Howard: Schools must get tougher

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The Independent Online

Tougher school discipline and giving extra rights to fathers are the keys to tackling the "breakdown of law and order", Michael Howard will argue tomorrow as he launches a Tory offensive on crime.

Tougher school discipline and giving extra rights to fathers are the keys to tackling the "breakdown of law and order", Michael Howard will argue tomorrow as he launches a Tory offensive on crime.

The Conservative leader will also warn that a "dramatic decline in personal responsibility" is fuelling lawlessness nationwide. The move signals Mr Howard's determination to put the subject, which party strategists believe is Labour's most vulnerable issue, at the heart of the next general election campaign.

He will commit a future Conservative government to handing power back to schools by giving them the final say over expelling unruly pupils.

Pointing to the 17,000 classrooms exclusions in one term last year for violent behaviour, he will say: "Discipline in school is essential if children are to learn respect for authority at an early age.

"Yet violence in the classroom is rising fast - up nine-fold since 1997 - and often it is teachers, not pupils, who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Disruptive and violent pupils don't just ruin their own education - they ruin that of every other child."

The Tory leader will also call for improved access rights for fathers when families split, arguing that almost half of fathers lose contact with children after their relationships break down.

Mr Howard has chosen Middlesbrough, where Ray Mallon, the former superintendent who advocated zero-tolerance policies was elected Mayor last year, for the launch of the drive on law and order.

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