Legislation gives teachers legal right to discipline pupils

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The Independent Online

The headlines may have all been stolen by the political row over Tony Blair's plan to set up a network of independently run "trust" schools working in partnership with industry, faith groups or universities - but yesterday's Education Bill covers far more ground than just that. There are, for instance, wide-ranging measures aimed at dealing with indiscipline in schools.

For the first time teachers will have the right, in law, to discipline pupils. This means pupils can be compelled to attend detention in the holidays or at weekends as well as at the end of the school day.

Ministers believe it will be a much tougher sanction to order pupils to cut their holidays short - although they stress these classes will be at times when teachers are in school at training sessions either after the term ends or before it restarts.

They will also have the power to confiscate items such as mobile phones or knives - and to use "reasonable force" to restrain pupils to stop fights.

Parents will face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to supervise children excluded from school. They will be responsible for ensuring they do not roam the streets during the first five days of the exclusion. After that, the local authority will be legally obliged to arrange alternative lessons for them - possibly in pupil referral units ("sin bins").

The Bill also tackles healthy eating in schools and removes the obligation on local councils to charge for meals, so as to allow them to provide free healthy meals for all children, not just those on free school meals. This builds on an initiative in Hull where all primary school children are entitled to a free lunch and breakfast and fruit at mid-morning break.

Other items which are covered by the Bill include giving all schools the opportunity to become "trust" schools. This will allow them to run their own affairs - in partnership with industry, higher education or faith groups - and be able to decide their own admissions procedures, but they will have to "act in accordance" with a new national code on admissions which outlaws new forms of selection.

The Bill also outlaws interviews with parents - a practice adopted by the London Oratory School, where Mr Blair has sent his children.