Poor parenting is to blame for a major deterioration in the behaviour of primary school pupils over the past five years, a study suggests today.
Classroom disruption is a significant problem for teachers, according to researchers at Cambridge University. In interviews with teachers, Professors Maurice Galton and John Macbeath found that many blamed their pupils' unruly behaviour on the inability of parents to control children at home.
Many pupils lacked the social skills required to get on in class, said the researchers, commissioned the National Union of Teachers. "Teachers describe 'highly permissive' parents who admitted to indulging their children, often for the sake of peace or simply because they had run out of alternative incentives and sanctions," the authors added.
Examples included a mother who, after great effort, succeeded in getting her five-year-old to bed at 1am instead of 3am, and a boy of seven who smashed his Sony PlayStation in a tantrum, then would not behave for a week until his mother bought him a new one.
Professors Galton and Macbeath were also told of parents who would do anything to shut their children up "just to get some peace". Their report says schools face "formidable challenges" – particularly in poor areas where there has been "an increase in the incidence of confrontation and conflict".
The researchers, who visited schools they studied five years ago, added: "There appeared to have been a significant and inimical impact on school life from a rapidly changing social scene.
"Motivating certain children, it was claimed, had become more difficult because by the time they came to school many of these children had become expert in manipulating adults."
According to Galton and Macbeath, the top five obstacles to teaching are poor pupil behaviour, lack of time for reflection, large class sizes, too many initiatives and an overloaded curriculum. "Children arrive at school knowing too much and not enough," they said.