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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 13:57 GMT
Special orders curbing pupils
teenage boys
Threatened orders have had a salutary effect
Schools are finding that the threat of special orders intended for aggressive adults can work in taming unruly pupils.

Two schools in the Bradford area have threatened to resort to anti-social behaviour orders, which were brought in to give councils a weapon against badly-behaved tenants.

Schools are pretty toothless really in terms of moderating students' behaviour

Head teacher Joan Law
They say the threats have proved more effective than other sanctions, such as temporary exclusions.

Oakbank School in Keighley is a specialist sports college - one of the first in England - which provides facilities for the local community in the evenings and at weekends.

It is also in an area with no other playing fields - so had given permission for pupils to use its pitches after school.

Police intervention

The problem came when paying customers arrived for sessions they had booked and asked the teenagers to give up the space, said the head teacher, John Roberts.

"They would be abusive," he said.

The issue was raised with councillors and the local MP, and police then came to look at CCTV footage which allowed them to identify those involved - most of whom were not school students.

"The police then visited their homes and told them about these Asbos, as they call them."

The anti-social behaviour orders were introduced with the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act.

As well as fines, potential penalties include having people removed from public housing they are renting.

Parents involved

"The effect has been very helpful," Mr Roberts said.

"There has been a drastic decline in any problems after school and at the weekends and I do put it down to these Asbos because a couple of parents rang us up with great concern.

"It's aimed at making the parents more responsible for the behaviour of their kids."

Another school - Laisterdyke High - has also threatened to use the orders against three students allegedly involved in repeatedly stealing computer equipment.

Warning letters were served on them at the school in the presence of police and their parents.

"The parents have been very supportive," said the head, Joan Law, who had already tried short-term exclusions with little or no effect.

The thefts - relatively petty - involved computer mice being taken.

Not acceptable

"People say that happens in all schools - well it's not happening here," said Mrs Law, whose school ethos involves expecting high standards of behaviour.

She believed the threatened orders had taken the matter beyond that of high jinks for the youngsters involved, because they raised the possibility of their having a "record".

One parent had told her that her son had said "Oh eck I'm in bother".

"We all enjoy a laugh and a joke," Mrs Law said, "but there's a line between right and wrong.

"Schools are pretty toothless really in terms of moderating students' behaviour.

"Respect for teachers has greatly declined. We decided we were going to make a stand.

"Because our stands in society are being challenged left, right and centre, and the enormity of some of the crimes leaves some of the smaller crimes falling into the 'acceptable' box, why should we accept that in school?" she said.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | Education
New action on school exclusions
02 Aug 01 | UK
Nuisance mother and son ban
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