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TEACHING UNIONS REACT TO GOVERNMENT'S TRUANCY AND BEHAVIOUR PLANS

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Commenting on the education secretary's plans for dealing with truancy and pupil behaviour*, John Bangs, head of th...
Commenting on the education secretary's plans for dealing with truancy and pupil behaviour*, John Bangs, head of the NUT's education department, said:

'The government's plans for pupil behaviour are a step in the right direction but leave fundamental questions unanswered. A range of provision must be available, including special schools and pupil referral units, to help children with extreme behavioural needs.

'Decisions by headteachers on the permanent exclusion of a pupil should not be capable of being overturned. If the government is to maintain the ability of appeals panels to re-instate excluded pupils and the courts rule that teachers cannot refuse to teach a re-instated pupil, then industrial action to secure the required support for the school is inevitable.

'Overcoming truancy can only be achieved by schools working with parents in a co-operative atmosphere. To put headteachers in the position of fining parents would create animosity and conflict undermining the partnership between school and home which is essential.

'Legal powers to fine ought to remain with the courts and not with headteachers. Turning headteachers in to tax collectors would put them right in the frame and an enormous amount of time could be wasted trying to recover those fines.'

NAHT WELCOMES A GOVERNMENT PACKAGE THAT CLEARLY SIGNALS ZERO TOLERANCE OF VIOLENCE, DISRUPTION AND ANTI-SOCIAL CONDUCT

David Hart, general secretary NAHT comments on today's announcement of a series of measures to deal with bad behaviour and ill-discipline as follows:

'We strongly support a package that clearly signals zero tolerance of violence, disruption and anti-social conduct. The rights of the law-abiding majority of pupils are being given the priority they deserve. Strong support for teachers should staunch the loss of too many who leave the profession because of violence and disruption. The need for heads to lead schools that are free from bad behaviour and ill-discipline is being heavily reinforced by appropriate measures.

Our only reservation is over the power for heads to dish out on the spot fixed fines to parents who persistently permit truancy and non-attendance. We are not persuaded that heads should enforce the criminal law. Many heads will feel that such a role could undermine the need to establish a constructive relationship with parents, however feckless and irresponsible they may be. If such fines are to be 'part of the armoury of the future' then that is a job for the usual law enforcement agencies.'

CAUSES OF BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS ARE VARIED AND COMPLEX, SAYS ATL

Responding to the announcement made today by the education secretary, Charles Clarke on proposals to improve behaviour in schools, Gerald Imison, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said:

'We welcome the partnership approach that the government is taking to improve school behaviour and attendance as the causes of behavioural problems are varied and complex and the solutions equally so.

'We also welcome the attention given to ensuring that children are in school when they ought to be but we do have concerns for head teachers being invited to issue fixed penalty tickets. Putting the head in this role might undermine the delicate relationship between the school and the parent at precisely the time when it is of crucial importance.

'ATL does have reservations about parents being threatened with fines and imprisonment if they fail to ensure their child's school attendance. The problem with fines is that those most likely to be subjected to them may be least able to pay. In terms of imprisonment it would be of more benefit not to separate a parent from their child so that they can both build on their relationship.

'We are pleased to see the revisions to the independent appeals process. ATL has never called for their abolition and Charles Clarke's proposals are in line with our own recommendations. What is of particular significance is the recognition of the importance of relationships in the education environment so that a wrongly excluded child is not automatically returned to the same school.

This flexibility must be in the best interests of the excluded pupil and the wider school.'

* See DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS: SECRETARY OF STATE'S SPEECHon LGCnet.

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