DfE planning teacher pay rises and behaviour crackdown

Leaked document suggests DfE 'will back teachers to use reasonable force', raise starting salaries to £30k and end to Ofsted exemption for 'outstanding' schools

The use of reasonable force in the classroom is set to be included in new government guidance on behaviour, according to news reports.

Ministers could be preparing a fresh crackdown on bad behaviour in schools with teachers advised that they can use "reasonable force" and urged to confiscate mobile phones, according to a new report.

The Guardian reported that it had seen a briefing document from the Department for Education, dated August 22 and marked "Official-Sensitive", which includes a plan to raise teacher starting salaries from around £25,000 to £30,000 by 2022. 

It says a £3.5 billion funding announcement would also include provision for an average 3 per cent teacher pay increase for 2020/21.


Background: DfE plans for new behaviour initiative

Watch: Schools have 'blame-the-teacher culture' on behaviour

Long read: Inside 'Britain's strictest school'


But also set to grab headlines will be suggested plans for more stringent rules to help schools in the fight against ill-discipline.

Confiscating mobile phones, same-day detentions and the use of reasonable force were measures said to be outlined in the briefing note, with headteachers to be given further powers when it comes to suspending and expelling disruptive children and youths.

According to the Guardian report, the DfE paper includes a major focus on poor behaviour in schools.

"This government backs headteachers to improve behaviour and will support them to create safe and disciplined school environments," the document is said to state.

"We will back heads to use powers to promote good behaviour including sanctions and rewards; using reasonable force; to search and confiscate items from pupils (including mobile phones); impose same-day detentions; suspend and expel pupils; ban mobile phones."

The DfE has already previously announced a £10 million initiative to tackle bad behaviour at more than 500 schools.

The scheme, announced earlier this year and led by government behaviour tsar Tom Bennett – now appointed lead adviser in an expanded role – will involve a “network of expert schools” being identified to tackle disruptive behaviour at schools “in need of support”.

The main proposals in the package also include:

  • An end to the exemption of 'outstanding' schools from further regular Ofsted inspections. 

  • Backing headteachers to exclude pupils

  • Offering academy trusts £24,000 incentives to take over struggling schools.

  • Opening a new wave of free schools, including alternative provision schools for excluded children.

  • A fresh push to convert local authority maintained schools to academy status.

Too many teaching assistants?

The leaked paper was also said to contain evidence that Downing Street and The Treasury had calculated that there are too many teaching assistants (TAs) working in the education system.

According to the Guardian report it says: "No 10 and HMT (the Treasury) have been keen to publicly express concerns about the rising number of TAs and set out Government's commitment to more effective deployment of TAs being integral to more efficient use of school spend.

The document advises against going public with these concern, warning "it would undermine the 'hearts and minds' aspect of the announcement with the numerous audiences we know value TAs - parents, teachers, heads and (the) SEND lobby".

"This needs to be handled very sensitively if we are to protect the positivity of the announcement," the leaked note says.

The DfE said it did not recognise the "figures" reported by the Guardian and said priorities for the new Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, would be announced "in due course".

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called the alleged details of the briefing "concerning".

She said: "Time after time Boris Johnson has backed Tory cuts to school budgets that created the crisis in our classrooms, while slashing taxes for the richest.

"Johnson shows no sign of taking the action needed to undo that damage, and isn't even proposing to reverse the Conservatives' cuts to schools since 2010.

"It is concerning that this leaked document shows senior Tories casting doubt on the value of teaching assistants and suggesting that more cuts are on the way, despite the vital work they do, such as supporting children with special education needs.

"The next Labour government will fully reverse Tory cuts to our schools, increasing per pupil funding in real terms and offering a real-terms pay rise to both teachers and support staff."

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on leaks. We will announce further information on our domestic priorities in due course."

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