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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Tackling bad pupils - and parents
pupil referral unit
Anger management techniques can improve behaviour
Badly-behaved primary school pupils in England could be given lessons in anger management as part of a package of measures aimed at promoting good behaviour in schools.

The plans will emphasise the role of parents and could also involve forcing mothers and fathers of some disruptive pupils to attend parenting classes.


The government's initiative is long overdue - the real test will be whether it leads to action or is no more than a headline grabbing posture

Peter Smith, ATL
Already, if a child gets into trouble with the law outside of school, the courts can force the parents to get counselling or to attend such a course.

Now ministers are thinking of introducing something similar for parents of youngsters who are disruptive in school.

Former education secretary David Blunkett told a head teachers' conference in March that he favoured extending the orders to the parents of children who were violent at school, or who were themselves disruptive or abusive on school premises.

Expulsions

His successor, Estelle Morris, is announcing a formal consultation on this on Monday.

But she is also keen to tackle bad behaviour early on, in primary schools.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris: "Disruptive behaviour wears down teachers"
So another plan is to identify children who have already begun to get into trouble and teach them how to control their emotions and manage their anger.

"Children need boundaries, they need parameters in which they behave and they need a very clear message not only at school but at home as well as to how they behave and what is acceptable behaviour," Ms Morris said on BBC One.

There are some parents who either don't know how to discipline their children - and quite honestly need help - or in worse cases come on to the school site and argue with teachers - threaten them, bully them.

Expulsions

"What kind of message is that giving to children?"

But ministers acknowledge that in some cases pupils do need to be expelled.

Their previous efforts to cut the number of exclusions caused considerable anger among head teachers.

David Blunkett recently dropped the target of reducing exclusions by a third, on the grounds that substantially it had been achieved, and Ms Morris is not setting any new target.

Appeals

Another cause of anger among teachers have been the - relatively few - cases when independent local appeals panels have overturned expulsions and forced schools to take back pupils who have been violent.

"That shouldn't happen," Ms Morris said.

She is proposing to change the law on exclusions and the guidance to appeals panels.

The main aim will be to require panels to balance the interests of the excluded pupil against the interests of all the other members of the school community.

A similar requirement introduced by a former Conservative education secretary, Gillian Shepherd, was overturned by Labour in its 1999 circular - known as Circular 10/99 - on inclusion which led to so much resentment in schools.

The government wants to make appeals panels reconsider all the facts of a case, and to change the panels' membership so that they have had direct experience of running a school.

'Long overdue'

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said it was high time the government rectified problems which were largely of its own making.

"The difficulties associated with targets for the reduction of exclusions and the ill-fated Circular 10/99 have exacerbated a growing problem of behaviour in schools," he said


I have my doubts that parenting orders can succeed on a widespread basis, but there is certainly no harm in trying

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT
"Heads need the maximum flexibility to act quickly according to the practical situation in the school and in the interests of the rest of the school community - pupils and staff."

His counterpart at the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, demanded action to curb "the growing tendency for parents to use violence as a first resort".

It was disappointing that the government had "set its face" against the right to exclude a pupil for the misbehaviour of the parent.

"Urgent action has to be taken in those few cases where the relationship between home and school has fundamentally broken down," Mr Hart said.

The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Peter Smith, said: "The government's initiative is long overdue".

"The real test will be whether it leads to action or is no more than a headline grabbing posture," he said.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the union welcomed consultation with the government but stressed that teachers needed action.

"The behaviour of a minority of pupils has seriously worsened over recent years," Mr McAvoy said.

"We have seen an over-emphasis on the rights of individual pupils to the detriment of the collective right of the majority to learn," he said.

The union would resort to strike action to support teachers and the education of the majority of pupils, he added.

Government's own making

General secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, it was high time the government took steps to rectify problems which were largely of its own making.

"For too long a situation has existed where schools were required to operate an onerous and protracted process for dealing with the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of pupils," Mr Dunford said.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the announcement represented a "much needed, if rather belated, step back towards reality and common sense".

"I particularly welcome the proposal for appeal panels to ignore minor technical breaches of procedure," Mr de Gruchy said.

The general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, Jean Gemmell, said children and teachers needed to be protected from disruptive, and sometimes violent, pupils and parents.

"Schools should be safe places of education and learning, not unstable environments of fear and disruption," she said.

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Phil Willis, welcomed the news, but warned that in the longer term however, discipline would not improve without more teachers in classrooms - with more time to spend with each individual child.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"The government wants to nip bad behaviour in the bud"
Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"Parenting Orders will actually give parents support"
See also:

23 Mar 01 | Education
Parents warned: No 'aggro' in school
09 Jul 01 | Features
Learning to be better parents
01 Jun 01 | Education
Heads call for 'beacon' parents
28 May 01 | Education
Violent parents in 'school rage'
21 Nov 99 | Education
Looking back without anger
04 May 01 | Education
Pupil exclusion targets dropped
12 Jun 01 | Education
Fathers help pupils achieve
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