Unions welcome stronger powers to maintain order

19th November 2010 at 00:00
Minister reaffirms schools' authority to discipline pupils - including restraint

A series of new measures to help schools and teachers tackle bad behaviour are being hailed as a welcome return of power to teachers.

The measures, announced by education minister Leighton Andrews, are designed to reaffirm the authority of schools to discipline pupils, confiscate their property and impose sanctions such as detention in response to legal uncertainty and growing parental challenge.

Guidance will be issued to schools on the use of reasonable force to restrain unruly pupils and prevent them from committing an offence, both in and out of the classroom.

There will also be an extension of parenting orders and parenting contracts in place of fines - which have had a limited effect - to deal with the parents of pupils with the worst behaviour and attendance.

Teaching unions have welcomed the measures. Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, said: "Anything that gives greater protection for schools from parental complaints and allows them to maintain order and discipline has to be welcomed.

"Teachers want to go into the classroom and teach their lessons and when they try to keep order they don't want it turned back on them."

Headteachers will also be required to consult with staff and pupils to develop school behaviour policies.

The announcement comes after concerns were raised over the progress of the Assembly government's Behaving and Attending action plan. In his annual report last month, children's commissioner Keith Towler said the action plan, published in response to the groundbreaking National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR), had "lost its way".

TES Cymru understands that officials in the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) have privately admitted that NBAR's recommendations were "put on the back-burner" while the attainment-raising school effectiveness framework (SEF) was being developed.

However, Mr Andrews has now acknowledged that behaviour and attendance are an "integral part" of the SEF, and that behaviour management skills must be embedded early in a teacher's career.

Professor Ken Reid, the author of the NBAR report, said: "If you think about school effectiveness, the bottom line is that if pupils don't attend or behave it won't work and schools just won't be effective at all.

"If we can liaise and co-ordinate the work in DCELLS on integrating the literacy, SEF and professional development strategies with the NBAR initiatives, we will be in a good position in Wales to go forward with improvements in the life chances, learning and achievements of all our pupils."

Mr Andrews said: "It is important that schools and teachers have the powers to ensure that schools are safe and calm learning environments. For this reason we will be commencing provisions on behaviour and discipline contained in the Education and Inspections Act 2006."

BEHAVIOUR: Disciplined and detained

The new measures include:

- a requirement for headteachers to consult with pupils and staff in developing their school's behaviour policy;

- a power for schools to discipline pupils and impose sanctions;

- a re-enactment of earlier powers relating to the use of reasonable force by school staff to prevent pupils from committing an offence;

- new scope on the use of detention;

- a statutory defence for school staff confiscating pupils' property;

- an extension of the use of parenting orders and parenting contracts;

- a requirement for heads to request parents of excluded pupils to attend a reintegration interview.

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