Labour to put disruptive pupils in sin bins

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The Independent Online
Labour will announce plans for sin bins for disruptive pupils and new procedures to sack poor teachers in its election manifesto this week.

The pledges come in a document which underlines the party's dramatic shift rightwards by presenting Labour as the "party of the family", the "patriotic party" and as the party of "one nation".

The Conservatives, too, will step up pressure on the teaching profession, proposing measures to remove immunity from teaching unions for legal action taken against strikers. The Tories will also propose plans to give schools the power to set their own admissions policy - boosting the number of grammar schools.

The Labour manifesto's first chapter, on education, outlines proposals which aides to the Labour leader yesterday described as "unrecognisable from the last four manifestos".

Labour's measures include:

A numeracy task force, headed by Professor David Reynolds, to tackle poor standards in maths in British schools; "Speedy but fair procedures to dismiss teachers who cannot do the job";

Pilot pupil referral units, or sin bins, to protect schools from disruptive pupils;

Plans to close failing schools altogether, allowing them to be taken over by new staff;

Laws to make local education authorities devolve more cash to schools and cut the cost of administration per pupil.

However, the moves to target poor teachers caused an angry row in Harrogate, where it was rejected by Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers which is holding its annual conference. Mr McAvoy said: "There is no need for any government to look for some accelerated procedure [for dismissal]. The machinery is already there. We have to ensure that there is a fair approach for teachers."

But the tone of Labour's manifesto, published on Thursday, may alarm Labour traditionalists. The document - which begins, "I believe in Britain" - places Labour on political territory more traditionally identified with the Conservatives. A section on the "patriotic party" states that Labour would be strong in defence and resolute in defending the country's interests. On Europe it stresses the "formidable obstacles" in the path of Britain joining a single European currency in the first wave. On the economy, the document will argue that Labour sees "healthy profits as an essential motor of a dynamic market economy".

Senior Tory sources say their manifesto will be shorter than some previous documents, and will be designed to be accessible to the average reader.