Screens of disorder: English cinema’s representation of teachers’ responses to challenges to their authority in the 1960s

Paul Coman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Change across wider English society in the 1960s was characterised by a managed and relatively consensual social liberalism. There was a discernible cultural shift toward greater personal and sexual freedom. Within education in England, a revisionist approach sought to extend traditional education to a wider constituency, in particular incorporating the sometimes disaffected and unskilled working class. This context presented new challenges for 1960s teachers in their relationships with pupils. Through the 1950s and 1960s, English cinema portrayed England’s changing teacher–pupil relations. This article examines the nature of change in teacher–pupil relations, with particular regard to its impact upon teachers’ authority. English cinema’s representation is located within English societal change in the 1960s in relation to youth culture, education and attitudes to authority.
    Several themes are identified. Teacher status appeared to contribute rather less to 1960s teachers’ authority and teachers’ personalities rather more. 1960s teacher–pupil relations were somewhat volatile. Relationships began to take place beyond the school gates. Films depicted greater diversity in teachers’ strategies to maintain their authority, with some teachers making concessions to pupils to preserve harmonious relations. A more prominent approach was teachers’ still more firm imposition of traditional discipline, attempting to hold back the tide of increased pupil hostility in classrooms, which more frequently featured the particular challenges posed by girls.
    The analysis has relevance beyond England and beyond the 1960s. It explores the variety and fragility of teacher authority, highlights the pressure that maintaining discipline places upon individual teachers and recognises the appeal of classroom conservatism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)402-424
    JournalPaedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


    • Teacher
    • authority
    • English
    • cinema
    • 1960s


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