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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 17:10 GMT
Clampdown on school bullies
school playground
Children could soon be expelled for bullying
Head teachers in England have welcomed proposed changes which will mean they will be able to expel pupils immediately for bullying or carrying a weapon.

Serious bullying - and possession of an offensive weapon - have been added to the grounds for immediate expulsion in new draft guidelines published 24 January.

In the past, children could only be expelled immediately for sexual misconduct, drug dealing, or serious violence.

The Tories have said the changes - which were outlined last week - are a U-turn on previous policies, which had included targets to cut exclusions.

Perverse judgements

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association John Dunford welcomed the draft guidelines: "Head teachers will be delighted that the government has strengthened their powers in dealing with disruptive pupils.

"The constructive tone of the guidance is welcome and it places the right emphasis on the responsibility of the head to look after the interests of the whole school community.

"The change in the guidance to appeals panels is particularly welcome and I am confident that this will lead to a reduction in the number of perverse judgements handed down by appeals panels, which continue to return some disruptive and dangerous pupils back to their schools."

We must also guarantee that all long-term excluded pupils get a full-time education - we cannot simply exclude pupils only for them to roam the streets

Catherine Ashton, schools minister

He said he hoped the changes would bring an end to a very difficult period for head teachers who were criticised for excluding pupils, when they believed that they were acting in the interests of the whole school community in preserving good order.

A 12-week consultation period has begun on the draft guidelines.

Once that is over, and comments have been considered by the government, the new guidelines will come into force in the summer.

The new points in the guidelines include an obligation to involve social services at the earliest opportunity if a child is in danger of being expelled.

Expulsion targets

The schools minister Catherine Ashton said the decision to expel a child was a serious one: "It will usually follow a wide range of strategies adopted by the school - and which involve parents - to try to improve the child's behaviour.

"The government's target of reducing exclusions was met last year.

"But we must also guarantee that all long-term excluded pupils get a full-time education - we cannot simply exclude pupils only for them to roam the streets.

"That is why we are committed to ensuring that by September 2002 all pupils excluded for more than 15 consecutive school days will be offered full-time and appropriate education while excluded."

See also:

16 Jan 02 | Education
Victims question exclusion policy
16 Jan 02 | Mike Baker
Analysis: Expulsion changes
16 Jan 02 | Education
Bullied girl's mother backs change
16 Nov 01 | Education
School exclusions continue falling
04 May 01 | Education
Pupil exclusion targets dropped
16 Apr 01 | Education
Violent pupils 'must be expelled'
19 May 00 | Education
Violent pupils menace teachers
19 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
Teachers sue over violent pupils
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