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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 April 2006, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Parents' views on 'cool culture'
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website, at the NUT conference

Duce family
It's not cool to do well at school, Mr Duce said

Teachers attending a conference in Torquay say a "culture of cool" is undermining positive pupil attitudes.

The National Union of Teachers said the "relentless commercial targeting of children" meant many believed it was "cool" not to work hard at school.

But yards from the debate in the conference centre, families strolling along the seafront had a different attitude.

Sean Foward, visiting with his wife and children from Bishop's Cleeve in Gloucestershire, was sceptical.

Most of it's down to the parents
Geoff Duce

"I can't think it's any worse today than it's ever been," he said.

"People forget."

He said his two daughters and his son watched about three hours of television per day.

"They do watch a lot - probably too much - but that's got to be monitored."

But trouble at school was rare.

"I think their school is quite well-disciplined. They clamp down before it takes hold.

"Things might be different if it was in the inner cities.

Influence of TV

Roger and Susan Tresidder, from Redruth in Cornwall, felt much the same about daughter Amy, aged seven.

Tresidder family
The Tresidders believe TV does exert a "power influence"

"We are lucky, she is in quite a good little school."

But they did feel TV exerted a powerful influence.

"She does pick things up - 'I want that, I want that'," Mrs Tresidder said.

"Doesn't mean she gets it."

However, Geoff Duce, from Telford in Shropshire, had had different experiences.

"It's not cool to do well at school," Mr Duce said.

"They don't want to be seen to be doing what they should be doing."

But there was nothing particularly new in that - as a youngster he was expelled from school himself for fighting, he said.

"I went to a comprehensive and it was like a madhouse."

Indicating his wife, Jackie, he added: "She went to an all-girls school."

The difference in education had shown in their qualifications and subsequent careers - he worked in a factory, while she was "quite a high civil servant".

"I'm ashamed of it now," Mr Duce said. "But most of it's down to the parents."

Practical skills

He had grown up in a working-class mining area, with no emphasis on education.

He hoped things would be different for his own children, aged 10 and five.

"You can't drum it in with them, how important it is."

Waiting for a boat trip at the harbour was a group from Bristol - foster carer Dave Walker and youngsters.

"I hate school," said his daughter Abby, 13.

"Teachers are too strict."

For years the education system has been failing children that are practical
Dave Walker

Mr Walker patted one of the children on the head.

"They are teaching him French," he said.

He lowered his voice a little, leaning forward confidentially.

"When really he can't speak English," he added.

"They should concentrate on the basics."

There were two sorts of people, he said - "those that have got it in their heads, and those that have got it in their hands".

"For years the education system has been failing children that are practical.

"The trouble is an idle mind is dangerous. Once children become bored it just festers."

And children were not stupid, he added - they saw that those who misbehaved were rewarded by going away on adventure weekends.

Abby said: "The children who are naughty, if they are good for a week they get put on a special table with, like, wine glasses with orange juice.

"The ones who are being good don't get rewarded for it."

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