The National Behaviour and Attendance Review, which I chaired, was delivered to the Welsh Assembly government two-and-a-half years ago. Since then, some frustration has been expressed in the media that the recommendations are being implemented too slowly. So let me explain the background to the current position and place the report's developments into their proper context.
Firstly, the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) has finished its internal review of in-service training and professional development. This review reinforced the importance of developing appropriate behaviour management training - at a variety of levels - for teachers and senior staff in schools and local authorities, including key support staff such as learning school mentors, teaching assistants and education welfare officers.
Secondly, over the past two years, the school effectiveness framework (SEF) has been developed. It has now reached the point where this reform model is being steered through four regional local authority consortia in South East, South West, South and North Wales.
Thirdly, the Welsh Assembly government strategy on literacy will shortly be published and implemented. It is obvious that these four key developments - our behaviour review, the professional development review, the SEF and the literacy review - are inextricably linked. Soon these four core policy areas will be launched alongside one another for the maximum benefit of all staff employed in the educational arena in Wales.
In response to our behaviour report, DCELLS has recently employed two people to lead and enact its recommendations. They have correctly identified that the report's proposals need to be implemented on eight fronts: school attendance; behaviour; children and young people's rights; early intervention; literacy; multi- and inter-agency working; school effectiveness; and training and development. An implementation group has been working on the action plan, which is in the process of being rolled out across Wales in each of these areas.
A new all-Wales attendance framework and attendance code came into effect in September. A report on unofficial exclusions from school has reached the draft stage. New guidance on effective managed moves is being sent out to schools and local authorities for consultation, while a behaviour support team network has started work across Wales.
New guidance on safe and effective intervention has also been drafted and is in the process of being finalised. The Welsh Assembly government is currently working on a new model to deliver advocacy services for the Children and Young People's Partnerships initiative. DCELLS is developing guidance on how to extend the role and resources for school councils. The Welsh Assembly government is currently reassessing the existing approaches for working with vulnerable children.
In addition, nine national pilot projects are well underway and are due to be completed by August next year at the latest. Neath Port Talbot and Gwynedd, and Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan, are working together on projects on early identification and the early assessment of vulnerable children and their full range of support needs. Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Powys are working on important projects in the field of multi-agency working between health, social services and education to improve the reintegration of excluded pupils - a difficult area. Cardiff, Torfaen and Monmouthshire are working on schemes to improve the links between pupil referral units, special and mainstream schools, and education that takes place outside of schools - another complex and previously neglected field.
Early results from the pilots are encouraging. For example, the Powys multi-agency pilot is working with difficult excluded pupils and their families. The scheme supports pupils and families, helping them to develop psychological coping strategies and the emotional well-being to manage their lives better. It also helps them to cope with stress, behavioural difficulties and special learning needs.
Since the end of last month, the Welsh Assembly government and DCELLS have started putting into place the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which Wales had five years to prepare to introduce. New guidance, including comprehensive material on the use of reasonable force will be issued. The changes include:
- a requirement for headteachers to consult with pupils and staff working in schools to develop their behaviour policies;
- powers for schools to discipline pupils and impose sanctions (thereby helping to protect staff in schools);
- re-statements of earlier powers relating to the reasonable use of force by school staff to prevent pupils from committing an offence;
- new scoping powers on the use of detention;
- providing a statutory defence for school staff confiscating pupils' property;
- an extension of the usages of parenting orders and parenting contracts; and
- requiring heads to invite parents of excluded pupils to a reintegration interview.
It is my firm belief and hope that if we can liaise and co-ordinate the work in DCELLS on integrating the literacy, SEF and professional development strategies with our behaviour report's 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.
I would like to thank all teachers and education staff for the important role you are playing in delivering this core vision for Wales and Welsh education.
Ken Reid is research professor at Swansea Metropolitan University.