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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 17:18 GMT
Plan for 'zero' lesson disruption
school support unit for naughty children
Ms Kelly has called for 'zero tolerance' on low-level disruption
Plans for a "zero tolerance" approach to "low-level disruption" in England's schools have been set out by Education Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Ms Kelly said issues such as mobiles being used in class hampered learning.

But she said plans to get all schools to take some unruly pupils would not start until after September 2007.

The Tories intend to let head teachers exclude disruptive pupils without appeal, while the Lib Dems said a better curriculum was the key.

The Conservatives have said they would also provide funding for head teachers to introduce CCTV, random drug tests and metal detectors if they deem it to be necessary.

Poor standards

In a speech to head teachers in Blackpool, Ms Kelly said: "Behaviour is good in most schools most of the time. Often schools are the most secure and stable environment in the communities they serve.

"But any poor behaviour is too much and should not be tolerated. We need to re-draw the line on what is acceptable."

She said the schools inspectorate, Ofsted, would be asked to target behaviour and go back to schools with poor standards within a year to check up, she said.

Christine Quinn
We have to make it very clear what is expected of pupils
Christine Quinn, head teacher

On Wednesday, the annual report from the Ofsted inspectorate is expected to highlight the brake on progress caused by low-level classroom disruption.

Under Ms Kelly's proposals, local authorities are to draw up individual plans for "behaviour support" which may include taking the disruptive pupils out of the school itself to continue their learning, while not necessarily excluding them permanently.

She qualified a proposal that all schools, including the best, should take a share of disruptive pupils.

She said the principle would apply only after local partnerships had been formed and had agreed specialist provision to cope with such children, and she is giving secondary schools in England an extra year to start doing that.

Serious offences

The Conservatives say they would give head teachers and governors the final say on whether children should be excluded for serious offences.

They would abolish the independent appeal panels which occasionally overturn such decisions.

Tory leader Michael Howard told a news conference in central London: "We are caught in a downward spiral - bad behaviour undermines standards and poor standards encourage bad behaviour."

He added that there was "not a lot of sense" in separating low level misbehaviour from more serious disruption.

And allowing someone excluded by a head teacher back into school on the say-so of a panel undermined his authority and "gave a green light" to the bad pupil to carry on misbehaving.

The government stresses that heads do have the power to exclude, but says the panels need to stay, otherwise parents' only recourse would be to the courts.

Tory education spokesman Tim Collins argued that creating special "turnaround schools", although expensive, would result in a significant expansion in the number of excluded pupils who remain in full-time education.


Lib Dem education spokesman Phil Willis said that instead of tackling the causes of bad behaviour Labour and the Tories were just waiting for "bad behaviour to arise".

"We have to create a situation where children want to be in school and tackle bad behaviour before it starts."

The Lib Dems support smaller class sizes, reduced teacher workload and improvements to the secondary curriculum.

Children's charity NCH said: "Disruptive behaviour in the classroom may mask the fact that a pupil is facing some complex problems and needs support - not punishment.

"We would urge the government not to take steps which will make any problems for some of the most vulnerable children even worse."

How school discipline is becoming an election issue

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