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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
School discipline study disputed
Pupil and teacher - generic
The union has called for new powers for staff
The first minister has accused a teachers' union of overstating the discipline problem in schools.

Speaking in parliament, Jack McConnell rejected a call from the NASUWT union for pupils assaulting staff to be permanently excluded.

The plea followed a union survey and a warning that many children were "out of control".

It has called for a national standard of pupil behaviour and urged parents to take more responsibility.

Mr McConnell accused teachers' leaders of exaggerating the problem and rejected a call for pupils who assault staff to be permanently excluded.

Verbally abused

Mr McConnell said behaviour in schools was improving thanks to new buildings and curriculum and better back-up through extra staffing.

Teachers, he told MSPs, ought to be able to control their classes and he did not accept that words spoken by children amounted to an assault.

The survey found that 64% of secondary teachers and 46% of primary teachers were verbally abused and three out of five nursery teachers were abused or assaulted.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell said the problem had been exaggerated
Victor Topping of the NASUWT said parents had a duty to ensure their children behaved responsibly.

"This situation will not improve until such parents acknowledge their responsibilities," he said.

"Teachers cannot undo in a few hours of school each day, years of parental neglect."

More than three-quarters of the staff surveyed in primary schools reported disobedience as a persistent problem, compared to 91% in secondary schools.

NASUWT Scottish president Ian Clydesdale said he was "appalled" by the statistics.

Exclusion plea

"They point to a serious cancer growing within our schools and causing huge deterioration in education provision for those pupils who do want to learn," he said.

"Because of persistent disruption, teachers are having to spend more time on discipline paper chases and less time teaching classes."

Mr Clydesdale said the NASUWT wanted all assaults on teachers by pupils met with permanent exclusion and criminal charges brought.

The Scottish Tories said morale within the teaching profession "had plummeted".

Tory education spokesman James Douglas Hamilton said: "This is a damning indictment of this government's record.

"The well behaved majority are having their school days ruined by the unruly few."

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