New consultation guidelines on standards issued

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The government has issued new consultation guidelines on raising standards of behaviour in schools, replacing the old document which left teachers confused about their powers.

The new guidlines have been streamlined from 600 pages to just 50 and clarify teachers' powers to restrain unruly pupils and search them for banned items. The new guidance unequivocally restores adult authority to the classroom and strengthens advice on when head teachers' should consider pressing charges if pupils or others make false allegations against teachers.

In cases of alleged misconduct, the new guidelines assume the teacher has behaved reasonably as its default, and it is up to the complaintant to prove otherwise. In addition, schools should no longer automatically suspend teachers accused of using force unreasonably and malicious allegations should not be included in employment records.

According to Mr Gove, schools faced a real serious problem with abuse and assault from pupils, with almost 1,000 children in England suspended every school day.

Commenting on bad behaviour problems a Department for Education spokesman said: "If we don't tackle this, we won't tackle the very wide and damaging gap in performance between the best and worst schools - a gap that is creating an unemployment crisis for the future."

The guidance also outlines teachers' powers included in the Education Bill:

  • Extend powers to search pupils for any items that are banned by school rules such as mobile phones, alcohol, illegal drugs and stolen property
  • Stop appeals panels sending excluded children back to the school from which they were excluded
  • Give teachers anonymity when facing allegations
  • Remove the requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours' notice of detention

General secretary, Chris Keates, of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "All of these provision continue to miss the point of what teachers need to maintain high standards of pupil behaviour. The feedback the NASUWT has received from thousands of teachers is that it is not more sanctions they want but backing by school leaders to enable them to feel confident to use the sanctions available.

"Too many teachers report that the school's first response to poor behaviour by pupils is to blame the teacher."

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “False allegations have blighted many teachers’ careers and lives. The cost to teachers who have been wrongly accused cannot be underestimated.  There is much to welcome in the new guidance, including the focus on speedy resolution and a common sense approach.  However, criminalising children and young people who have wrongly accused a teacher is a power that is unlikely to be used by head teachers.

“We welcome in particular the advice that suspension should only be used as a last resort and that records of malicious allegations should be removed from teachers’ personnel files.  Also, it is right that staff who are suspended should be kept in touch with the progress of the investigation and supported on their return to work.  

“Most allegations made against teachers relate to their dealing with incidents of disruptive behaviour, so we welcome the recognition that school staff are entitled to control or restrain pupils where necessary.

“Whilst recognising the Government’s good intentions to increase the powers to search, the NUT does have concerns about the potential pressure on schools and individual teachers that these extended powers may have."

Key changes in the new documents include:

  1. Ensuring Good Behaviour in Schools is a new document which summarises the powers and duties that apply to behaviour and attendance, and sets out the Government’s expectation of pupils, parents, teachers and headteachers.
  2. Behaviour and Discipline in Schools: Guidance for Governors provides statutory guidance to governing bodies on their role in shaping their school’s behaviour policy. The guidance explains the matters governors should include in their guidance to headteachers on the content of the school’s behaviour policy.
  3. Behaviour and Discipline In Schools: Guidance for Headteachers and School Staff provides advice to headteachers and school staff on developing the school behaviour policy and explains the powers members of staff have to discipline pupils. It also provides greater clarity on the scope of the power to discipline pupils who misbehave outside school.
  4. Use of Reasonable Force provides clarification to help school staff feel more confident about using force. It sets out the responsibilities of school leaders and governing bodies in respect of this power and makes clear that, where staff are accused of using excessive force, employers should not automatically suspend the staff member. The guidance includes a reminder that the onus is on the person making the complaint to prove his/her allegations are true, rather than on the teacher to prove they have acted reasonably.
  5. Screening, Searching and Confiscation explains schools’ powers to screen and search pupils. It includes new information about the legislation which came into force in September 2010, new statutory guidance on how to decide whether or not to hand over stolen items and illegal drugs to the police, and new advice.
School Leadership Today
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