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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 17:21 GMT
Parents warned: No 'aggro' in school
Parents who give schools "aggro" have been given a warning that they will be "dealt with".
The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, told the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) annual conference in Newport, Gwent, that he aimed to place greater emphasis on parents' responsibility to control their children.
Mr Blunkett said he wanted to extend the parenting orders scheme, which allows courts to force the parents of persistent truants or children who are committing crimes to undergo training.
He told SHA delegates he had a message for parents: "If you give aggro to heads and teachers and live in a way which gives an appalling example, we will take action against you.
"We have to get the message across that we are not prepared to tolerate bad behaviour.
"Discipline starts and ends at home - not simply in the school."
Mr Blunkett said maintaining discipline was essential if standards were to continue to rise.
What is proposed
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 currently provides for parenting orders to be imposed if a child has committed a criminal offence or has been truanting or has been seriously anti-social on the streets.
Parents can be ordered to get training or guidance, to make sure their child attends a course, or to make sure their child avoids contact with a gang.
The new proposal is to extend these to children or their parents who behave badly on school premises.
"We intend to consult on an extension of parenting orders to cases where children persistently act disruptively or violently in school and where the parents are failing to take responsibility or where parents themselves are abusive or violent in school," the Department for Education said.
Mr Blunkett also stressed that head teachers had the right to expel persistently disruptive, as well as violent, pupils.
He got a warm reception from those at the conference.
The general secretary of the SHA, John Dunford, told the BBC that as a head teacher, he had had personal experience of a parent who had threatened a member of staff.
Mr Dunford said the parent had chased a teacher to their own home and threatened them with violence.
He took out a court order under the education act to ban the parent from the school.
But he said the new measures would make it easier to deal with such parents: "Regrettably, parents sometimes come into school, threatening violence against teachers, abusing teachers.
"It's very difficult to deal with a situation when a parent is being as unco-operative as they can be.
"I hope this will allow will enable schools to act in a stronger way to stop parents behaving in this way."
For years, teachers' unions have complained that violence against their members - and other school staff - is growing.
One of the biggest teachers' unions, the NASUWT, has welcomed Mr Blunkett's proposals, while calling for even more to be done.
The union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said: "I welcome the targeting of parents, who are invariably the prime source of the problem."
But he said this would not stop local education authority appeals panels ignoring David Blunkett's advice and sending back into schools youngsters who had been expelled for violent and seriously disruptive behaviour.
"I fear that David Blunkett's initiative, whilst welcome in itself, might be too little too late," he said.
In its manifesto, SHA calls for an improved balance between soical inclusion and the needs of a "stable school community".
"Some policies, intended to promote social inclusion have created difficulties for schools, partly because of the poor resourcing of the institutions that have to translate vision into reality," the SHA manifesto says.
"In particular, the exclusion from school of disruptive pupils has become too difficult, with inadequate alternative provision for them and too little recognition of the needs of the majority of pupils," the manifesto argues.
The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Phil Willis, also backed the idea of extending parenting orders to cover schools.
More 'sin bins'
The number of in-school "learning support units" - to which unruly youngsters are sent instead of being suspended or expelled - is being increased by 50 to 1,050.
But the Conservatives say it is no good keeping disruptive pupils within a school.
"That's the worst of both worlds because the disruptive pupils are still on site," a spokesman said.
Their preferred solution is external "progress centres" in which unruly pupils would have a chance to take stock and be dealt with appropriately, before returning to the mainstream.
Heads should be free to expel pupils without having to worry about targets for reducing exclusions, the spokesman added.
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