THE Education Minister has finally confirmed that the Scottish Executive has abandoned its target on school exclusions.
In the low-key form of a written parliamentary answer last week, Peter Peacock repeated the undertaking he gave in his TES Scotland interview three weeks ago that "no target will take precedence over the decisions of headteachers".
This means heads will no longer be under pressure to reduce by a third the days lost every year through exclusions from school.
In his statement Mr Peacock said: "The target on exclusions was helpful in setting a clear direction of travel and as a stimulus to the development of alternatives to exclusion.
"We remain committed to seeing a trend of reductions in exclusions but based on the application of the best available management practices, not on a specific target.
"No target should override judgments on a case-by-case basis where decisions must be made in accordance with the best interests of the staff and other pupils and of the child."
Exclusion is a sanction schools may use, he declared unequivocally. But Mr Peacock went on to pledge an even-handed approach. "Our policy on exclusion recognises the need to ensure the rights of the majority of pupils, who are hard working and well-behaved, and of teachers to enjoy a positive learning environment.
"We also have an obligation to address the needs and observe the rights of pupils involved in disruptive behaviours."
Mr Peacock has announced two expert groups to advise him on discipline, the appointment of a development officer to work with education authorities and the establishment of "masterclasses" for heads on improving behaviour.