Exclusion debate ‘hijacked’ by ideologues, says Agnew

Minister says 'too often, schools and headteachers are attacked for their methods'

School exclusion, isolation

The debate about the use of isolation rooms and exclusions risks being “hijacked” by people seeking to fight “ideological battles”, an education minister has said.

Lord Agnew said that the education debate is “marred by emotive argument” and that policy gets “entangled in ideological wrangling”.

And he said that “too often”, schools and headteachers who have raised behavioural expectations are “attacked for their methods”.


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The schools minister was talking at the Confederation of School Trusts' summer conference yesterday.

“Too often the education debate is marred by emotive argument,” he said. “This can obscure the purpose that we all wish to service – raising standards in schools so that all children whatever their background have every opportunity to succeed.

“Policy can become entangled in ideological wrangling with the central mission of raising standards being lost.”

He said this particularly applied to schools which had improved behaviour, with “too little focus” given to the success of academies in “transforming some of the toughest schools in our country”.

“High standards of behaviour are necessary for great schooling. That’s why we cannot allow national debates about school behaviour, whether they are focused on exclusions, isolation or academy turnarounds, to be hijacked by those determined to fight ideological battles.

“Instead we must begin by recognising the common ends and celebrating our collective achievements. One would hope that all teachers, parents and policymakers want schools to be safe and calm environments where teachers are free to teach and pupils to learn.”

And instead of hearing how headteachers have “raised academic and behavioural expectations” he said, “too often, schools and headteachers are attacked for their methods”.

Repeating almost word for word comments made by fellow Department for Education minister Nick Gibb in January, Lord Agnew added: “In the most unfortunate cases, headteachers have their reputations dragged through the media circus, they're criticised and their motives impugned, with no regard for the history of underachievement that needs to be overturned.”

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