New disciplinary measures to control unruly pupils

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New powers to be given to head teachers will help improve the reputation of local schools, and give head teachers the authority to discipline pupils outside of schools. In addition, the so-called "no touch" rules that currently discourage teachers from restraining or comforting schoolchildren are to be abolished.

The new measures, announced by education secretary Michael Gove, will give head teachers the authority to discipline pupils "any time, any place, anywhere".

In an interview with the Guardian before the Conservative conference in Birmingham, he said: "Teachers worry that if they assert a degree of discipline, one determined maverick pupil will say 'I know my rights' and so teachers become reticent about asserting themselves. There are a number of schools that have 'no touch' policies and we are going to make clear this rule does not apply."

The National Union of Teachers welcomed Mr Gove's comments, saying teachers needed clear rules on how to handle classroom indiscipline.

NUT general secretary Christine Blowers said: "Clearing up any grey areas regarding physical intervention would be welcome as clearly there are times when teachers need to intervene between pupils to prevent harm to themselves or others."

There are no nationally imposed rules preventing teachers from touching pupils but some schools adopt a 'no touch' policy because they fear complaints from pupils who are restrained or comforted by teachers.

Mr Gove said the myth that England's teachers are not allowed to touch pupils when they need to restrain or comfort them is to be clarified.

He said: "I don't believe you should be able to hit children, but I do believe that teachers need to know they can physically restrain children, they can interpose themselves between two children that may be causing trouble, and they can remove them from the classroom. The important thing is that teachers know they are in control, and this department and the justice system will back them."

Sue Fieldman,regional editor of the Good Schools Guide, described the new measures as an "excellent idea".

"I don't know whether head teachers will agree because they probably think they have got enough to do already," she said, "but from the pupils and parents point of view, it is a very forward looking measure."

Ms Fieldman added: "It certainly will come down hard on the unruly pupils and also help the schools by improving their local reputation with the community and also by improving the reputation of teenagers generally."

But Children's Rights Alliance spokeswoman, Carolyne Willow warned: "Giving even more powers to school staff to restrain children is a dangerous move that could contaminate schools and risks breaching human rights and child protection laws."

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