05 March 2007

Restore Order In Schools

"Behind all school rules is the ultimate sanction: the power to expel. We need to restore this power to head teachers, and cut the number of expulsions which are overturned on appeal."

David Cameron is right that Labour guidelines requiring headteachers to cut the number of children expelled have failed the people that matter most: pupils and their parents. However, it is not enough to restore this power without making adequate alternative provision for those who are expelled.

My wife is a teaching assistant. A couple of weeks ago, the problem "ODD" (opposition defiance disorder) child in her class forced the whole of the rest of the class to move out into the hallway for the rest of their lesson while he continued to throw furniture around the classroom. Such behaviour is unacceptable, yet is what the class has repeatedly endured for the last four years. If I was the parent of one of the other children in the class, I would have demanded action long ago. One reason the head resists calls for the boy to be expelled is there is nowhere better for him to go.

As the Commons education select committee reported last summer, the system of education for pupils with special needs is "not fit for purpose" and more support needs to be provided for special schools to deal with pupils with autism or behavioural and learning difficulties.