Teachers are reluctant to tackle badly behaved children because it is “beyond their remit”, according to UK Government research.
Many teachers chose to refer unruly pupils to senior managers amid fears they could risk injury or lose their job by tackling troublemakers, it was claimed.
Some staff told researchers that imposing discipline was “out-dated, negative and punitive” and new powers to crackdown on classroom yobs were “too controlling”.
The disclosure comes despite warnings of a rise in bad behaviour in schools.
A study earlier this year found more than a quarter of teachers had been confronted with violent pupils in the last 12 months, with staff reportedly being threatened, pushed, scratched, punched, bitten, kicked and spat at.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, warned that teachers were “living in fear of breaking the rules while troublemaking students felt the law was on their side”.
Last month, he set out a series of reforms designed to give teachers new powers to discipline children in the classroom.
This includes the right to search pupils for any item they can use to cause disruption, more power to physically restrain troublemakers and allowing staff to impose “same day” detentions – scrapping rules requiring them to give parents 24 hours warning.
But a report commissioned by the Department for Education suggested many teachers were reluctant to use the new powers.
The study – based on 45 hours of interviews with teachers in London, Birmingham and Leeds – said staff felt a “huge sense of personal responsibility, pressure and expectations are placed upon them”.
“When it comes to behaviour, however, they often felt that this can quickly spiral out of their control,” said the study.
“Their biggest fear was that they may deal with/or be seen to deal with behaviour wrongly or inappropriately and that ensuing consequences will be very serious: damage a child or teacher, especially their career.”
The report, by marketing firm 2CV, tested the Government’s new proposals on staff.
But the study said teachers “claimed to find the powers disengaging”.
“Discipline’ was felt to be too out-dated, negative and punitive, and ‘powers’ too controlling and dominating,” it said.
One female teacher from a London comprehensive told researchers: “‘Powers’ sounds really antiquated and out of touch with the realities of what it’s like to be a teacher today. It reminds of the slipper and the cane; it’s certainly not aspirational for me as teacher.”
The report said there was a huge reluctance to physically search or restrain pupils for fear of being accused of assault. Many said this should only be carried out by trained specialists or senior staff.
A woman from a Leeds comprehensive said: “I don’t think we should have to risk our own personal safety, that’s not what I signed up for.”
One female teacher from a secondary grammar school in Birmingham said: “There’s a relationship you have to build up with pupils; you can’t just decide to search a pupil half-way through a lesson.
“It’s not something for the classroom teacher to deal with.”
A male teacher from a London boys’ secondary school added: “I don’t feel confident that the head would back me up if a student accused me of something while I was searching them or trying to break up a fight. I would get automatically suspended and it could be the end of my career.”
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