Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

'Give pupils a right royal rollicking'

A good old-fashioned bawling out in the head's office can be a better way of dealing with badly behaved pupils than suspending them from school, the Government's behaviour “tsar” says today.

Former headteacher Sir Alan Steer warned that schools with a record of high levels of suspending pupils for two or three weeks at a time should review their policies because they were failing to tackle poor behaviour.

“Sending them to the head and giving them a right royal rollicking could be better than giving them a fixed-term exclusion,” he said in an interview with The Independent.

“Some schools seem to have very high levels of fixed-term exclusions,” he said. “I don't see that as showing you're tough on discipline.”

Sir Alan, a former head of Seven Kings school in Ilford, Essex, who is coming to the end of his four-year tenure, was speaking for the first time since his “swansong” report on discipline last month. His comments also come on the day a new report shows that bright pupils in disadvantaged schools are missing out on GCSE grades because of the anti-learning culture of other children in the school.

The report, by the education charity the Sutton Trust, revealed talented pupils in the most disadvantaged schools underperform compared to pupils from the suburbs by half a grade per GCSE.

Sir Alan also discussed his plan to enshrine in law the teacher's right to impose discipline — making measures such as detention and confiscating mobile phones legal. He considers the new powers necessary because too many parents challenge school discipline rather than support it. As a result, some schools are reluctant to use traditional methods of discipline.

Sir Alan also warned that schools are flouting a new law under which children expelled or suspended are entitled to a full-time education after six days out of the classroom. By not sticking to the rules, excluded pupils are left to roam the streets and are falling prey to gang influences. “They're not likely to go to libraries,” he added.

Figures show that, while the overall number of permanent exclusions has fallen to around 8,680 a year, the number of suspensions has risen. In particular, according to figures released by the Conservatives, the number of children |excluded more than 10 times in a year has tripled in four years.

Sir Alan also wants new powers allowing teachers to search pupils for weapons, drugs and alcohol to be reviewed in three years' time to see whether they are effective.

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