Further to my statement of 7 July 2010, I would like to update the House on the progress the Government have made in meeting a number of the important commitments set out in that statement.
We have taken the steps we promised to strengthen teachers’ powers to search pupils. As well as a more general power to search for items that have been or could be used to cause harm or break the law, teachers can also search for items banned by the school rules. We have also added fireworks, tobacco and pornographic images to the list of specified items that teachers can search for.
We have reduced the bureaucratic burden on schools when giving pupils detentions. Teachers are no longer required to give parents 24 hours’ written notice of detentions outside school hours. Schools are now free to determine their own rules on notice for detentions so that teachers can deal with misbehaviour on the day it occurs.
We revised the advice to teachers on their powers to use reasonable force. This revised advice makes clear that teachers can remove disruptive pupils from the classroom. It provides clear advice that suspension should not be the automatic response of a head teacher when a member of staff has been accused of using excessive force and reminds head teachers that they should support their staff when they use reasonable force.
These are very important changes which, taken together, put beyond doubt the authority of teachers to enforce the school rules and maintain discipline in the classroom. Other important changes, included in the Education Act 2011, will come into force over the coming months. These include granting teachers anonymity when accused by pupils and changing the current system of independent appeal panels for exclusions so that pupils who have committed a serious offence cannot be re-instated by a panel.
Schools have the professional freedom to decide how these powers will work best for them. School governing bodies and head teachers should review their behaviour polices now to ensure they clearly set out the school’s approach to searching, to issuing notice of detentions and to the use of reasonable force.