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Richard Younger–Ross: The hon. Gentleman cites a catalogue of great achievements that, he claims, the Government have facilitated for his constituents. Does he agree that many initiatives depend on the money that has been made available? Should not the same funding be made available for other local authorities, especially in the south-west, that receive a much lower standard spending assessment?

Mr. Pound: I am not convinced that an election address by me to the voters of Ealing, North calling for additional funding for the south-west of England would garner me many votes. I was trying to make the point that we are considering not money, but one of the biggest societal factors that affect us today. We are examining the way in which tomorrow's leaders, workers and society are shaped and formed today. That does not depend simply on giving more money; that is meaningless. Money without commitment or an overarching policy has no value.

I do not apologise for listing the wonderful achievements in the London borough of Ealing in partnership with central Government. I am proud of that list because my kids go to schools in my constituency and benefit from it. I promise the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger–Ross) that any left-over money that we do not need will head in his direction post haste.

We are witnessing a pivotal moment, not only in my borough and my city, but in our country. Education is being perceived as part of the growth of society and the future of our country. It is not enough to concentrate on those who do well and do not cause problems and are not "creeping unwillingly to school." We must consider the whole picture and realise that education will not be a good system for anyone unless it is good for everyone.

I do not underestimate the extent of the problems that disruptive behaviour causes in schools. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West gave examples of horror stories, and I could match them. That applies to all hon. Members. We know how much teachers put up with. However, that is only part of the story. We are trying to value those who have been considered valueless in the past. The people who cause the problems are the hardest to work with. They will not go away and we must either work with them now or face the consequences of our neglect later, when they cause even more serious problems. I am therefore delighted to participate in the debate.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough has popped out, probably to issue a press release. I sympathised greatly with his point about the ever-expanding horizon of hurdles over which secondary

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school pupils must leap. That issue was particularly brought home to me last week when my daughter told me that she had just got her third level 7. I was delighted until she told me that I had to pay her £25 for each of them, as I had rashly promised. So, it is not just the pupils who suffer in these cases; parents feel the pain, too.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his earlier comments, and I look forward to his winding-up speech, as do we all. I would like to say, with him, that this is an issue that cannot be ignored. It must receive the attention and the resources that it deserves. I shall close as I started, by saying: let us pause for a moment and give thanks to those who teach our children and shape our future citizens.

1.30 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): And that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a lovely thought. I would like to join the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) in expressing it, because teachers work very hard, not only in their jobs but for the maintenance of the education of their children. It is a real pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman. Although he said he agreed with the mutual arrangement between him and his headmaster that he should leave school when he was 15 and a half, the eloquence of his speech demonstrated that there is not only a university of life but a school of life. Clearly the Royal Navy taught him not only how to kill ruthlessly—and perhaps to do so metaphorically in the Chamber—but how to be articulate. It obviously gave him a vocabulary that is most appropriate in the Chamber—not the sort that I would have thought one would learn in the Royal Navy.

While we are in the mood to offer congratulations across the Chamber, I would also like to congratulate the Minister on his debut speech in his new post. His comments were thoughtful and interesting, and he mentioned a particular subject to which I shall return later. He spoke about his mother, and his background. My own mother was born in Aberavon and had to leave school when she was 14. As I am speaking from the Conservative Benches, I had better say that I went to an ordinary state school, just in case anyone thinks that I went to Eton or one of those other schools mentioned earlier which have a problem with cannabis. I certainly do not think that Eton is exclusive in that respect.

I also mention—not really to boast, but to give some justification for my taking part in this debate—that I taught for a year before going up to university, and also undertook some tutoring of masters degree students learning statistics when I was doing my doctoral studies. I think it was the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall) who said that he had been a teacher for 34 years. Oh, no—that was the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis). I think the hon. Member for West Lancashire had been a teacher for 20 or 25 years—more than a decade, anyway, and certainly more than a year. Anyway, I certainly do not claim to be an expert in this subject. Nevertheless, like everybody else, I went to school, so I know the experiences that I went through there. I would, therefore, like to speak of my own experiences both as a teacher—in my own small way—and in school itself.

The Minister talked about the carrot and stick approach—although that is not the main issue of his that I wanted to discuss—to behaviour and discipline in

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schools. I want to return to the issue of sanctions, because it is a real problem. This is not a party political matter; the same problem has faced Conservative Governments in the past. We can talk about a carrot and stick approach, but the fact is that there is no stick at the moment. Although I am not advocating bringing back corporal punishment, I am not totally sure that that is such an outrageous idea—I shall say why in a moment—and it is certainly one that we need to think about.

I rather fear that we have reached the stage in schools at which we have not only parents who are barrack-room lawyers, but pupils who are, too. Some of those pupils really do get away, if not with murder, with disrupting the whole class, to the detriment not only of the teachers but of the other pupils in the class. That is wrong and unfair.

I do not know whether I am going to regret saying this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I will tell you that when I first became a teacher—when I had finished my A-levels and wanted a year's gap before going up to university—I taught first and second-years in a high school. My head of department gave me two pieces of advice for maintaining behaviour and discipline in my class. The first was that to capture the interest of the class and maintain discipline, one must provide 20 per cent. education and 80 per cent. entertainment. Members should remember that when they speak in the Chamber. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ealing, North, who is traversing the Chamber as I speak, because he is able to combine entertainment with educating the House. That is important, because if one gives boring speeches or boring addresses in class, one will not retain the listener's interest.

The second piece of advice is a little more controversial, and it brings us back to the carrot and stick. My head of department at the state school at which I taught gave me a strap and told me that I was to use it if I had any problems. I very rarely had to use discipline, and I hope that my pupils enjoyed the year when I taught them. I certainly did. However, I used the strap two or three times, but I never, ever forced it on the pupil. I used to tell pupils at that boys' school, "Look, either do 100 lines or take the strap. It's up to you." Invariably, the pupil would rather have the strap—thwack, it was over and done with.

A little sanction is called for, but let me set the record straight: I am not advocating the return of corporal punishment. I am saying that it is interesting that when pupils were given the choice between 100 lines or the strap, they chose the strap, which took half a second to administer, stung for perhaps 10 seconds more and perhaps involved an element of humiliation. They would rather have that than go home and do 100 lines.

I say to the Minister that there must be some form of sanction, because teachers in some schools are finding it difficult to maintain discipline. We must be aware that pupils and their parents are barrack-room lawyers and that sometimes discipline breaks down, for all the reasons that have been outlined. We must address those problems.

I was not getting at the Minister or the Government when I mentioned the tyranny of political correctness earlier. However, just as we should not allow political correctness to get in the way of addressing the problems of racial groups in society, likewise we should not allow it to get in the way of discussions on bringing back some sanctions for teachers. Teachers in Lichfield and in

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Burntwood in my constituency tell me that they have no way of controlling their classes when things start to break down seriously.

I am pleased that the Minister mentioned bullying, because it is a serious problem. Because this is the first time that it has ever been addressed in the House, I am especially pleased that the Minister raised the issue of homophobic bullying. Can you imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, being a young man or, indeed, a young woman growing up without understanding things about themselves and being bullied for being different? They may then try not to be different and deceive themselves.

I congratulate the Minister and the Government on undertaking research and providing guidelines on that important issue. Perhaps he will send me a copy of the guidelines when they are printed. I suspect that most teachers are not aware that homophobic bullying is even an issue, although I may be wrong and that may be unfair. However, the fact that the Government have highlighted it today will make teachers and head teachers aware that it can be a problem in our schools.

The Minister also spoke about the problems of exclusion, and it is useful that we have all agreed that, once a pupil is excluded, he enters society, from which he cannot be excluded. How will that be dealt with?

The Minister talked about the 6 per cent. of those who have been excluded who have been identified as having clinical problems, and the 4 per cent. with serious emotional problems. That demonstrates that we cannot look at behaviour in isolation. We must be able to diagnose the causes, just as a GP does. Hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) said that we cannot look at problems of indiscipline in isolation. Often there are real causes and we must be tough on them, as well as on the crime itself.

Money is also a factor. The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger–Ross) is not alone in belonging to an area where people feel that funding has been unfair. The Government said in 1997 that they would look at this problem, and they have kept their promise. However, we have a real problem in Staffordshire because the four recommendations that have been made all make Staffordshire worse off than before, and that needs to be addressed.

I want to make a few recommendations to the Minister and I would appreciate him giving them some thought. Acoustics in a classroom are important. When I taught in a laboratory, which had a wooden floor and wooden benches, discipline went a bit. The reason was that people at the back could not hear me properly, and the louder I spoke, the more it echoed. Some schools are investing in carpets and other acoustical devices to ensure that there is not too much echo and that not too much noise comes in from outside the classroom. Has any research been done on whether there is a correlation between indiscipline and classroom acoustics? When children cannot hear what the teacher has to say, it can lead to indiscipline.

Another issue is the continuity of teachers. The hon. Member for Ealing, North said that I was a supply teacher. I was not; I was at the school for a year. I like to think that I gave a little continuity to the class. Whether they enjoyed that is another matter. No doubt some of my

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former pupils will write to me if they hear about this debate; I dread to think what they might have to say. However, continuity is important. The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said:


That is important, but even more important would be not to need supply teachers.


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