Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The nature, level and impact of challenging behaviour in schools: perception or reality?

1.  Current data does not fully represent the nature of behaviour in schools and the impact this has on staff, pupils, parents and carers. It is very difficult therefore to form an accurate judgment either of the reality of the situation in schools or whether there has been an improvement over time. Data should be collected and published annually by the Department from a representative sample of schools, on the number of serious incidents in schools, including those which do not result in a fixed-term or permanent exclusion. In order that a school's individual interpretation of 'challenging behaviour' is not taken as the only measure in establishing a picture of behaviour, this data should be complemented by survey data from teachers, pupils, parents and carers, on their own experience of bad and disruptive behaviour and its effect on pupils and teachers. The data and questions should remain consistent over time. (Paragraph 28)

2.  The proposal in the Schools White Paper for Ofsted inspections to focus more on behaviour is welcome. There are risks in reducing the frequency of inspections for good and outstanding schools, but we support moves to release schools from unnecessary central inspection. The new regime will place increased responsibility on school leaders, teachers and governors to ensure that a culture of self-evaluation and self-improvement is put in place. We are particularly pleased that there will be opportunities for a wider range of views to be covered in inspections: from pupils and parents to classroom teachers. This will help to combat any perceptions that schools leaders might seek to misrepresent the true nature and level of challenging behaviour in their schools. We also welcome the powers being given to parents to call the school to account and the requirement for schools to show that standards of behaviour are maintained at all times. These measures will help to provide a consistent level of challenge to schools in pursuit of constantly high standards. (Paragraph 31)

Enabling and cultivating good behaviour

3.  The National Strategies have had beneficial effects; but a new, less prescriptive approach may succeed in giving a new stimulus to teachers in preparing and applying the curriculum in ways which engage children more and which reduce the risk of poor behaviour. Ministers should bear in mind, when developing proposals for the new National Curriculum, that 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. We heard in evidence that pupils who are positively engaged in learning are less likely to have behaviour problems. Therefore we encourage the Government to revisit the issue of vocational and practical learning to ensure a balanced approach. We view this as a matter of considerable importance and plan to address it in future inquiries. (Paragraph 35)

4.  Where pupils moving on from primary or first school are still experiencing difficulty, adequate and appropriate support must be provided. Indeed, throughout the school years, 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 providing additional support as needed. (Paragraph 37)

5.  Therefore, we encourage the Government to promote language comprehension as well as word recognition and phonics skills throughout the infant curriculum. Appropriate support and interventions should be made available to pupils who do not do well in the six year old assessment. Clear accountability frameworks which require head teachers and senior school leaders to demonstrate how schools respond to any problems picked up in the six year old assessment should be put in place.  (Paragraph 39)

6.  We acknowledge the new reading assessment for 6 year olds, and we understand the concerns of witnesses representing children with speech, communication and language needs that these pupils' needs may not be identified by this assessment. We recommend therefore that the Government broadens the six year old assessment to include an assessment of speaking and listening ability. (Paragraph 41)

7.  Simple approaches to managing behaviour, such as those outlined in Sir Alan Steer's "What Works in Schools", should be incorporated in all initial teacher training and continuing professional development on behaviour, especially for secondary schools where basic issues of classroom management are sometimes overlooked. (Paragraph 45)

8.  We welcome the White Paper's proposals for schools to take on greater responsibility for organising training and sharing best practice on managing behaviour. However, in areas where the majority of schools are not performing well, it may be more difficult for best practice to be shared effectively. In these circumstances, it is critical that the local authority has the capacity to challenge and support those schools which are causing concern, looking outside the local authority for expert support where necessary. (Paragraph 48)

Leading and managing good behaviour; challenging poor practice

9.  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. (Paragraph 53)

10.  Schools should see it as part of their core work to engage with parents and carers, particularly those who are hard to reach. Schools must be proactive in establishing these relationships upfront with all parents and carers, rather than waiting for problems to occur. (Paragraph 53)

11.  The inquiry notes written evidence from Ofsted and the Children's Rights Alliance for England on the importance of pupil involvement in creating and maintaining order in schools and recommends that the Government encourages such involvement through its policies and guidance. (Paragraph 54)

12.  We support proposals in the White Paper for reforms to the National Professional Qualification for Headship, which should have a clearer emphasis on leading and supporting staff in maintaining and improving standards of behaviour in schools. (Paragraph 57)

13.  We welcome training for chairs of governors, which is to be provided by the National College, and hope to see the highest possible take-up. It is vital that governors are able to challenge and support head teachers effectively to ensure that behaviour policies are applied consistently. (Paragraph 62)

Equipping teachers with the skills and tools to manage behaviour: new powers

14.  We support proposals in the Schools White Paper to extend powers relating to search and to clarify powers of restraint, in the interests of supporting teachers' authority in managing behaviour. Guidance on use of powers to restrain should include specific advice on restraining pupils with Special Educational Needs or disabilities in the interests of protecting both pupils' and teachers' safety. School staff will only feel confident in using their powers if they are regularly trained and if they sense that they have the full support of school leaders in their use. (Paragraph 68)

15.  We believe that the requirement to inform parents of incidents when powers of restraint have been used on their children is in the interests of building trusting relationships between schools and parents. (Paragraph 69)

16.  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 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. (Paragraph 72)

17.  We support the retention of Independent Appeal Panels for exclusions. The new proposals for their functioning as outlined in the Schools 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. We do not believe that schools should be able to abdicate all responsibility for disruptive children. However, it is important that school governing bodies are equipped with the right knowledge and expertise in order to arrive at fair judgments. While the focus should be on justice and reasonableness, governing bodies do also need to be familiar with training on exclusions protocols, which should form part of the training for governors that we endorse in paragraph 62 of our Report. (Paragraph 76)

Equipping teachers with the skills and tools to manage behaviour: teacher training and continuing professional development

18.  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. We have noted Jacquie Nunn's comment that all ITT courses are now very much school-based, whether school or university led, and we have seen that Ofsted has recognised outstanding teacher training in both types of course. However, as trainees on school-led courses are more satisfied with their training in relation to behaviour, there are good grounds for optimism about the impact on behaviour of the proposals in the Schools White Paper. It is also essential that all routes develop strong links with higher education to ensure that teachers maintain up-to-date subject knowledge, access to—and understand of—research, and a solid grounding in theories of child development, particularly for children with special educational needs. (Paragraph 84)

19.  The 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. The Department should be able to demonstrate that high quality initial teacher training and continuing professional development is available to equip all teachers with the skills to identify special educational needs, particularly speech, language and communication needs; and it should refresh and disseminate further the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP). (Paragraph 88)

Managing exclusions

20.  The Government should actively pick up the work begun by National Strategies in encouraging schools to track the effectiveness of interventions to manage behaviour. (Paragraph 98)

21.  We welcome Government plans to extend free nursery care to disadvantaged 2-year-olds, and we urge the Government to improve its efforts to look for the most effective, evidence-based forms of early intervention, taking into account the work of the Rt Hon Frank Field MP and Graham Allen MP in their reports. (Paragraph 100)

22.  The Government should clarify how the proposed 4,200 new health visitors will be funded and whether this initiative is also expected to be funded from the Early Intervention Grant. (Paragraph 101)

23.  We believe that the value of education welfare services—which prevent the need for later, more expensive interventions—may be under-estimated. The Government should bear in mind, in a climate of increased devolution of responsibility to schools for managing behaviour, evidence which suggests that responsibility for the central co-ordination of education welfare services should rest with local authorities rather than with schools, if the services are to function well. (Paragraph 106)

24.  The measures outlined in the Schools White Paper to allow greater freedom for pupil referral units to innovate, and proposals to facilitate access to the alternative provision market to a more diverse range of providers, are welcome in principle. However, in the current economic climate, the alternative provider market may come under pressure from cuts in local authority budgets—particularly in Youth Services. The Government may be being optimistic in expecting that significant numbers of new providers will enter the market for alternative provision. A situation cannot be allowed to arise where any pupil is left without good quality provision. (Paragraph 114)

25.  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. (Paragraph 119)

26.  The proposed pilot to pass responsibility to schools for securing alternative education for permanently excluded pupils may act as a disincentive to exclude; and it may also provide an incentive for schools to work in partnerships to address the behaviour which leads to exclusion and provide alternative education for excluded pupils. We support greater freedoms for schools to commission their own alternative provision and 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. (Paragraph 120)

27.  The Government has decided to remove the requirement for schools to be part of a Behaviour and Attendance Partnership (BAP). However, the Government should monitor areas where voluntary partnerships do not exist or are not operating effectively. The Government should be prepared to reverse its decision on BAPs if voluntary partnership working fails to deliver behavioural improvements. (Paragraph 121)

Specialist services

28.  We await with interest the outcome of the ministerial advisory group's study of the future role of local authorities, in particular their role in co-ordinating support to schools for managing behaviour. 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. We therefore recommend that 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. (Paragraph 125)

29.  Educational psychologists provide critical support and training to school staff on a wide range of educational issues including child development, curriculum development and special educational needs. Any diminution of their ability to help schools to maintain and improve standards of behaviour could have far-reaching consequences. The voluntary funding mechanism 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. (Paragraph 130)

30.  Many young people with behavioural issues or SEN also have mental health problems. Schools face major challenges in securing specialist and therapeutic services in order to make accurate assessments of need and to implement appropriate interventions. Particular difficulties in accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services were raised by a large number of our witnesses. Sir Alan Steer suggested that a national scandal "hovers around" children's mental health: 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 to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The Department of Health and the Department for Education should pilot with a number of Behaviour and Attendance Partnerships a mechanism by which they can commission CAMHS services accountable to them locally. (Paragraph 133)

31.  There is a lack of agreement and understanding between schools, local authorities and health services as to how referrals to CAMHS should work and who should be referred. Having commonly agreed referral mechanisms would go some way to addressing this. Where Behaviour and Attendance Partnerships are in place, they should be directly involved in developing and agreeing these mechanisms. (Paragraph 136)

32.  The Government should review the Targeted Mental Health in Schools programme and the SEN Green Paper should set out how it should be taken forward in future. (Paragraph 138)

33.  We support the suggestion by I CAN and other children's representative bodies that the Government consider passing the responsibility for budgets and commissioning of all children's community health services (including CAMHS and Speech Language and Communication 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. (Paragraph 141)

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