents would have the support of extended families in raising children.

But it was not an ideal world, and parents needed support.

A member of the NUT executive, Max Hyde, said the idea of parenting classes had raised worries they would involve lessons in how to:

  • say "yah"
  • hold a dinner party
  • buy a "Chelsea tractor" and drive your children past the local school to one that doesn't have any children called Chardonnay
But she said they were actually about helping parents to help themselves.

"We say parents are part of the solution not part of the problem."


But Wandsworth teacher Jan Nielsen said: "I'm afraid when I hear the term 'parenting classes' I want to reach for my gun."

Like anti-social behaviour orders they would be used against the working class, she said.

In her view, feckless and irresponsible parents were the ones who sent their eight-year-old children away to "some Gothic mansion" at a cost of 20,000 a year so they could become captains of industry.

"What parents really need is a shorter working week, better wages, better holidays," she said.

Steve Sinnott
Mr Sinnott backs parenting classes

"Our youth and community services in this country have been decimated under this government."

Youths were forced to hang around in shopping centres, drinking cheap cider, "because there's bog all else for them to do".

NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott later told reporters he thought parents classes could be "a great idea".

When schools put them on, they were often poorly attended, he said.

But if they called them instead something like "getting the most out of school for your child", parents were significantly more willing to take part.

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