Half of parents in Britain believe that the cane should be reintroduced to restore order to the classroom, research suggests.
Some 49 per cent of mothers and fathers are in favour of corporal punishment to crack down on the worst offenders, it was revealed.
The vast majority of parents also want greater use of other back-to-basics discipline measures including detention, expulsion and forcing badly behaved children to write lines.
Even a fifth of secondary school pupils themselves support the reintroduction of caning or smacking.
The disclosure comes amid claims from Michael Gove, the British Education Secretary, that “adult authority” has been eroded in too many schools.
Speaking at a conference on behaviour in London yesterday, he said: “Even though there are many schools in which behaviour is great, there are far too many in which it is simply not up to scratch and, as a result, we have a problem with truancy, with disruption [and] with exclusion.”
One of the Coalition’s favourite head teachers also admitted that staff in some schools devoted as much time to “crowd control” as teaching.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, principal of Mossbourne Community Academy, Hackney, said: “Without good behaviour a young and inexperienced teacher can become vulnerable to the bullies in the classroom and leave the profession.
“Something like one-in-four newly-qualified teachers leave the profession in the first few years. That is a tragic loss of talent.”
Corporal punishment was banned in state schools in 1986.
Some independent schools continued to mete out physical punishment, such as a slap to the hands or ordering press-ups, until it was outlawed 10 years later.
But a survey of 2,000 parents and 530 children by the Times Educational Supplement has found strong support for the reintroduction of smacking or caning to discipline the most badly behaved pupils.
Some 49 per cent of parents and 19 per cent of secondary school pupils supported the move.
More than three-quarters of parents also backed the use of after-school detention, suspension and expulsion and writing lines to punish bad behaviour. Some 55 per cent even said teachers should make more use of shouting to put children in their place.
The YouGov research found that 85 per cent of parents believed teachers were now less respected than when they were at school and 83 per cent said they faced stricter classroom discipline as children.
But the Department for Education rejected calls to bring back the cane.
Last night, a spokesman insisted that other measures – including additional powers to physically restrain the most violent children and search those suspected of carrying banned items – would improve standards of behaviour.
“There is no intention of ever reintroducing corporal punishment,” he said. “Parents are right to demand that their children learn in a safe and ordered environment – that’s why we are toughening up teachers’ disciplinary powers and restoring their authority.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: “A mythology has grown up around corporal punishment and its effectiveness which was never borne out by reality.
“A study of inspection reports from the 50s and 60s highlighted behaviour that would not be tolerated today, such as vandalising school property or assaulting teachers.
"These were common features of life in many schools in years gone by despite the routine use of corporal punishment.
“In fact, evidence suggests that behaviour has improved significantly since corporal punishment was abolished."