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News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Pupil Behaviour

The behaviour of young people in school has a high profile following the NASUWT conference and Sir Alan Steer’s latest report.

Writing in The Telegraph Francis Gilbert argues:

Behind the unpleasant headlines, most experienced teachers know that social deprivation plays a massive role in misbehaviour. Poor children are three times more likely to be excluded from school, while only a tiny fraction of children in care leave with any qualifications.

Take Leon, a boy whom I taught for several years. His mother was a crack addict, who severely neglected him. Permanently angry, he hated lessons and did nothing but get into fights, swearing regularly at staff and dealing drugs in and out of school… He was fined for truancy, but his zonked-out mother ignored the invoices.

He goes on to say that personalised early intervention is most likely to be effective in nipping poor behaviour in the bud.

Sir Alan Steer is quoted on the BBC where he argues that a focus on bad behaviour isn’t an entirely accurate portrayal of what is going on in school, and the language isn’t helpful:

“The word ‘feral’ is a disgusting word to use about children. Let’s be accurate, a large majority are well behaved.”

His report makes the following points that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

Schools have a broader range of powers than ever before to prevent and tackle poor behaviour. Government and the professional associations should work together to devise a dissemination plan to raise awareness and understanding of this range of powers among schools, parents, pupils and teachers, including in particular the statutory power to discipline.

Operation of the new legal power to search pupils not only for weapons but also for alcohol, controlled drugs and stolen property should be reviewed within three years of the power coming into force in order to assess its use and to evaluate if it is properly understood in schools. Schools and partnerships of schools should use Safer School Partnership officers to help them ensure that this power is exercised.

The report reminds us that these powers are being legislated for at the moment:

Extension of schools’ power to search to cover alcohol, drugs and stolen property is included in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill currently going through Parliament. New guidance, to be issued following Royal Assent, will include advice on training standards.

These powers are expected to be implemented in September 2010.

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