Teachers vote for crackdown on discipline

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The Independent Online

Teachers are to draw up the first national charter of sanctions against unruly pupils in an attempt to stem a rising tide of indiscipline.

Teachers are to draw up the first national charter of sanctions against unruly pupils in an attempt to stem a rising tide of indiscipline.

The charter will list penalties for misbehaviour, from automatic permanent exclusion for threats of violence against pupils or staff, to sending pupils home for the day if they swear or make racist comments.

The move, agreed at yesterday's National Union of Teachers' annual conference in Gateshead, marks a historic shift in the union's position. Up until recently, it rarely debated discipline - maintaining it was not a serious problem.

The charter supports the call by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, for "zero tolerance" towards even low-level forms of disruption in schools.

It follows a warning from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, that the number of secondary schools with good behaviour has fallen from 75 per cent to 66 per cent in two years.

NUT leaders will now seek negotiations with all the other five unions representing heads and teachers on the content of the charter - which will act as a blueprint for schools to follow in implementing their own behaviour policies.

Steve Sinnott, the union's general secretary, said the charter would call for permanent exclusion for violent acts. "You can't support teachers or other youngsters being attacked - that's not on," he said.

Hilary Bills, president of the union, and head of Holyhead Primary School in Sandwell, West Midlands, said that - in her school - any child who swore or used racist or abusive language was sent home for the rest of the day. "Our school policy is supported by the parents who recognise what we are trying to achieve," she said.

Mrs Bills criticised England footballer Wayne Rooney for swearing at a referee, saying he had sent out a message that "such things were acceptable".

Delegates at the conference gave graphic details of a series of serious assaults on staff by pupils.

In one, a 14-year-old schoolgirl threatened to kill a teacher by stabbing her in the neck with a kitchen knife smuggled into the school.

The girl was disarmed and given a psychiatric assessment, but allowed back into her special school 15 days later, although she had to eat her lunch with a knife and fork away from the staff.

Ms Cooper said: "I'm sick and tired of it. Assault is assault, whether it is intended or not. Members in special schools are facing verbal and physical abuse and being told to expect it as part of the job."

Anne Perez, from Brent, told of another pupil who had set fire to a bus driver's hair, after which teachers had refused to drive him anywhere.

Delegates also warned that an overly rigid national curriculum and constant testing of pupils had increased disruption.

Jo Lang, from Harrow, said: "The national curriculum leaves very little time in any area to study and explore what the students are really interested in.''

Ms Kelly has announced that she plans to cut the amount of time devoted in school to the national curriculum, and has ordered a review by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the exams watchdog.

Meanwhile, she is also announcing today consultation on the setting-up of a new film industry training board. She is also to make compulsory the current voluntary levy on film productions in the UK for training.

Leading article, page 34

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