Behaviour reform has lost its way

8th October 2010 at 01:00
Review group charged with implementation has not met for over a year

The Assembly government has failed to tackle behaviour and attendance problems in schools, according to the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Keith Towler said he was "disappointed" at the slow rate of progress in implementing the groundbreaking National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR), which advocated a raft of reforms, including cutting unofficial exclusions and funding more early-intervention policies.

The report was published in May 2008 after two years of research, but Mr Towler has revealed to TES Cymru that the group in charge of implementation has not met for a year.

"I'm left with the impression that the recommendations have lost their way," Mr Towler said. "Lots of people fed a lot of good insight into the review and they deserve to know where we are at with it.

"The Government needs to establish its position and give us all a clear picture of what they are going to do next."

Mr Towler's comments come as education minister Leighton Andrews announced that schools and FE colleges in Wales will have the power to search pupils suspected of carrying a knife or other weapon from the end of this month.

However, concerns about NBAR have been growing since the Assembly's action plan was published last year. The pound;1 million set aside for implementation prompted worries that the funding was insufficient to have a significant impact.

Since then, new guidelines for teachers on the use of force to restrain unruly pupils - one of the review's 19 recommendations - were branded "punitive" and "draconian" by Mr Towler and two children's charities.

Statistics released last month reveal that no progress has been made in cutting the number of unauthorised absences since 200001, with 1.6 per cent of sessions missed. More than 30 per cent of secondary school pupils were absent for more than 15 days in 200910.

Concerns have also been raised by classroom teaching unions that a decline in official exclusion rates is hiding increasing use of "unofficial" exclusions, which do not go on school records.

Some of those who were involved in the original report have suggested a new review may now be needed to drive home improvements in behaviour and attendance.

NBAR chairman Professor Ken Reid said: "The responsibility for implementing the report entirely rests with the Assembly government.

"I was very optimistic about their proposals to implement a national training strategy across schools, local authorities and voluntary agencies to improve the co-ordination of services for pupils."

An Assembly government spokeswoman claimed that "good progress" is being made on the action plan, which she said is "actively improving how we promote positive behaviour and attendance in Wales".

New attendance codes were recently introduced, and an attendance framework is in the final stages of production, she said.

A behaviour management handbook for secondaries has also been revised.

The spokeswoman said: "We continue to engage with key partners throughout Wales on a number of the review recommendations."

  • Original headline: Behaviour reform has lost its way, says children's champion

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