Leading Article: We could all use a bit of respect

Sensibly, Sir Alan's group steered a middle path. It said that parents should make adequate arrangements for their children to be looked after for the first five days of the suspension - but recognised that it might not be possible for all parents to ditch responsibilities to their employers at the drop of a hat. Thereafter, it is the duty of the local education authority to ensure full-time education, possibly in a pupil referral unit, rather than have to wait 16 days for that, as at present.

The Government has chosen to interpret this as a carte blanche to introduce fines for parents who fail to make adequate arrangements and whose children are found in a public place at an inappropriate time. But, happily again, the group steered clear of insisting it was the parent who should be with their children, wherever they are. Otherwise, the task force appears to have reached a consensus over reforms suggested in a report by the Government's bête noire, the National Union of Teachers, last month. It said that there should be new legislation enshrining the teacher's right to discipline a pupil and restrain pupils caught fighting, as well as a national code on behaviour to help schools draw up their rules on discipline.

Sir Alan's report shows how much can be achieved by a group of professionals tackling a problem together and coming up with some solutions. Kelly deserves credit for listening to what they had to say. If such an approach works on discipline, could it work in other areas of education?

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