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Behaviour and Discipline (Schools)

Volume 513: debated on Wednesday 7 July 2010

I would like to announce to the House new measures to be introduced to tackle behaviour and discipline in schools. All pupils should show respect and courtesy towards teachers, towards other staff and towards each other. Head teachers help to create that culture of respect by supporting their staff’s authority to discipline pupils. The role of the Government is to give schools the freedom they need to provide a safe and structured environment in which teachers can teach and children can learn.

The coalition agreement sets out this Government’s intention to give heads and teachers the powers they need to ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour. It also sets out the Government’s intention to give anonymity to teachers accused by pupils and to take other measures to protect against false accusations. Teachers should feel confident in exercising their authority, and pupils should not have to suffer disruption to their education caused by the poor behaviour of others.

Further to my reply in Education questions on 7 June, I can confirm that we will take steps to strengthen teachers’ powers to search pupils. We intend to introduce regulations to add personal electronic devices (mobile phones, iPods and personal music players); pornography; fireworks; cigarettes and other tobacco; and “legal highs” to the list of items for which teachers can search. Our intention is for these regulations to come into effect from this autumn. In the next education Bill, we intend to give teachers a more general search power covering any item which may cause disorder or pose a threat to safety.

We will also take steps to reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools when giving pupils detentions. We intend to repeal the legislation that requires schools to give parents 24 hours written notice of detentions outside school hours. Schools will be free to determine and publicise their own rules on notice for detentions. As a result, teachers should be able to deal with misbehaviour on the day it occurs.

We will issue much shorter and clearer guidance which explicitly states that teachers can physically remove disruptive children from class and prevent them from leaving a room in situations where this is necessary to maintain order. We will seek to ensure that prosecutors, those exercising disciplinary powers and those determining complaints against teachers are aware of the new guidance. We are determined that teachers should have the protection they need and we will take all necessary steps, legislating further if necessary, to ensure this happens.

Finally, we will give teachers the strongest possible protection from false accusations. We will give anonymity to teachers facing accusations from pupils. This Government want to put an end to rumours and malicious gossip about innocent teachers which can ruin careers and even lives.

We will be announcing further measures in due course, including measures to tackle bullying, head teachers’ powers to exclude children and the reform of alternative provision.

The changes announced today are the first step in a programme of reform. We will be consulting with teachers about taking forward these measures and the case for further reform. We will take the necessary action to ensure that schools can bring order and discipline to every classroom so that all children are able to achieve to the best of their ability.