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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Advisers to tackle unruly pupils
Pupils fighting
Discipline is a cross-party issue
The government is setting up an expert group of a dozen teachers and head teachers to advise it on improving classroom behaviour in England.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said all schools must have a culture of respect.

Ms Kelly said her plans were not rocket science but she hoped the panel could identify three or four success stories that could be replicated everywhere.

The Tories - who made discipline a key election issue - said more than "a talking shop" was needed.

'Clear sanctions'

Ms Kelly said she wanted all schools to have clear rules and clear sanctions.

"Some schools do extraordinarily well. There are certain programmes they use that work in their schools that may have wider application across the country," she told BBC News.

We have to be very careful we don't demonise young people
Head teacher Sir Alan Steer
Chair of advisory group

The government on Thursday asked Sir Alan Steer, head of Seven Kings High School in Ilford, Essex, to chair the new group.

It will advise on "strategies to ensure effective school discipline, improve parental responsibility for their children's behaviour and deliver a culture of respect in all schools".

It has been asked to report by November, when its recommendations will be considered by another committee chaired by Schools Minister Jacqui Smith.

The government said the English schools inspectorate, Ofsted, rated pupil behaviour as good in most schools most of the time.

This is political nonsense set up to give the impression that Big Brother is going to do something about it
Sir Robert Dowling
Head of George Dixon International school
But when he published his annual report in February the chief inspector, David Bell, said the proportion of schools in which behaviour overall was good or better had fallen from over three quarters five years ago to just over two thirds.

"Over the same period, the proportion where behaviour is unsatisfactory, at just under one in 10 schools, has not reduced," he added.

His counterpart in Scotland, Graham Donaldson, said in March that the executive's Better Behaviour - Better Learning policy was bringing about positive change.

An advisory "discipline task group" was set up there in 2001.

But in too many schools, "low-level disruptive behaviour is a significant problem", he said.

'Societal thing'

The head of an inner-city school praised by Ofsted has dismissed the working party.

In a BBC interview, Sir Robert Dowling, head of the George Dixon International school in Birmingham, said it was "political nonsense set up to give the impression that Big Brother is going to do something about it".

HAVE YOUR SAY
You can't improve something that doesn't exist
Lee, Hebburn, England

"How? Give us a code of discipline throughout the country? Try telling that to the different parts of the country where there are kids running amok on a Friday and Saturday.

"This is a societal thing. It's not simply a government committee can cure it."

On Thursday the biggest teachers' union, the NUT, called for an inquiry into the extent of bad behaviour and violence - as is now being done in Scotland.

"Until we know the scale of the problem, whether such incidents are concentrated in particular types of schools or areas, and more, it is impossible to look at ways of combating the problem," said general secretary Steve Sinnott.

The other main classroom union, the NASUWT, has welcomed the establishment of the advisory group as a sign of good intent.

But at one of the first of the government's flagship city academies - Unity Academy in Middlesbrough - many staff belonging to the union say they are too frightened to go to work.

Appeal panels

The Conservatives' education spokesman, David Cameron, said more than a "talking shop" was needed.

"If Labour want to be taken seriously on school discipline they need to give head teachers the final say on excluding unruly pupils and abolish appeals

Liberal Democrat spokesman Ed Davey agreed that another task force was not what was needed.

"We need strong leadership from the head teachers, that is absolutely crucial," he said.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Schools give their reaction to the proposals




SEE ALSO:
Blair pledges new 'yob' crackdown
12 May 05 |  UK Politics
Teacher union hits out at parents
18 May 05 |  Scotland
Your views on school discipline
17 May 05 |  Education
Head teachers complain of abuse
29 Apr 05 |  Education
Fewer children banned from school
27 May 04 |  Education


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