Andrews admits losing focus on behaviour

8th July 2011 at 01:00
Education minister pledges to make problems a priority

The education minister has put tackling behaviour and attendance problems in schools back at the top of his agenda after admitting a failure to focus on it in the past.

In a major speech last week, Leighton Andrews confirmed he intends to adopt several recommendations from the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) that have effectively been on hold for the past three years.

He said behaviour and attendance were "crucial issues" and when questioned admitted: "We haven't spent as much time focusing on this as we need to."

Recent figures show unauthorised absence rates have not improved in the last decade, and permanent exclusions from primary schools are at their highest level for four years.

The minister revealed that he has asked NBAR chair Professor Ken Reid to review and redevelop some of his group's original proposals, first published in 2008.

"I was encouraged that his views are very much in line with plans my department is already developing as part of the new Behaviour and Attendance Action Plan," Mr Andrews said.

The plan sets out actions under three headings: training and development; standards and accountability; and individual support and additional learning needs.

Governors will be expected to play a key role, and Mr Andrews said they should be more confident about asking "searching and challenging" questions of heads.

He asked: "How many governing bodies spend even an hour a year discussing how to handle issues around attendance and behaviour?"

Behaviour management is also set to become one of the core priorities of induction for newly qualified teachers, alongside literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of deprivation, which are often linked.

Mr Andrews pledged a "zero-tolerance" approach to truancy.

The all-Wales attendance framework, launched in March, details the roles and responsibilities of education welfare officers, whose work has been criticised as inconsistent and ineffective, and sets out how schools can tackle absenteeism.

Mr Andrews said it would allow education welfare services and schools to deliver services that are "consistent, accessible and of a high standard".

The NBAR report was published in May 2008 after two years of research, and the Welsh Government launched an action plan the following year with pound;1 million set aside to implement it.

But last year Keith Towler, children's commissioner for Wales, said he was "disappointed" at the lack of progress made on implementing the NBAR's core recommendations, and claimed the recommendations had "lost their way".

Professor Reid, former deputy vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University, said many of Wales' current educational problems could have been eased if NBAR had been implemented sooner.

But speaking this week, he said: "It seems NBAR is alive and well. I'm grateful to the minister for focusing on these fundamental issues. It is vital we get this right, and I look forward to working with him and his team on the proposals."

Original headline: Andrews admits losing focus on `crucial issues' of behaviour and attendance

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