Ministers want to give schools new powers to impose detentions as part of a crackdown on disruptive pupils.
But the Association of Metropolitan Authorities warned this week that the move could be susceptible to challenges under European law, which provides considerable opportunities for a school's power of detention to be subverted. Alan Parker, its education officer, said: "A parent who is currently willing to connive at the undermining of reasonable disciplinary policies within a school is also likely to take advantage of such loop-holes as would exist within any new law."
The crackdown on disruptive pupils was launched by schools minister Robin Squire in May, amid growing concern over disputes between parents and schools over pupils excluded for bad behaviour. Ministers have been consulting local authorities on an amendment to the 1986 Education Act to enable schools to detain pupils beyond normal school hours, irrespective of parental consent.
The government says that after-school detentions would need at least two days' written notice provided to parents. At present, many schools operate 24 hours' oral notice of detention. Two days' written notice could create administrative problems and prove difficult in parts of the country where parents could not read English or may not read at all, said the AMA.