Behaviour 'unacceptable' in quarter of schools

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The Independent Online

Pupils' behaviour in around a quarter of schools is not acceptable and action needs to be taken, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said today.

According to Ofsted, about 75 per cent of schools are rated good or outstanding for their behaviour record with the rest satisfactory or inadequate, which Balls argued was no longer good enough.

"If a school is satisfactory and you actually look at the detail of it, I don't find that very satisfactory to be honest and I think parents would agree," he told BBC radio.

Balls was speaking before the publication of a report by the government's behaviour adviser Sir Alan Steer on discipline in schools.

Newspapers said the report would encourage teachers to make greater use of powers they already have available, such as issuing detentions or sending pupils to isolation rooms, while parents could face severe penalties for failing to keep their children in check.

"We need to do more to back teachers to use the powers they've got to keep discipline in the classroom to make sure there isn't disruption," said Balls.

"Alan Steer is saying that with any school which is satisfactory there should actually be independent experts going in from the outside to help the school to improve."

However, the Conservatives said government measures had made matters worse and that schools are repeatedly suspending disruptive children because they can not expel them permanently.

Figures from 125 out of 150 local authorities, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, found that 867 pupils were suspended 10 times or more in 2007/8.

The Conservatives say government rules discourage headteachers from expelling violent and disruptive pupils. The Tories said the number of children repeatedly suspended had trebled in the last four years.

"Teachers want these pupils out of their classroom so other children can learn, but the government's restrictions on expulsion have caused this phenomenon of endless suspension," said Conservative shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

"Suspending a child from school over and over again does them no good at all."

Permanent exclusions have fallen by 13 percent in the four years to 2007, but Balls said the issue was about backing schools to use what powers they needed.

"My message to headteachers is - if you think you should expel a pupil, you should expel that pupil," he said. "You've got the powers to do so, you've got my full backing to do so."