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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 14:35 GMT
Cameron promises power to heads
Cameron in Hammersmith youth project
David Cameron at a youth project in west London
Conservative leader David Cameron has called for "enforceable" contracts between parents and schools in a bid to improve pupils' behaviour.

Speaking about the problem of children who failed in education, Mr Cameron called for head teachers to have greater authority over discipline.

Heads should be "captains of their ship", said Mr Cameron, and their right to expel pupils should be reinforced.

And he challenged an "anti-learning culture... which permeates society".

Mr Cameron's speech was accompanied by research showing that the attainment gap between the most deprived and average pupils widened through children's years in school.

Visiting a youth project in west London, Mr Cameron highlighted the links between failure in school and anti-social behaviour and crime.

Drugs and guns

"Educational failure helps breed the terrible stories we're becoming so familiar with - the teenage gangs, mixed up with drugs and guns, the murders and muggings," said Mr Cameron.

Britain has an anti-learning culture - a disrespect for knowledge which permeates society
Conservative leader, David Cameron

Enforcing discipline in school was central to raising standards, he said, and he called for head teachers to have "the ultimate sanction: the power to expel" - and to reduce the likelihood that this would be overturned on appeal.

Previous Conservative leaders have called for the scrapping of appeals tribunals - but teachers' leaders have warned that doing so would only push disputes over exclusions into the courts.

Last year, Mr Cameron set out plans for a charter for inner-city schools, including behaviour contracts that would have to be signed by parents.

Mr Cameron also proposed that heads should have their own budgets to place pupils in behaviour improvement schemes run by the private sector or community groups.

The Conservative leader also called for a "wider cultural change" which would raise the status of education.

"Britain has an anti-learning culture - a disrespect for knowledge which permeates society. In other societies, learning and teaching have the highest status.

"That's not something you could say about Britain today, and it's something we must change if we're to reverse the tragic decline in social mobility in our country," said Mr Cameron.

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