Inquiry into worst schools for truancy

MINISTERS HAVE ordered a special investigation into schools with some of Britain's worst records in truancy as part of a new drive against bad behaviour in the classroom.

Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) will do inspections at five primaries and five secondaries from September. Officials said the inquiry would focus on schools with the worst truancy and exclusion rates and would result in a series of published reports to offer lessons for the rest of the education service.

Union leaders claimed schools would be "pilloried, not supported". Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We thought the Government had learnt its lesson about naming and shaming. It does nothing to support schools, it demoralises and depresses."

But government sources insisted the inspections were not an exercise in naming and shaming. "If there are lessons we can learn from, then we are always interested in learning from best practice."

The inspections, which will not include schools already classed as having "serious weaknesses", will focus on the way teachers tackle bad behaviour and truancy, and will also look at ways of handling suspensions and expulsions. Inspectors will also examine schools that exclude high numbers of black or other ethnic minority pupils. Some campaigners say they are the victims of inadvertent prejudice.

Officials from the Department for Education are considering which schools to study. The new round of inspections follow recommendations made by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit last year.

Ministers have promised to cut school exclusions, which number about 13,000 a year, by one third. Temporary and permanent exclusions have risen four-fold since 1990.

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