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New report into behaviour praises progress made

New report into behaviour praises progress made

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2008/0058) issued by The Government News Network on 26 March 2008

- ALL SCHOOLS TO JOIN BEHAVIOUR PARTNERSHIPS - STEP CHANGE PLANNED FOR PUPIL REFERRAL UNITS -

Ed Balls today accepted recommendations from a top behaviour expert that all secondary schools should join behaviour partnerships and announced new plans for a White Paper to transform the alternative provision for pupils who have been excluded from school and announced plans to tackle cyber bullying of teachers.

Speaking at the annual NASUWT conference in Birmingham he welcomed the initial report from Sir Alan Steer - which praised the progress made by Government and schools to tackle behaviour - but warned more needed to be done to see good behaviour in all secondary schools.

In the Children's Plan published last December Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, asked Sir Alan to review progress since he advised Government on a range of tough measure to address bad behaviour in 2005.

As a result of legislation passed since the 2005 Report of the Practitioners' Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, schools now have:

* statutory power to discipline children and impose sanctions for breaches of school rules;

* statutory power to confiscate;

* statutory power to impose discipline beyond the school site, for example for bad behaviour on the journey to and from school;

* a completely new power to search pupils for weapons including knives;

* statutory power to use physical force to restrain unruly pupils; and

* new rules on exclusion appeals panels.

In his initial report - published today - Sir Alan looks at the many complex issues that can affect behaviour in and out of school. Some of these he will consider in depth over the next few months as he works towards his final report, including the role of learning and teaching policies and looking at the right balance of parental responsibilities and school powers.

However, following Sir Alan's latest advice, there are three areas where Ed Balls now plans to go further. These are:

* accepting Sir Alan's advice that all schools, including all new academies, should be required to be part of behaviour partnerships - all existing academies have also now agreed to be part of behaviour partnerships;

* plans to write to all Directors of Children's Services to make sure that the additional £109.5 million for Parent Support Advisers is targeted at schools with the highest need; and

* plans for a White Paper to see a transformation in the quality of alternative provision, including plans for more voluntary and private sector provision such as high quality vocational training and studio schools.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

"We know that standards of behaviour continue to be a matter of concern for parents and teachers, as well as children and young people themselves. Sir Alan's assessment is that we have made considerable progress in implementing his recommendations, and there has been wide take up by schools of the good practice advice that Sir Alan and a group of his fellow practitioners produced in 2005. I am pleased with this, and am clear we are prepared to go further so behaviour is good in all schools.

"Sir Alan's report reflects Ofsted's finding that the number of schools with inadequate behaviour is at the lowest level ever recorded. This is a tribute to the hard work of school staff in maintaining good discipline. But it is a tough job dealing both with general low level disruption in the classroom and with the challenges presented by a minority of badly behaved pupils. Schools require support: from each other; from the specialist services in their local authority such as educational psychologists and youth workers - and above all from parents.

"Sir Alan's 2005 report recommended all secondary schools should work in partnerships to manage poor behaviour so that clusters of schools in a local area could pool their resources and expertise to deal with problem pupils and by intervening early could prevent young people going off the rails.

"Virtually all secondary schools - 97 per cent - are working in these partnerships. But as Sir Alan says, just a few schools not co-operating in an area can undermine the effectiveness of partnerships and so I accept Sir Alan's advice that all schools should be required to be in these partnerships, and I intend to legislate on this at the earliest opportunity.

"New academies will be required to join partnerships and I can confirm that all open academies have now agreed to be part of local behaviour partnerships. As well as taking these steps to ensure that behaviour partnerships are universal, I am asking Sir Alan in the next stage of his review to look in more depth at the operation of school partnerships to identify what works best and how to get that good practice adopted across the whole country.

"A key objective of behaviour partnerships is early intervention - to identify children at risk of exclusion or truancy and to intervene before the problem gets too bad. Effective early intervention and the development of high quality alternatives to mainstream school - where some pupils will spend only a short period of time - is the right way to help young people get back on track. Where pupils are so disruptive that they have to leave the mainstream sector, it's important that they get support that puts them back on track."

Mr Balls also told NASUWT that he was determined to improve the quality of pupil referral units where excluded young people are referred when they are excluded or before they are placed in a new school.

He said:

"Many of the children in alternative provision such as Pupil Referral Units are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. 80 per cent of them have special educational needs. These children have very poor outcomes, and at the same time often cause serious disruption for their classmates and their communities. They often need specialist help to address the underlying problems they face. I am determined to shine a light on this part of the education sector and ensure these young people get the high quality services they need.

"There are many PRUs doing a good job in difficult circumstances, but the overall quality of our alternative provision is not good enough. My department is therefore working up proposals for a step change in the quality of alternative provision, and we will publish a White Paper the summer.

"Just as we have strengthened accountability for mainstream schools over the past ten years, we will now for the first time publish detailed data on pupil performance for this sector. We will strengthen our powers to intervene when PRUs fail, encourage more voluntary and private sector provision, and will launch pilots to develop new and more effective forms of alternative provision including high quality vocational training with a clear pathway to qualifications and a job. This will include places for pupils who would have gone to a PRU at new Studio Schools.

"Finally, good engagement with parents is critical to helping schools maintain good discipline. Sir Alan has welcomed the development of Parent Support Advisers who can offer advice with parenting, and provide support for parents and their children at the first sign of any social, health or behavioural problems. Sir Alan now recommends the additional £109.5 m we are investing in Parent Support Advisers over the next three years should be targeted at schools with the highest level of need and that examples of good practice, including those emerging from the two year pilot, are widely disseminated to inform future policy and practice.

"I think these recommendations make sense and we will be following up on them with local authorities. As a first step Kevin Brennan will write to Directors of Children's Services, and I want to hear from local authorities how they intend to use Parent Support Advisers at our conference next month. I have also asked Sir Alan to give further thought in the next stage of his review to how we can reinforce parents' responsibility for their children's behaviour, building on the measures - parental orders and contracts, re-integration interviews - that we have already introduced in response to Sir Alan's 2005 report.

"I am also looking forward to Sir Alan's advice in the next stage of his review on other issues in his interim report including exploring good practice for schools in dealing with children with Special Educational Needs related behavioural difficulties. I welcome Sir Alan's intention to look further at ways of promoting consistency of practice in learning and teaching given the clear links between the application of consistent good practice in teaching and learning and behaviour."

He also announced new plans to protect teachers from cyberbullying and said he had asked the Cyberbullying Taskforce - who until now have focussed mainly on the impact of cyberbullying on children - to look at what measures can be introduced to protect teachers.

The Task Force, which will be chaired by Kevin Brennan and will have representatives from social networking sites and teachers, will develop ideas for preventing and dealing with such abuse. Ed Balls is asking the Task Force to report its conclusions by July. In particular he has asked them to consider:

a - What more we can do to ensure all school staff and heads are aware of the powers available to them and use them effectively;

b - What more we can do to ensure that all schools have discipline policies that minimise abuse of teachers and anti-bullying policies that protect all their staff from cyberbullying;

c - Whether we should establish a national point of call where school staff can direct complaints about abusive material;

d - Whether we should have specific guidance for staff who have experienced internet abuse;

e - How we can best work with industry to address cyberbullying of teachers;

f - How best to explain the impact of cyberbullying to parents and their responsibilities to ensure that it is treated as seriously as other forms of bullying. Where cyberbullies are found guilty, their parents should be shown what the offence was.

He said:

"Bullying is never acceptable, and we will do all we can to prevent it in all its forms. The law requires head teachers to take action aimed at preventing all forms of bullying. It also gives school staff statutory power to punish bullying whether that occurs in or out of school. This is especially important in the case of cyberbullying, which can happen not just outside the school but even at the home of the bully.

"We already give schools advice on the practical measures they can take to tackle bullying, including guidance on dealing with cyberbullying. But I want to go further. Cyberbullying of teachers should be treated as a serious disciplinary offence.

"I want to make it clear that teachers should feel confident about reporting such harassment to heads and, in more extreme cases, to the police. I also want to make it clear that heads should be confident that the law enables them to punish such behaviour, even where it takes place off the school premises.

"My Department has a Cyberbullying Task Force that brings together representatives of all the unions representing school staff, service providers like MySpace, YouTube, Bebo, Vodafone and O2 and children's charities like the NSPCC and anti-bullying organisations.

"To date the Task Force has concentrated mainly on cyberbullying of children. But I will now ask it to extend its scope and report to me specifically on how to minimise the bullying and harassment of teachers through new communications technology."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. In the Children's Plan there was a commitment to ask Sir Alan Steer to review progress since his 2005 report and to look at making behaviour partnerships compulsory.

2. Alan Steer's initial response can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/behaviourandattendance

3. The 2005 Report of the Practitioners' Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, chaired by Sir Alan Steer, can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/behaviourandattendance/about/learning_behaviour.cfm

4. The additional £109.5 million for Parent Support Advisers was announced in November.

5. Later this spring DCSF will be making a curriculum resource pack called Let's Fight It Together available to schools. The pack is being produced by Childnet. Vodafone and O2 are helping to fund it, which is clear evidence of support from the industry. The pack, which include a short film, will help teachers work with pupils in lessons and assemblies to develop their understanding of the impact of cyberbullying and how to prevent it. Lets Fight It Together emphasises that pupils are not the only victims. The internet can also be used to harass, bully and abuse teachers and other school staff, and we are determined to take decisive action to stop this.

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