Press release

Gibb: ‘It’s time to free up teachers so they can maintain good behaviour’

Information on plans to remove ban on same-day detentions and to give heads and teachers greater search powers.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ministers today put headteachers and teachers back in control of the classroom by stripping away bureaucracy that far too often prevents them from maintaining good behaviour.

The government will cut red tape and simplify guidance and legislation so that teachers can ensure better behaviour.

Nick Gibb MP, Minister for Schools, announced today that the government would:

  • end the rule requiring schools to give 24 hours written notice for detentions
  • allow heads and school staff to search pupils for mobile phones, pornography and cigarettes
  • strengthen guidance and legislation if necessary surrounding use of force in the classroom
  • give anonymity to teachers accused by pupils and take other measures to protect against false accusations

Nick Gibb said today:

All pupils should show respect and courtesy towards teachers, towards other staff and towards each other. Headteachers help to create that culture of respect by supporting their staff’s authority to discipline pupils. The role of the government is to give schools the freedom and support they need to provide a safe and structured environment in which teachers can teach and children can learn.

We know that the majority of pupils are well behaved and want others to behave well too. Heads and teachers know best how to improve behaviour but are too often constrained by regulations which inhibit them from maintaining control of the classroom. Today we are removing red tape so that teachers can ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour.

Teachers should feel confident in exercising their authority, and pupils should not have to suffer disruption to their learning caused by the poor behaviour of others.

The government is removing the ban on same-day detentions, giving heads and teachers a stronger deterrent against poor behaviour. Currently, the law gives teachers the power to put pupils in detention, but only if the school gives their parents 24 hours’ notice in writing. In future each school will be able to decide what notice to give and how to inform parents.

Currently headteachers and authorised school staff only have the statutory power to search without consent anyone who is suspected of carrying a knife or other weapon. Alcohol, controlled drugs, and stolen property will be added from 1 September 2010. Under the changes announced today we plan to extend the list this autumn to include:

  • personal electronic devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players and cameras
  • legal highs
  • pornography
  • cigarettes
  • fireworks

We will introduce further legislation to allow teachers to search for any item which could cause disorder or pose a threat to safety.

The government will also issue simplified guidance about the use of force for safety or restraint. Schools should not have ‘no touch’ policies and teachers should feel able to use force when they need to.

Reporting restrictions will be placed on allegations made about teachers. Ministers wish to put an end to rumours and malicious gossip about innocent teachers which can ruin careers.

Improving behaviour in schools is a major priority for the government. Further measures, including on tackling bullying, exclusions, and reforming alternative provision will be announced soon. The government will consult teachers and schools representatives on the best way to implement these changes, to ensure that legislation gives teachers the powers they need.

Nick Gibb added:

Same-day detentions will give immediacy to pupil discipline and will strengthen the impact detention can have. It is also profoundly wrong that teachers feel they cannot search pupils for items that put pupils and their peers at risk such as drugs, alcohol or fireworks - so we will expand search powers for teachers to put an end to this nonsense.

It cannot be right that teachers are afraid to use force to constrain out-of-control and disruptive pupils for fear of retribution and malicious allegations. We will strengthen the guidance and legislate if necessary to make it plain when and how teachers might need to use force to control pupils. We want to put an end to rumours and malicious gossip about innocent teachers which can ruin careers and even lives.

Notes for editors

  1. The written ministerial statement announcing today’s changes to parliament is available here.

  2. The previous government made provisions in the ASCL Act 2009 so that the list of items that can be searched for without the pupil’s consent will be extended to include alcohol, controlled drugs and stolen items (‘prohibited items’) from 1 September 2010. The ASCL provisions also include a power to make regulations to add to the list of prohibited items - these powers also come into force on 1 September 2010. Regulations made under this power are subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses i.e. they will need to be debated before coming into force.

  3. Disabled pupils will retain their existing rights to reasonable adjustments to policies, where a policy would place the child at a substantial disadvantage for a reason related to their disability.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300

General enquiries - for members of the public 0370 000 2288

Published 7 July 2010