If they are bad, expel them

20th October 2006 at 01:00
When teachers leave the profession after just a few years, there can be no doubt that poor pupil behaviour is a significant factor.

There is a generally held belief that pupil behaviour is deteriorating, and some people would say that it was ever thus. But too often, teachers become stressed, demoralised, worn out with constantly trying to deal with behaviour issues when they should be trying to inculcate knowledge.

Who, then, is to blame for this deplorable situation? Of course, individual pupils have to take responsibility. However, the person charged with the legal responsibility for maintaining discipline in the school is the headteacher.

If behaviour is poor and having a deleterious effect on the learning of the compliant majority, then it is the head who is to blame. Even though they are encouraged from all quarters to try to keep these badly behaved pupils in school, they should not acquiesce but expel them. Nor should they give them innumerable chances.

As a member of an exclusion panel, I often spent 30 minutes reading a catalogue of poor behaviour incidents, many quite serious, logged on a single pupil. When a new superhead goes into a failing school, it is significant that expulsion of the hard core of recalcitrants is usually necessary.

I know local education authorities try to encourage a league table mentality on expulsions, and the Government dislikes these pupils wandering the streets, but they should be expelled. There is much in the news these days about human rights, but the rights of the harassed teacher and the hardworking pupils are also being infringed.

Excuses for ever poorer behaviour are accepted by schools and so the tolerance level becomes higher. Teachers often wonder just what a pupil has to do to be expelled. Even hitting out at a teacher does not automatically lead to expulsion.

I urge heads to have zero tolerance towards poor behaviour, while accepting that pupils will be silly on occasions. Heads should not blame the teacher for not making the work interesting, or for making it too challenging, for the fact the pupils behave poorly.

Heads will say they are sometimes overruled by appeals panels and the LEA, but I am sure their schools will improve if they show courage and steadfastness. Expel and be damned, for your school will do better and the well-behaved pupils deserve no less.

Jim Goodall is a retired science teacher from Torfaen

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