Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Learning the Lessons of School Discipline

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Learning the Lessons of School Discipline

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stephen Rouse

Who will benefit from new legislation on school discipline ( the pupils, the teachers, or the lawyers? Stephen Rouse reports.

Anyone ever kept in after school for detention might be annoyed to learn their teacher was acting outside statute law.

Teachers' powers to punish pupils have never been defined in parliamentary legislation.

This week, schools minister Jacqui Smith announced details of the first-ever code of teachers' rights.

Schools will have power to confiscate mobile phones and to discipline children for unruly behaviour on school transport.

Teachers will be able to restrain pupils with "reasonable force" and parents could be fined pounds 50 for not taking responsibility for their child's behaviour.

Ms Smith declared: "Our White Paper proposals will strengthen teachers' authority, and give them the confidence to take firm action on all forms of bad behaviour."

Some teaching unions ( not keen on other parts of the White Paper ( think the Government has got this aspect right.

Ian Grayson, Newcastle secretary of the NUT, said: "Virtually every child has a mobile phone now. They are not supposed to be switched on during lessons but they do get used for texts and communication, which is a distraction for children when they are there to learn.

"We are welcoming these additional powers because it will mean there's less disruptive behaviour, which can only have a positive effect."

He added: "If there is a fight or something like that, the teacher does have a common law right to split pupils up using what is, in their judgment, reasonable force. We welcome any official guidance or strengthening of that."

Mr Grayson also backed clarification that teachers' powers cover behaviour on school trains and buses.

He said: "It won't be a case of policing those journeys. However, if there is a report of children being disruptive or abusive, the school will be able to follow that up.

"It's all about encouraging responsible and respectful behaviour towards members of the community and their property."

Critics, however, feel that by creating a discipline code Government ministers are indulging their love for regulations, and a familiar if-it-moves-fine-it approach. Graham Robb, of North-East PR company Recognition Marketing and former media adviser to the Conservative Party, said: "It's more control, with more punishments.

"You should trust the professionalism of people in the front line. Nobody sets out with the objective of causing distress to children or ending up in court.

"The Government should be providing resources to ensure teachers can teach ( not just in regular schools but schools where children can go once they've been excluded rather than just thrown on the scrapheap.

"The programmes at the moment are sporadic and poorly funded. …

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