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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK


Tories call for schools' right to expel

Theresa May: "Discipline is essential"

Schools would be free to expel pupils as they wanted under a Conservative government, the shadow education secretary has declared.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool on Tuesday, Theresa May called for the scrapping of government targets to cut the number of school exclusions.

"Discipline is essential to high standards. We will allow heads to decide what are suitable criteria for exclusion. If a head wants to exercise zero tolerance on drugs, let them do it," she said.

Ms May was also dismissive of Labour's plans to increase fines for the parents of children who play truant.

Theresa May: "No longer will parents feel frustrated that they are not able to do anything about low standards"
"It is far better to look to get children back into the classroom," she said, adding that a Conservative government would consider how the curriculum for 14 to 16-year-olds could be used to engage pupils and get them interested in education, keeping them off the streets.

Ms May's speech followed the emphasis on education in a raft of new Conservative policies unveiled by party leader William Hague at the start of the conference on Monday.

'Bonfire of controls'

The Tories' proposals on education include giving parents the power to instigate the sacking of headteachers of failing schools, and a plan to make all schools "free schools", released from local education authority control.

[ image: Could altering the curriculum stop pupils from playing truant?]
Could altering the curriculum stop pupils from playing truant?
The party also wants to establish new units outside schools to take excluded pupils and "encourage" them to improve their behaviour.

Ms May echoed much of what Mr Hague had said the previous day, expanding on some of the key ideas contained in the proposals.

She said the Tories were planning a "bonfire of controls" which would let decisions about teaching be made in the classroom and not Whitehall.

"We believe that heads, teachers and governors know what is best for their pupils and their schools, that local needs are best addressed by local decisions," she said.

"We must get decisions about teaching in our classrooms out of Whitehall and into the classroom.

"As Conservatives we believe in freedom - freedom for people to make choices over their own lives.

"Freedom for schools is the common sense approach and it will raise standards."


School Standards Minister Estelle Morris condemned Ms May's speech.

"The Tories' extremist proposals would mean the scrapping of the effective teaching of the "three Rs" and the abandoning of performance-related pay for teachers in most schools," she said.

"Their uncosted proposals would halt the process of raising standards.

"They have opposed our literacy and numeracy strategy every step of the way - strategies that have led to real improvements for all our children."

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