The government in England has started to consider which schools and multi-academy trusts it will work with as part of its “back heads and teachers on discipline.” An advisory panel has now been set up drawing on principals and directors of trusts and other organisations in the education sector.
The ultimate aim is to have around 300 schools in the programme which will start in September and is planned to last for three years. The programme aims to reduce disruption to education through ill-discipline and bad behaviour, which it is argued disrupts education and holds back pupils and students of all educational levels.
Among the early interventions that have been mentioned by The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, the Secretary of State for Education, are a ban on mobile phones, the escorting of pupils and students to and from their classes after breaks, and silent corridors.
“Head teachers will also continue to be backed to use exclusions where they are warranted, with a focus on raising the quality of alternative provision to improve outcomes for excluded children,” the Secretary of State has said.
Another suggestion is for behaviour hubs that will encourage schools that have established disciplinary systems of the type that the government supports to offer support to schools that the government feels should now “turn things around”.
While there is a general approval of the schemes to edit out certain types of behaviour from pupils and students, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary the National Education Union has noted the government’s “silence on the pressures faced by disadvantaged schools”.
Dr Bousted, added, “Too many children’s lives are getting much harder – many more are moving into care, are trapped in poverty, and have acute mental health conditions. This announcement ignores the practical barriers, for instance the unacceptable waiting lists for counselling for the under-18s.
“This announcement is silent about the pressures on disadvantaged schools, where more teachers are leaving. We have three decades of evidence showing that preventing and reducing pupil exclusions requires a multi-agency approach and collaboration across children’s services.
“Levelling-up must include restoring the funding that schools require for effective pastoral systems and time for teachers to share strategies and to work individually with children who are struggling.”
Dr Bousted is not alone in this concern, and the Centre for Mental Health has noted that school punishments, exclusions and the segregation of pupils and students who are defined as badly behaved often means segregating out children with mental health issues – children who (it can be argued) benefit by mixing not just with others with similar problems, but with pupils and students who do not have these problems.
Indeed figures from Ofsted confirm that pupils and students with special needs are much more likely to be excluded than those without special needs. In response to this schools in Scotland are considering taking a different route and banning the exclusion from schools of all children in care.
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