Philobiblon: Hold the front page: school behaviour is getting better

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hold the front page: school behaviour is getting better

Regular readers will know that I come down strongly against "the world's all going to hell" school of thought. One of the favourite complaits is how "manners", "behaviour", "respect" are all going south at a rate of knots.

Today's Prospect has an antidote to that claim, a piece, based on detailed observation, that concludes that the situation is actually improving in British schools, in large part due to better management.

"The [British crime] survey's most recent findings suggest, perhaps surprisingly, that the rate of violence against teachers has dropped by more than 40 per cent in the past eight years. Drawing on its results, home office researchers found that in 2002 and 2003 1 per cent of teachers were physically attacked at work. Between 1994 and 1998 the level of assaults on teachers was almost twice as high, running at 1.8 per cent.
Verbal threats against teachers have also decreased, the survey found. Two per cent of teachers reported the problem each year between 1994 and 1998, but by 2002-03 that figure had dropped to 1.2 per cent.

And it makes the seemingly oft-forgotten point that these are children; if the school has got out of control it is not their fault, but that of the management.

I was reminded of the one and only real fight I've ever had - arranged in the classic school manner - "meet you in the playground after class" form. And that then was accepted - the teachers must have known about it, but then it was just "kids being kids". *

A lot of the "bullying", "violence" and "aggression" we now worry about in schools (and elsewehere) were once regarded as normal behaviour. The fact that it no longer is can only be a good thing, but it does produce an awful lot of unwarranted anxiety about "declining standards".

*In case you were wondering, I lost. Not surprising since I didn't have the faintest clue how to throw a punch (something all girls should be taught at a young age), and she was the school "tough".

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