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Behaviour tsar puts special needs under microscope

Sir Alan Steer's latest report says identifying pupils with problems early is a vital weapon for schools

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Identifying children's special needs as early as possible could be a key weapon in cutting bad behavior in schools, according to Sir Alan Steer's latest report published today.

The so-called behaviour tsar also called on schools to collaborate to improve their work with children who need extra help.

The NUT, which welcomed Sir Alan's findings, said early intervention would only work if extra qualified teachers were employed to give one-to-one support.

The third Steer report called for broader legal powers of teachers to search pupils and an expansion of safer school partnerships.

This fourth part of his review focuses on links between bad behaviour, SEN and disabilities. Sir Alan said work to tackle unruly pupils and poor attendance was most effective when teachers from different schools worked together.

In his report, he said he had seen several examples of "outstanding practice" in schools but felt more should be done to identify special needs much earlier. Sir Alan also called for more training for school leaders in spotting special needs.

Sir Alan, now retired as headteacher of Seven Kings High School in, Redbridge, north-east London, gave examples of good professional practice without naming any specific schools, but also said many teachers were "over identifying" pupils with special educational needs to demonstrate statistically the challenges faced by the school.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said many teachers were frustrated by the lack of support they could get for pupils once their special needs had been identified.

"All the evidence shows local authorities are not providing enough qualified teachers for children with statements, many pupils only get a few hours of support a week if they do get one-to-one help," he said.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, was due to speak about the review at a conference in Leeds today.

Ofsted, the schools watchdog is also due to report on special needs teaching this year.

Police in 1 in 5 schools, page 12

Sir Alan's wishlist

- Legal powers for schools to search pupils for items such as drugs and alcohol

- Expanding the safe school partnerships programme

- Behaviour policies to be set in the context of policies on learning and teaching

- Parents to take responsibility for pupil behaviour

- More government funding for parent support advisers

- Teachers to be required by law to work with other schools to tackle bad behaviour and poor attendance.

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