Gove to scrap school 'no touch' rules

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So-called "no touch" rules that discourage teachers from restraining and comforting children are to be scrapped, Education Secretary Michael Gove confirmed today.

Mr Gove also signalled that the coalition was pushing ahead with controversial plans to give teachers a right to anonymity when faced by allegations from pupils.

"At the moment if you want to become au fait with what this department thinks on how to keep order in class you have to read the equivalent of War And Peace," he told the Guardian.

"There is about 500 pages of guidance on discipline and another 500 pages on bullying. We will clarify and shrink that.

"Teachers worry that if they assert a degree of discipline, one determined maverick pupil will say, 'I know my rights' and so teachers become reticent about asserting themselves. There are a number of schools that have 'no touch' policies and we are going to make clear this rule does not apply.

"I don't believe you should be able to hit children, but I do believe that teachers need to know they can physically restrain children, they can interpose themselves between two children that may be causing trouble, and they can remove them from the classroom.

"The important thing is that teachers know they are in control, and this department and the justice system will back them."

Insisting that teachers should be able to console victims of bullying, he referred to David Cameron's infamous "hug a hoodie" row, joking: "Teachers should not have to think youths have to wear hoodies before they can comfort them."

Mr Gove promised to give teachers "a new general right to search children for anything that is banned by the school rules". At present the list was too restrictive and a legal minefield, he added.

He also vowed to speed up the timetable by which allegations against teachers have to be investigated, or dropped.

The Labour government clarified guidance to say that teachers could use "reasonable force" just before the general election. However, then-children's secretary Ed Balls had insisted it was a "myth" that some schools employed no-contact policies.