Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents


Good order is essential in a school if children are to be able to fulfil their learning potential. Poor and disruptive behaviour in the classroom reduces children's ability to concentrate and absorb information; and it unsettles children and causes immense stress for teachers. Children who are excluded from school because of their behaviour underachieve academically and are at a high risk of disengagement from education and from making a positive contribution to society. Persistent poor behaviour in schools can have far-reaching and damaging consequences for children and can limit their horizons: this is not a problem to be ignored.

Data on behaviour currently collected by the Department does not fully represent the nature of behaviour in schools—good or bad—and the impact of that behaviour upon staff, pupils, parents and carers. We have been unable, therefore, to come to any evidence-based or objective judgment on either the state of behaviour in schools today or whether there has been an improvement over time, as some people believe. The Department should collect sample data on all serious incidents in schools—not just those which lead to a fixed-term or permanent exclusion—and should complement that with survey data from teachers, pupils, parents and carers. The data and questions should remain consistent over time.

A good school behaviour policy, agreed and communicated to all staff, governors, pupils, parents and carers, consistently applied, is the basis of an effective approach to managing behaviour. Teachers need to feel that they have the support of the school leadership in applying the behaviour policy, and we therefore support proposals in the White Paper The Importance of Teaching to reform the National Professional Qualification for Headship, to give clearer emphasis on leading and supporting staff in maintaining and improving standards of behaviour in schools. Governors have an important role in challenging and supporting headteachers to ensure that behaviour policies are applied consistently, and we hope that take-up of training for chairs of governors, to be provided by the National College, will be high.

The recent White Paper made no mention of the work which schools can and should undertake with parents and carers to reinforce and promote good behaviour and to address poor behaviour by children. Schools should see it as part of their core work to be proactive in establishing relationships with parents and carers, particularly those who are hard to reach, rather than waiting for problems to occur.

We heard that pupils who are positively engaged in learning are less likely to have behaviour problems. If the future curriculum is to have a beneficial effect on standards of behaviour in the classroom, it will need to meet the needs of all pupils and contain a mix of academic and vocational subjects, while being differentiated and enjoyable. Basic skills in literacy and comprehension are crucial: schools need to be obsessed with ensuring that children have the reading, communication and comprehension skills they need to get the most out of their education, and they must be ready to provide any additional support needed. The Government should broaden the assessment of six-year-olds to include an assessment of speaking and listening ability.

We acknowledge proposals in the Schools White Paper to legislate to abolish the requirement for schools to give parents 24 hours' notice of detentions outside school hours, and we trust that schools will make sensible and appropriate use of these powers. Schools must be particularly sensitive to the needs of young carers and those with transport difficulties.

Repeatedly we heard from teachers that there are various practical techniques for managing behaviour effectively, but these are poorly disseminated.

We welcome the increased focus on the importance of initial teacher training and continuing professional development on behaviour contained in the Schools White Paper, and we support the shift towards more school-centred and employment-based training and development—including the introduction of 'Teaching Schools' and University Training Schools. The forthcoming Green Paper on special educational needs and disability should include a clear expectation that schools should invest in training their staff on identification of special educational needs and on links between special educational needs and behaviour.

We support greater freedoms for schools to commission their own alternative provision and to decide how best to spend money to support good behaviour, as long as they are accompanied by robust quality assurance. However, the Government should clarify how schools will be funded to meet the total costs of providing full-time provision for permanently excluded pupils, whether through the Pupil Premium or other funding streams.

We recommend that there should be a 'trigger' for an assessment of need, which may include special educational need, based on exclusion, for example a number of fixed period exclusions or a permanent exclusion. Not only would this ensure that children with undiagnosed special educational needs do not 'fall through the net': it would provide information of use to a future provider in meeting the needs of the excluded child.

We support the retention of independent appeals panels for exclusions. The new proposals for their functioning, as outlined in the White Paper, will need to be monitored and evaluated to assess whether they strike the right balance in the interests of schools, pupils and their parents and carers when exclusion occurs.

There is a risk that, as schools go through the transition from being dependent on local authority-provided services to having greater autonomy in purchasing their own support and services, some local authority services may be decommissioned, leaving schools, and more importantly pupils, without access to critical support. Local authorities should be required to maintain and resource a basic core of provision—particularly that which is targeted at responding to urgent or critical need—until schools' practice in commissioning and procuring their own support is well established.

The voluntary funding mechanism for educational psychology services has proved to be unsustainable. The Government must find a way forward, and one option might be for local authorities to continue to be responsible for educational psychology services, funded through a compulsory levy on schools.

Many young people with behavioural issues or special educational needs also have mental health problems; but several witnesses told us of difficulties faced by schools in accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Sir Alan Steer told us that a national scandal 'hovers around' children's mental health; but we are in no doubt that the CAMHS situation is scandalous and that there are very serious shortcomings in access. The Department for Education and the Department of Health must co-operate in order to find a way of allowing schools to have easier and speedier access. Schools, local authorities and health services should agree how referrals to CAMHS should work and who should be referred.

The Government should consider passing the responsibility for budgets and commissioning of all children's community health services (including mental health services and speech, language and communications needs specialist services) to local authorities, in order to provide a more streamlined service to young people and their families, bridging the gap between 'specialist' and 'non-specialist' interventions.

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