Respect for authority has plummeted to the lowest levels in Britain's recent history, a teachers' leader warned yesterday.

Brian Garvey, the new president of the NASUWT union, blamed the liberal 1960s and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's legacy for the slump in traditional values.

He said one example of the change in society involved a minority of children regularly disrupting lessons while a few even attacked their teachers physically.

Speaking at the union's annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, Mr Garvey condemned the destruction of society's "social structures" which he said was the Thatcherite Conservative government's legacy.

"There is far less respect than at any time in our recent history," he said. "However, we must also put some of the blame for these changes on the over-liberalised attitudes of the 60s and 70s.

"Respect for authority has undoubtedly diminished and this is visible in all areas of society, not just in schools."

Mr Garvey also warned that the country's sporting and cultural heritage was suffering because teachers no longer had time to run after-school clubs.

He blamed the endless meetings which teachers were expected to attend.

"The increased pressure on the teacher's time has left us in a position where we no longer feel able to contribute to activities in our local communities.

"As a result, the nation's cultural and sporting heritage has been seriously affected.

"The nation, not just the education system, has suffered as a result of the extra pressures the game of political football has placed on teachers."

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