Task force to tackle out-of-control children

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The Independent Online

Ministers announced a new task force today to tackle the culture of disrespect and unruly behaviour in schools.

Ministers announced a new task force today to tackle the culture of disrespect and unruly behaviour in schools.

The group, made up of teachers and heads who are experts in school discipline, will advise the Government on how to improve standards of behaviour.

One key part of their work will be to make sure parents take responsibility for the way their children behave, the Department for Education and Skills said.

The group's work will include:

* Considering a new national code of behaviour setting out minimum standards expected from pupils, parents and schools;

* Looking at what new powers head teachers may need to tackle violent pupils;

* Writing a detailed report recommending potential new policies by the end of October.

The move follows Tony Blair's pledge to address the growing issue of "disrespect" in society and fears that violence and disruption in schools are on the rise.

Announcing the formation of the group, the new schools minister Jacqui Smith said: "A culture of respect, good behaviour and firm discipline must be the norm in all schools, all of the time.

"The Government has provided schools with powers, training, and support to deal with disruptive behaviour.

"But we know that the real work is done on the front line by heads and teachers.

"We cannot simply legislate bad behaviour out of the classroom.

"It has to be delivered on the ground by teachers with the full backing of parents."

The new Leadership Group on Behaviour and Discipline will include teachers and heads nominated by unions and other bodies for their "proven track record" managing behaviour.

The group - to be chaired by Sir Alan Steer, head of the Seven Kings High School in Ilford, Essex - will consider what new powers schools need to deal with unruly pupils.

Ministers are prepared to consider giving heads more powers if the group decides this is necessary, the DfES said.

The appeals process which means schools can be forced to take back expelled pupils may need reforming and streamlining.

The group will consider whether teachers need more training to equip them for managing disruptive or violent children and local schools will be encouraged to work together.

The expert panel will report in October.

Its recommendations will be considered by another committee, chaired by Ms Smith and including unions, parents' representatives and Ofsted.

Parents might be required to do more to ensure their children behave, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly suggested.

"We need teachers on board, we need headteachers on board, we actually need parents on board," she said.

"One thing I want this group to look at is how can this group take their responsibilities more seriously?

"Parents have the right to have their child educated in an orderly classroom.

"But they also have a responsibility to get their child to school every day ready to learn."

Ms Kelly told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme she fully accepted "there is an issue of low-level disruptive behaviour in the classroom".

"That is something I heard from parents and teachers as I went around the country during the election campaign that we have got to tackle," she said.

"There is a persistent minority of schools - up to one in 10 schools - who don't have satisfactory standards of behaviour.

"Now that is precisely why we are setting up this group because we want to get to grips with this issue once and for all."

The Government had already reduced serious incidents of bad behaviour with permanent exclusions down by a quarter, she added.

The initiative represented a new phase in efforts to build a "culture of respect" in the classroom.

Ms Kelly did not rule out the adoption of "cooler rooms", championed by "superhead" Sir Dexter Hutt, across the country.

"It certainly seems to work in his schools and there are other programmes that work in different schools.

"If this group can come up with three or four programmes that clearly work - and work not just in one school but in a range of schools - then I think that would be a very valuable contribution.

"Then we can say to schools you should adopt one of these programmes and there is no excuse any more for poor behaviour in the classroom.

"We want to work with teachers and work with parents to get that right."

Ms Kelly added: "Each school should look after its share of vulnerable pupils.

"Previously excluded pupils are a different issue because there may be behaviour issues with those pupils.

"What I have said is there should be zero tolerance of bad behaviour in the classroom.

"Now if a school is managing that sort of pupil with those sorts of behaviours then they should not have to have them in the classroom."