Classroom discipline report
15 Apr 2009
A lot of news coverage today for Sir Alan Steer's report on behaviour in schools. That is good. This is an important subject and Sir Alan is, as ever, very sensible as you'd expect from a recentoly-retired, and succesful, head teacher.
But there is always a danger that people get carried away on the matter of school discipline. As Sir Alan says 'overall standards are good and have improved in recent years'. But you would not think that if you believed all the doom-mongers who suggest every state school classroom is out of control.
That is not to say that teachers have an easy job. They do not. Parents are not always supportive. And politicians have a tendency to intervene.
So two important messages from the Steer report. First, there should be no targets on the number of pupils excluded. If you remember, the Labour government set targets to reduce expulsions by one-third soon after they came to power in 1997. It was a bad mistake. Head teachers felt it limited their powers to discipline.
The second message is for the Conservatives who would like to get rid of the appeals panels which can overturn expulsions (although in fact reinstatements as a result of appeals happen in only 1% of cases). Sir Alan says the independent panels should not be abolished. He is right. Natural justice alone requires some right of appeal. Moreover, without it, cases might only end up in the law courts instead.