Press release

School discipline: new guidance for teachers

The Department for Education publishes the final, clearer guidance for teachers on how they should deal with bad behaviour in schools.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • More than 600 pages of guidance slashed to just 52 pages

Today the Department for Education has published the final, clearer guidance for teachers on how they should deal with bad behaviour. This guidance will be used by schools from the start of the new academic year this coming September.

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.[1]
  • Persistent disruptive behaviour accounts for nearly a third of all cases of permanent exclusions in secondary schools.[2]
  • Major assaults on staff have reached a five-year high with 44 having to be rushed to hospital with serious injuries last year.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • Two thirds of teachers say bad behaviour is driving professionals out of the classroom.[5]
  • One in four children have been bullied at school and one in five have been victims of bullying outside of school.[6]

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 52 pages long and now reflects feedback from teachers, teacher unions and local authorities. 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. It makes clear:

  • 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 without consent 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.
  • Schools must have measures in place to deal with bullying both in and outside of school.

The guidance also protects teachers from malicious allegations:

  • Heads can temporarily or permanently exclude pupils who make false allegations. In extreme circumstances, they can involve the police if there are grounds for believing a criminal offence has been committed.
  • Schools should not automatically suspend teachers accused of using force unreasonably where other alternatives exist.
  • 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, unsubstantiated or unfounded allegations should not be included in employment references.

The new Education Bill currently going through the House of Lords will also:

  • Extend teachers’ powers to search pupils for any items that have, or could be, used to cause harm or break the law, and for items banned by school rules.
  • 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.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

This new, clear and concise guidance removes the red tape that has stopped teachers from being confident in maintaining discipline in the classroom. It will also help schools promote good behaviour.

We know that the majority of pupils are well-behaved and want others to behave well too. 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.

Charlie Taylor, the Government’s Expert Adviser on Behaviour, said:

For far too long, teachers have been buried under guidance and reports on how to tackle bad behaviour. The new guidance will help teachers to be able to do their job without lessons being disrupted and schools to feel confident when they address behaviour issues.

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

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.

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

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 an d 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.

[1,2] Department for Education, Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions from Schools in England 2008/09, 29 July 2010.

[3] Times Educational Supplement, 19 November 2010.

[4] 2009 ATL survey

[5] NFER, Teacher Voice Omnibus June 2008 Survey: Pupil Behaviour, June 2008.

[6] Tellus 4 survey, February 2010.

Notes for editors

  1. The new guidance published today is available from the publications section of this website.

The guidance will be revised again if the Education Bill is passed.

Contact details

Media enquiries: Central newsdesk
Telephone: 020 7783 8300

General enquiries: Public Communications Unit
Department for Education
Castle View House, East Lane

Telephone: 0870 000 2288


Updates to this page

Published 11 July 2011