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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Heads want more power to exclude
Playground violence
Heads say that any level of violence should not be tolerated
Head teachers are demanding much more control over how they can remove violent and disruptive pupils from their schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers says there must be much more flexibility for heads to decide on the seriousness of offences.

"Schools are not courts of law. Balance of probabilities should be enough," says the NAHT proposal.

Parent advisers say this is already the case and schools sometimes act

unfairly.

Violence

Head teachers are calling on the government to give them a wider range of options on exclusions, in a submission to the newly-formed Leadership Group on Behaviour and Discipline, set up by the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly.

The heads want to have a much tougher interpretation of the grounds needed to be excluded.

"Why cannot a school define bullying as a serious offence? Why is racial or sexual harassment not treated as serious? Why does the violence have to be serious? Any violence is intolerable," says the NAHT submission.

"Possession or use of an illegal drug could be treated as serious if the school so decides," say the head teachers.

And if parents of an excluded pupil fail to attend meetings at the school about their child, heads want to be able to extend the period of exclusion.

It also warns that there needs to be a much greater attention paid to the threat of violent or threatening behaviour from parents towards school staff - and for arrangements to be made for pupils where their home life had broken down and parental support was unlikely.

But the Advisory Centre for Education, which advises parents and trains professionals on exclusions, says the "balance of probabilities" standard of proof is already the law for exclusion decisions, and has been since the government brought in new regulations last year.

"Used properly, the process is fair to both the school community and the accused child, and last week's exclusion figures showed that there is no need for heads to worry that they lack power to exclude," the centre said.

"In fact it's distressing for parents and children who, in ACE's experience, can be the victims of unfair judgements by schools that exclusions have risen so dramatically."

'Autonomy'

Appeal panels have been disputed - with the Conservatives calling for their abolition - but the heads say that there "can be no doubt" that they need to exist. But they want their powers to be more narrowly defined in a way that would prevent them from undermining the decisions of head teachers.

The Conservative education spokesman, David Cameron, urged the education secretary to "listen to the concerns of teachers".

"Ministers have previously claimed that head teachers have all the powers they need to enforce discipline, but this is clearly not the case.

"What they are overwhelmingly asking for is greater autonomy to decide on disciplinary policies, and having the final say on exclusions is central to that," said Mr Cameron.

The Department for Education and Skills said: "Ofsted tells us that behaviour is good in most schools most of the time."

And a DfES spokesperson pointed to the setting up of an "independent group of frontline professionals to ... ensure that best practice in tackling pupil behaviour is in every school". This will deliver a report in the autumn.

Teachers' attitudes

In a survey of teachers' attitudes published by the General Teaching Council for England, poor pupil discipline was a concern for 16% teachers. More teachers were worried about excessive paperwork and a lack of time.

There was also a lack of enthusiasm among classroom teachers about becoming a head teacher - with only 7% aiming for a headship.

The survey also shows much professional satisfaction among teachers, with eight out of 10 saying that making a difference to pupils' lives is what "motivates and rewards" them.


SEE ALSO:
Advisers to tackle unruly pupils
20 May 05 |  Education
Call for a ban on violent pupils
29 Mar 05 |  Education
More children banned from schools
23 Jun 05 |  Education
Schools 'in fear of gang culture'
01 Mar 05 |  Education


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