Pupils are being allowed to run wild with a “total disregard of school rules” because of a lack of proper discipline in the home, it was claimed.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that a quarter of members had been physically attacked at school in the last 12 months, with staff being pushed, scratched, punched, bitten, kicked and spat at. A third had been forced to deal with violence directed at them or other pupils.
Half of teachers said behaviour – particularly low-level disruption – had worsened in the last two years.
The biggest problems cited by teachers included children failing to pay attention, showing disrespect, using mobile phones in class and hurling verbal abuse at adults.
In many cases, staff said pupils were “very aware of their rights” and unafraid to challenge adult authority. Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, blamed a lack of good parenting, claiming that middle-class children were just as likely to misbehave as those from poor families.
“A minority of pupils are very aware of their rights, have a total disregard of school rules and are rather less aware of their responsibility for their own learning and how to show respect to staff and other students,” she said.
“This can apply as much to over-indulged middle-class children as those from challenging families. It is not surprising to see that poor behaviour is often attributed to problems at home.”
The ATL surveyed 814 teachers and support staff across Britain ahead of the union’s annual conference in Manchester next week.
The study found that 33 per cent of teachers had been forced to deal with pupil violence since September 2011 – up from a quarter who responded to the survey two years ago.
Of those, some 28 per cent said violence was directed at them and 29 per cent reported intervening to stop children attacking a fellow staff member.
According to figures, almost half of teachers said behaviour had worsened over the last two years while almost six-in-10 claimed standards had deteriorated over a five-year period.
The study found that low-level disruption was the biggest problem in schools, with 87 per cent of teachers regularly forced to deal with children who fail to pay attention, 85 per cent confronting pupils showing disrespect and 63 per cent being on the receiving end of verbal assaults.
A lack of parental support was among the main reasons for declining behaviour standards, teachers said.
One teacher from an English primary school told researchers: “Pupils know that there is little school staff can do to enforce discipline. They are not afraid.”
A senior teacher from another primary school said: “A change in pupils’ behaviour is not helped by the lack of respect that parents show towards staff in school – there is no wonder that some pupils are rude when this is what they see as a role model.”
One secondary school teacher added: “Most parents are supportive, however, a minority refuse to acknowledge or deal with their child's behaviour.”