Teachers to win stronger powers over discipline

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The Independent Online

The Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is to back key recommendations from the Government's taskforce on classroom discipline for tackling bad behaviour in schools, sources say.

She is expected to announce moves designed to make sure parents take responsibility for the actions of their disruptive children.

These could include wider use of parenting contracts, a new offence and fines for parents if excluded children are found in the streets or shops during school hours.

Ms Kelly will also promise to legislate as soon as possible to bring in a new law spelling out the clear legal right of teachers to discipline badly-behaved pupils.

Too many children and even their parents question teachers' authority, the Government will say.

Teachers' leaders welcomed the plans. The National Union of Teachers general secretary Steve Sinnott said: "An unambiguous right to discipline pupils will be welcomed by every teacher around the country.

"It will help put an end to the reaction of the disruptive pupil - 'You can't do anything to me Miss.'

"That phrase will be wiped out of their vocabulary and every teacher and every other pupil will be delighted."

The reforms come amid continuing concern over poor levels of discipline in England's schools.

Inspectors and teachers' unions have warned that disruptive behaviour can cause "major problems" and Tony Blair has pledged to crack down on unruly children as part of his "respect agenda".

The behaviour taskforce, chaired by Essex head teacher Sir Alan Steer, called for a national charter setting out the rights and responsibilities of teachers, parents and pupils.

The report was leaked to the Times Educational Supplement ahead of its publication today.

The panel called for schools to be given the right to apply to magistrates for legal orders against parents unwilling to work with them, the TES reported.

Some parents and carers need to be challenged to take their responsibilities seriously, the taskforce said.

The group also welcomed the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which gives heads the power to search pupils for weapons. But they said it might be necessary for added powers to be given to schools to search pupils for stolen property and drugs.

Ms Kelly set up the taskforce earlier this year to consider how to improve classroom discipline. Sir Alan's report proposed a number of refinements to existing procedures for dealing with disruptive pupils. All schools must develop policies on mobile phone use to stop text bullying, but the taskforce stopped short of calling for phones to be banned from schools.

Children who are thrown out of school for more than five days should be interviewed when they return to help them settle in, it said. Parents must still be able to appeal against a school's decision to expel their children but the independent appeal panels should be more representative.

The taskforce also called for new guidance to stop appeals panels reinstating unruly pupils on technicalities, the TES reported.

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