Unruly pupils will attend anger management classes in attempt to cut offending

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The Independent Online

Unruly pupils could be forced to attend anger management courses as part of a new Government crackdown on youth crime and disruption in schools.

Intensive truancy sweeps will also start next month in England's most crime-ridden areas to round up some of the 50,000 children who skip school every day, under a £66m package announced by Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education, yesterday. Children as young as five are to be taught the importance of good behaviour under the scheme, which will also see the expansion of learning support units – often called "sin bins" – in the most challenging schools.

There are currently more than 1,000 of the units in English schools but the expansion of the facilities will allow more teachers to remove badly behaved pupils from mainstream lessons to stop them disrupting the education of others.

The initiative was unveiled at a "behaviour summit" of parents, teachers, heads and social workers. Ms Morris told the meeting that it was important to stamp out bad behaviour at an early age.

She acknowledged that Ofsted inspectors had concluded that school discipline had deteriorated over the last two years while truancy rates remained "stubbornly" high despite five years' work by the Government to reduce them. "We have to be honest about what we have failed to do well and some of the problems there are," she said. "Bad behaviour and truancy are two of the biggest challenges facing schools today. If children are not in school they can't learn and if some pupils behave badly they can harm education for other pupils as well."

Officials at the Department for Education and Skills said the initiative did not intend to create "boot camps", but some pupils could be sent on residential courses that included lessons on anger management and social skills.

The measures are part of the £87m pledged by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in last week's Budget to tackle poor discipline in schools. The money is not "new", but comes from unspent DfES reserves.

The money will be spent in up to three secondary schools in each of the in the 33 local authorities with the highest crime levels, plus all their feeder primary schools. Electronic registration schemes will also allow schools to keep track of their pupils' whereabouts at every stage of the school day.

Teaching unions welcomed the crackdown, but warned parental support would be vital to its success while headteachers called for long-term investment.