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This taskforce idea is just so Eighties

Observers with long memories will have a sense of dej... vu at the announcement of a working group examining pupil behaviour.

It is an issue which was supposed to have been dealt with comprehensively by the Elton Report, a 12-month, 300-page examination of discipline problems in schools, completed in 1989.

And yet 16 years later, the report's pleas for reform of the curriculum to engage all young people, for better buildings which instil a sense of pride are echoed by the new working group's chairman.

Some of Lord Elton's recommendations have been acted on comprehensively.

For example, teacher shortages are much less of an issue now than in 1989.

And it is undeniable that the Government has invested in school buildings to give pupils a stronger sense of pride. School behaviour plans are statutory, and truancy patrols and liaison with the police are commonplace today.

But the debate over the Government's 14-19 White Paper shows that the battle to create a curriculum which does not create disaffection continues.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, who chaired the inquiry into secondary reform, said: "Most teachers know that the root problem with behaviour lies in the curriculum."

While Lord Elton said that serious attacks on school staff were rare, he called for a national database to be set up to record them. That call was ignored, although the National Union of Teachers has revived it in the wake of the rape of one of its members.

Sir Alan Steer (see above), who will chair the new working group, has said his remit focuses on the low-level disruption that is a daily irritant for teachers.

The solutions he has promoted at his own school have touched on every aspect of educational life: from teaching to buildings and special needs.

He admits it is unclear whether he will be given free rein on all these issues, although Ms Kelly's stated desire for a simple answer of "three or four programmes" that are proven to work suggests otherwise.

Martin Rogers, from the Education Network, said: "This issue is far more complex than most politicians and commentators have recently been suggesting. It is not an issue caused by schools, nor one which schools alone can solve."

After all, Lord Elton made 138 recommendations and the problem persists.

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