Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 16:40 UK

Schools told pupils must behave

Ed Balls and Gordon Brown
Ed Balls is urging parents to take responsibility for behaviour

A "behaviour challenge" has been issued to the one in five secondary schools in England where inspectors say pupils' behaviour is not good enough.

The government says that if they do not ensure pupils behave they face external intervention.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls told the Labour Party conference parents would be reminded they must support schools.

He also announced a review of the provisions to prevent the promotion of racism in schools.

'Parents crucial'

Mr Balls said he was concerned about behaviour because of a correlation with improving overall standards.

He was responding to a lengthy inquiry by the government's behaviour expert, former head teacher Sir Alan Steer, who reported in part that schools were failing to make use of the powers they had already been given to tackle problem pupils.

Sir Alan also said children who disrupted classes should be isolated so they do not disturb classmates.

Currently the inspectorate Ofsted says that about 80% of secondary schools have behaviour which is good or better.

The government wants all to be in those categories by 2012.

"Parents also play a crucial role and have a responsibility to support their school's behaviour policy," Mr Balls said.

"Today we are strengthening our message to parents and pupils that disruption by the few will not be tolerated because teachers have all the legal powers they need to get tough on bad behaviour.

"Parents must challenge their child's school if they feel learning is being disrupted and good behaviour is not a priority.

"I hope that the new advice for parents will give them the confidence to push their school to be the best on behaviour."

Teachers' representatives welcomed his remarks.


On the issue of racism, Mr Balls has asked former chief inspector Maurice Smith to present a report by next January.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the review would consider:

  • Whether existing safeguards are sufficient
  • Whether there is a case for further measures to maintain trust in the teaching profession and protect children from indoctrination and discrimination - particularly, whether affiliation to an organisation that promotes racism should be grounds for barring
  • Whether safeguards should extend more widely across the school workforce.


Mr Balls also repeatedly attacked his Tory shadow, Michael Gove, for "running down the hard work of our students and teachers" and planning cuts.

Mr Gove responded that his "epically underwhelming speech" had revealed just how bankrupt Labour education policy was.

"He had no new policy to announce. On discipline, he still won't give teachers the powers they need to keep order in the classroom.

"On spending his main proposal is to sack 3,000 deputy head teachers," he said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised there would be no cuts in school investment in England for the next five years.

This seemed to contradict what Mr Balls had said recently about being able to find savings of £2bn in his department's budget - in part because federations of schools would need fewer leaders.

On Wednesday Mr Balls told the party conference: "We are not going to cut investment in schools and Sure Start, we are not going to mandate cuts to frontline services that mean fewer teachers and teaching assistants".

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