Press release

New powers for teachers to improve discipline in schools

Education Secretary Michael Gove launches streamlined guidance clarifying powers for teachers to search students and use force.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • New guidance clarifies powers of teachers to search students and use force

  • More than 600 pages of guidance cut down to 50

  • Top headteacher given new role in Department for Education to improve discipline

Today the Department for Education announces new and clearer guidance for teachers on how they should deal with bad behaviour.

The Department is also appointing a new Expert Adviser on Behaviour - headteacher Charles Taylor - who has a track record in radically improving behaviour in some of the most troubled schools.

Behaviour in good schools is not a serious problem but overall it remains a big concern for parents. Evidence shows there is much to do. For instance:

  • Nearly 1,000 children are suspended from school for abuse and assault every school day.
  • Persistent disruptive behaviour accounts for nearly a third of all cases of permanent exclusions in secondary schools.
  • Major assaults on staff have reached a five-year high with 44 having to be rushed to hospital with serious injuries last year.
  • False allegations have been made against one-in-four school staff by a pupil. One-in-six have had an allegation made by a member of a pupil’s family.
  • Two thirds of teachers say bad behaviour is driving professionals out of the classroom.

Previous behaviour and search guidance was more than 600 pages long. It left teachers confused about their powers under the law. It also made it much harder for schools to have clear and effective discipline policies.

The Government’s new guidance is 50 pages long. It clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities for governing bodies, headteachers and teachers regarding behaviour and discipline. It unequivocally restores adult authority to the classroom.

The new guidance clarifies teachers’ powers. It makes clear the following:

  • Schools should not have a ‘no touch’ policy. It is often necessary or desirable for a teacher to touch a child (e.g. dealing with accidents or teaching musical instruments).
  • Teachers have a legal power to use reasonable force. They can use force to remove a pupil who is disrupting a lesson or to prevent a child leaving a classroom.
  • Heads can search for an extended list of items including alcohol, illegal drugs and stolen property.
  • Heads have the power to discipline pupils who misbehave outside the schools premises and outside schools hours.

The guidance also protects teachers from malicious allegations and strengthens their authority in the classroom. It makes clear:

  • Heads can temporarily or permanently exclude pupils who make false allegations. In extreme circumstances they may even press criminal charges against the pupil.
  • The default position should be to assume the teacher has behaved reasonably unless a complainant can show that a teacher has behaved unreasonably.
  • Schools should not automatically suspend teachers accused of using force unreasonably.
  • All but the tiny number of the most complex cases should be resolved within three months and the vast majority should be resolved in four weeks.
  • Malicious allegations should not be included in employment records.

The new Education Bill going through the Commons now will also:

  • Extend powers to search pupils for any items that are banned by school rules such as mobile phones.
  • 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.

Charles Taylor, the Department’s new Expert Adviser on Behaviour, is currently headteacher at the Willows School, a special school for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in Hillingdon, West London. As a behavioural specialist for over ten years, he has taught every age group, from nursery to 16-year-olds, working in tough inner city primary and comprehensive schools.

His job is to make sure schools put Government reforms into practice and includes:

  • Working with Teaching Schools to help ensure best practice is shared both through initial teacher training and school-to-school support.
  • Working with existing initial teacher training providers to ensure best practice.
  • Working with the police and schools to see how investigations can be speeded up when allegations are made against teachers.
  • Working with Ofsted on its new inspection framework.

There are other aspects of Government policy concerning behaviour:

  • The Academies programme replaces the management of schools that have serious problems with behaviour and poor results.
  • The new Ofsted framework will focus inspections on the things that matter most in schools: behaviour and safety; teaching and learning; and leadership.
  • Government policies to reform Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision will also raise standards of behaviour.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Improving discipline is a big priority. Teachers can’t teach effectively and pupils can’t learn if schools can’t keep order. These changes will give teachers confidence that they can remove disruptive pupils and search children where necessary.

The appointment of a head of Charlie Taylor’s calibre shows how serious we are about dealing with this issue. He has an excellent track record in improving discipline in some of the most challenging schools in the country.

Charles Taylor, the new Expert Adviser on Behaviour, said:

I am passionate about improving behaviour in our schools and looking forward to my role in putting behaviour at the heart of all the work of the Department.

For far too long, teachers have been buried under guidance and reports on how to tackle bad behaviour. I am determined to make sure I help schools put policy into practice. I want teachers to be able to do their job without lessons being disrupted and schools to feel confident when they address behaviour issues.

Jerry Collins, Principal at Pimlico Academy in London, said:

Excellent behaviour must be the norm in every school if children are to learn in stimulating and challenging environments.

At Pimlico Academy every child is expected to behave in a manner that enables them to engage in an academically rigorous curriculum. All barriers to excellent behaviour are addressed through a no excuses culture and high level therapeutic support.

Other headteachers welcomed the new guidance and powers.

Peter Barnes, headteacher at Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes, said:

The proposals outlined by this Government to improve behaviour in schools show a determination to support teachers and education professionals in maintaining good discipline and order.

Reducing the bureaucracy surrounding school behaviour policies allows schools to control their own agendas and apply what works for them in their individual contexts. It is about placing decision making in the hands of those people best placed to make those decisions.

Dame Yasmin Bevan, headteacher at Denbigh High School in Luton, said:

Uncertainty and confusion create bureaucracy. We need to clear the decks because we’re currently drowning under the weight of all the guidance and regulations. If heads were able to have a clear list of what they have to do and read it would make the job much more attractive. Just hearing about the raft of things you think you need to do can be very off-putting for an inexperienced head.

Andrew Fielder, Principal at Sandy Hill Academy in St Austell, said:

I am delighted to see that the Government has responded so well to our concerns in dealing every day with complex disciplinary and behavioural issues in schools. These areas are getting harder to manage all the time.

The clarity that this document brings will help to reduce uncertainty in schools. It more clearly highlights rights and responsibilities. What we needed was concise, easily accessible support and guidance, not huge policy documents filled with copious amounts of prescriptive and largely irrelevant text. Whilst that may have ticked boxes at the centre, it provided absolutely no help to the schools grappling with some of the most extreme behaviour problems imaginable.

Notes for Editors

  1. Charles Taylor has been a behavioural specialist for over 10 years. He has taught every age group, from nursery to 16-year-olds, working in tough inner city primary and comprehensive schools. He is currently the headteacher of The Willow, a special school for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in West London. Within a year of joining, the school received an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report. He also works as a freelance behaviour consultant, coaching teachers in behaviour management techniques, and holds regular workshops for parents. He lives in London and is married with three children.

  2. The new guidance published today is subject to an eight week consultation and can be found on the Department for Education’s consultation website. The consultation will close on 30 May 2011. The guidance will be revised again if the Education Bill is passed.

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Published 4 April 2011