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Issues - Education

Breakdown in family life 'is affecting schools'

By Richard Garner, Education Editor
27 May 2004

Britain's teachers are losing the battle to maintain discipline in schools because of a breakdown in family relationships, according to research by Cambridge University academics published today.

Their report, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers, urges ministers to hold a "wide-ranging" inquiry into the deterioration in pupil behaviour. Otherwise, it warns, "there is little likelihood of improving on the current national performance levels [in schools] in the next two years".

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said: "The growing unwillingness of parents to support schools is compounding problems of poor discipline. The breakdown in family life and in society's values means teachers are often having to do their job in a disciplinary vacuum." Historically, the union has been reluctant to blame marital breakdown for poor behaviour - the position adopted by the right - for fear of stigmatising pupils.

The report, by John MacBeath and Maurice Galton, concludes: "The nuclear and extended family are becoming historical relics. Children are growing up in a new and challenging world - but it is teachers who 'bear the brunt'."

The survey of 230 teachers in 65 secondary schools also revealed that heads were having to appoint extra staff to deal with behaviour problems.

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