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Discipline on the way back

Behaviour task force supports tougher measures. William Stewart reports

New laws giving teachers the explicit right to discipline and restrain pupils, and schools the ability to initiate parenting orders, have been recommended by the Westminster government's behaviour task force.

According to a draft report, leaked to The TES, the panel of 13 heads and senior school staff wants enshrined in law the right of teachers to punish pupils who break school rules, and restrain them using reasonable force.

This would replace the ancient commonlaw in loco parentis principle, which is open to legal challenge.

The report, due to be published today, will also demand that schools be given the right to apply to magistrates for legal orders against parents unwilling to work with them.

"Some parents and carers need to be challenged to take their responsibilities seriously," the committee headed by Sir Alan Steer said.

The right of parents to appeal against exclusions is backed. But there is a call for the independent appeal panels to be made more representative, and for published guidance to avoid cases being turned over on technicalities.

The report welcomes the Violent Crimes Bill, currently in Parliament, which gives heads the right to search pupils for weapons without their consent, and asks the Government whether this should be extended "in due course to include drugs and stolen property".

Local education authorities should provide full-time education for pupils from the sixth day of permanent or temporary exclusions. The current requirement, beginning on the 16th day, is too long and risks vulnerable children becoming further involved in anti-social behaviour, it says.

The call for a new piece of legislation setting out the right to discipline pupils was first made by the 1989 Elton report into school discipline, but was turned down by the then Conservative government.

But the task force rejected a national code of rules for pupils. "Good behaviour management requires schools to possess the power to make decisions that reflect their own context," it said.

Instead, it wants a charter of rights and responsibilities, to be put in home-school agreements.

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