School 'sin bins' to combat exclusions

DISRUPTIVE pupils will be removed to "sin bins" in their school as part of a Pounds 500 million campaign to reduce exclusions and truancy. In his speech to conference, David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, said he would be providing extra money to provide practical help to counter classroom disruption.

Education authorities will be able to bid to have anti-truancy schemes funded - for example new computerised registers which will record attendance at different times during the day. Non-attendance will be followed up with home visits as part of a bid to reduce truancy by a third.

Schools will be able to set up special units on site to deal with disruptive pupils and pupils who are excluded will be taught the full timetable. Many excluded pupils, even those in pupil-referral units, currently receive only a few hours' tuition a week.

The crackdown is part of what the Government calls its "joined-up thinking", with education policy linking with Home Office policy to reduce youth crime. "No longer will getting excluded be seen as a soft option," said a Government source. He said different authorities would be able to try a range of measures, but studies carried out by the Government's social exclusion unit would provide the basis for many schemes.

During his conference speech Mr Blunkett asked delegates to applaud the efforts of teachers. He said his Government was looking forward to a modernised, more flexible profession. He said he would be publishing a Green Paper which would give teachers the status and pay they deserved in return for high standards.

"I want to celebrate success by rewarding success," he said. "Teachers are our most precious asset. Up and down the country teachers are doing a first-rate job. In the past they were doing it against the odds. In the future they will do it with our support."

He pledged Pounds 19bn which will be spent on school repairs, with Pounds 10bn being spent in 2001. He said the resources would be spent wisely to create an environment where teachers could teach and children learn.

This includes the development of information and communications technology which will transform the classroom of the new millennium. The Government will spend Pounds 100m in the next year to support the development of the learning grid. All teachers will receive IT training and it will become a compulsory part of initial training.

Mr Blunkett also strongly defended his record in promoting the 3Rs. "I make no apology for wanting children to know their tables or to learn to read properly, because it's the children in the most deprived areas of the country who lose out the most."

And he announced a doubling of the number of literacy and numeracy summer schools for 11-year-olds to 1,200. He said the schools had been welcomed by pupils, parents and teachers. Government feedback shows they are reducing the drop in achievement often found after the long break.

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