Monday, March 02, 2009

Caning pupils 'can be effective behaviour control'

Behaviour among British children has got worse since the cane was abolished, according to parents.

Government research showed some mothers and fathers believed corporal punishment was an "effective method of control" when they were at school. They said the decision to outlaw physical chastisement contributed to a decline in discipline. The comments - in a study backed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families - come just months after a fifth of teachers called for the cane to be reintroduced to restore order in the classroom.

This week, a report by Ofsted suggested traditional discipline methods such as suspending hundreds of troublemakers at a time and banning children with shaven heads and designer trainers was a good deterrent. Corporal punishment, including the use of the cane and ruler, was abolished in state schools in 1987 and 1998 in the fee-paying sector.

In the latest study, the Department for Children, Schools and Families held in-depth interviews with 48 adults to gauge their perception of behaviour among young people. When asked to describe what they felt was behind a decline in discipline, they made a series of observations. This included the "increasing demands on teachers - paper work, planning etc - leaving them less effective to teach and discipline effectively".

The group, which included 32 parents, also cited the "suitability of some teachers to the profession", suggesting that some lacked an ability to "instil respect and good behaviour amongst teenage pupils". They added that "the removal of corporal punishment in schools, which many felt had been an effective method of control in their day", also affected discipline standards.

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: "When it was used as a threat, rather than being used to actually hit a child, corporal punishment was often an effective deterrent. It was certainly abused in some schools and it could become something of a badge of honour for those that were hit, but the threat could be effective. "I am just not convinced that in the present climate there is a possibility it can come back. Can you imagine the number of compensation claims it would lead to? "I really do believe that the problem for the deteriorating behaviour is the political correctness of the last 10 years that has told children to stand up and complain the moment someone tries to tell them off." In the study, parents also blamed the fact that "children and young people [were] becoming more vocal and demanding and at the same time less afraid of authority".

Increasing pressure on children to be academically successful was also cited. A survey of more than 6,000 teachers last year found more than a fifth believed the cane should be brought back. One supply teacher told researchers: "Children's behaviour is now absolutely outrageous in the majority of schools. I am a supply teacher, so I see very many schools and there are no sanctions. There are too many anger management people and their ilk who give children the idea that it is their right to flounce out of lessons for time out because they have problems with their temper. They should be caned instead."

But John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Thankfully, corporal punishment is no longer on the agenda, except in the most uncivilised countries. I am sure that this barbaric punishment has disappeared forever."


Baby P: Probe details catalogue of blunders

A damning report is to identify a catalogue of errors made by NHS professionals who failed to prevent the abuse and death of Baby P.

An investigation by the Healthcare Commission will condemn blunders made by a succession of doctors and health visitors who came into contact with the toddler, but did not act on clear signs that he was at risk. The report, due to be published on Tuesday, will blame poor "joint working" between frontline staff who treated Baby P for the failure of two hospitals, a family doctor and two health visitors to protect the child from violence and eventual murder at the age of 17 months by his mother's boyfriend.

A GP who first raised the alarm about the toddler's abuse was suspended two weeks ago, as it emerged that he had seen the child at least 14 times before his death. Dr Jerome Ikwueke referred the child to hospital in December 2006, calling for a full child protection "alert" when his mother could not explain why the child had bruises and a two-inch swelling on his forehead. However, the GP saw the child on many more occasions, including once two months earlier when he accepted claims that bruises on Baby P's head and chest had been caused by a fall. The General Medical Council suspended him after a complaint from Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust (TCPT), which oversees the area's GP and health visitor services.

A paediatrician who failed to examine the boy because he seemed "cranky," missing the fact that his back and ribs were broken, has already been suspended. Dr Sabah al-Zayyat saw bruises on Baby P when he was referred to her child development clinic, but did not carry out a full examination, 48 hours before the child died in August 2007, after suffering appalling abuse at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger, Jason Owen.

The probe by the Healthcare Commission examines the parts played by four organisations which came into contact with Baby P: Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, Haringey TCPT, North Middlesex Hospital and the Whittington Hospital, all in north London. It is expected to be most critical of the failings of the Great Ormond Street trust, which employed Dr al-Zayyat, and of Haringey TPCT, which employed two health visitors who visited Baby P.

The inspectorate has already been involved in a review of the borough's child protection system which was published in December. Its chief executive, Anna Walker, described the case as "one of the saddest and most shocking ... on which we have ever been asked to report" and identified systems which were not adequate to enable healthcare organisations to protect children.

The new report, which follows more detailed interviews with staff at all four NHS organisations which treated Baby P, is expected to highlight poor communications between staff and different agencies which came into contact with Baby P. The report will also examine staffing levels, training, and awareness of child protection procedures.

In December, Ofsted ruled that a serious case review into the circumstances leading to the death of Baby P, which was carried out by a "safeguarding children board" headed by Sharon Shoesmith, then director of children's services for Haringey Council, was inadequate. Ms Shoesmith was subsequently sacked and Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, demanded that a fresh review, examining the blunders made by all the agencies which came into contact with the child, report to Ofsted by the end of February. Ofsted admitted that the deadline had been missed, and Mr Balls has given officials until Friday to submit their findings.

The original report had claimed there had been "appropriate communication between and within agencies", even though Baby P was seen 78 times by social services, health workers and police during months of abuse.

As the Healthcare Commission publishes its investigation on Tuesday, the Local Government Association will launch a campaign to recruit and retain social workers following criticism of the profession in the wake of the Baby P case. Council leaders fear there will be fewer people applying to work with children and more social workers leaving their jobs as a result of the affair.

Baby P's mother, 27, her boyfriend, 32, and lodger Jason Owen, 36, have all been warned to expect significant jail sentences over the death of the child, but sentencing has been delayed for legal reasons.


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