Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Pupil punishments 'should be tough'

Michael Gove is leading a crackdown on bad behaviour in the classroom.

Misbehaving pupils face the prospect of being told to pick up litter or write out lines hundreds of times under plans by Education Secretary Michael Gove for a return to traditional classroom discipline.

New guidelines for teachers, to be issued this week, will say that "tough but proportionate" punishments such as writing lines "are just as crucial to an effective education as praising and rewarding good behaviour", the Department for Education (DfE) said.

Penalties could include picking up litter in the playgrounds, weeding, tidying classrooms and removing graffiti. Pupils could also be ordered to report to school early, clean dining halls or forfeit privileges such as joining in a non-uniform day.

Mr Gove, who has long railed against "trendy" teaching methods, said he wanted to send a message to teachers that they should not be afraid to "get tough" on bad behaviour in school.

"I think it is absolutely right to say to students that if they have in some way undermined discipline or contributed to the deterioration of the fabric of a school building that they should be responsible for clearing up after school lunch, clearing up litter or weeding the school playing field," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"People need to understand that there are consequences if they break those rules and teachers have the power to enforce them."

Mr Gove also indicated that in the longer term he favoured moving to a longer school day - although he rejected the idea of shorter school holidays recently put forward by a former No 10 adviser.

"I do think that we do need to have a longer school day. I don't believe that this should be mandated like that from the centre right now," he said.

"I think the critical thing that we need to do is to work with the profession in order to ensure that we can provide the extra curricula activities at the beginning and the end of the day and at lunchtime that students get in private fee-paying schools. One of the things that we need to look at is exactly how it can be delivered appropriately."

The DfE said that while current guidelines on school discipline make clear the legal backing for setting school punishments, they fail to outline potential sanctions, leaving many heads and teachers unclear of what action they can take.

There has been significant progress on improving behaviour since 2010, the DfE added, but a lmost one in three secondary teachers do not feel confident using the powers they have to discipline pupils. Around 700,000 pupils are currently attending schools with behaviour issues, according to Ofsted statistics.

The latest guidelines were dismissed as a "cheap attempt at headline grabbing" by Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union.

"Given the appalling track record of this coalition Government in supporting teachers, the Secretary of State's claims that he wants to give teachers confidence to tackle pupil indiscipline will have a hollow ring in classrooms across the country," she said.

"The almost daily denigration of teachers' professionalism and competence by coalition ministers and their supporters has undermined teachers' confidence.

"Teachers are increasingly led and managed, not by lead practitioners who understand the day to day realities of teaching, but by those whose only regular contact with the classroom is to drop in on lessons to criticise the teacher and lay the blame for poor pupil behaviour on the teacher rather than the pupil."

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: " It has to be remembered that the majority of our schools have good levels of behaviour and many of the deterrents mentioned, such as litter detention, will already be used in many schools."

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