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Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Wednesday, 28 March 2012 10:10 UK

'Some children do not learn from punishment'


A report on the riots in England last summer has concluded that a lack of support for young people contributed to the unrest and that we should all be doing more to help young people develop what they call "character".

Serge Cefai, headteacher at the Sacred Heart Catholic School in Camberwell, said that he finds the suggestions in the report "insulting" because schools, particular those in challenging areas like London and inner-city "have been doing this from day one".

"You cant produce what we do with the children without making sure the basics are there", he said, adding that they have a strong discipline code that everyone follows and understands.

"It serves them well when they leave school", he said

Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the charity Kids Company, said building character comes from "learning a set of codes of social behaviours which schools are well placed to teach" and also the "capacity to regulate your emotion and energy".

She pointed that there are a group of young people who "lose the ability to regulate their emotions and energy" because of some trauma in their lives.

"They don't actually learn from punishment", she said because they are so impulsive and "driven by terror juices" they do not learn lessons from punishment but rather think that you hate them.

Adults need to take responsibility primarily for the safety of children so they are not terrorised then you can out in robust social values.

Serge Cefai disagreed and said that "children are safe when they understand exactly what the boundaries are and what is likely to happen next".

He said that society could learn from going into good schools and "children are constantly confused by different messages".

Mr Cefai said that the social messages they are being taught are being undermined by things like the justice system.

"Are we surprised", he said "that when children, who go out and do some dreadful things, are they are being told by people maybe that's not so bad and maybe I can do it again".

Camila Batmanghelidjh maintained that children are "much more intelligent than the current argument presents".

"The best conditions of care are robust condition of discipline, structure, predictability and good quality care combined with attachment and love", she said.

She went on to say that "the debate is being had from the wrong direction" and that "the problem does not reside in children it resides in adults".

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