You have the power to control

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Recent guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families has given useful reminders of the wider and lesser-known powers that schools possess to regulate pupils' behaviour and to discipline them. Some come from the recent codification of teachers' powers while others have emerged from case law or are written in to legislation already but have not been widely known.

The new statutory powers explicitly allow schools to act on behaviour that takes place outside school. We will not know until the judges get hold of the Act how far the powers can be stretched but, in theory at least, a school could punish a child who is sitting by a pool in Palma Nova for sending a bullying message to another child in school by mobile phone. The courts will certainly support action that affects behaviour in school and may, indeed, impose a duty.

Schools also have the power to control admittance. Following a series of high-profile cases, we know that schools can send a child home to change clothes or jewellery banned under school rules. The guidance reminds us that it is also possible to make other rules about admittance on health and safety grounds too: for example, that all pupils must agree to pass through some form of metal detection to keep knives out of school.

And there is a power that allows governors to "do anything which appears to them to be necessary or expedient". This is contained in a little-visited section of the 2002 Education Act and it is suggested that it should be used if schools wish to collect and use biometric data. It is only fair to point out that the European Court of Justice cast doubt on the power of such catch-all expressions in a recent case, but it is certainly worth testing.

Richard Bird, Legal consultant to the Association of School and College Leaders.

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