Headlines: July 6th, 2005

Head teachers are today outlining the changes they want to see in the system for
excluding pupils from school and they say current guidelines fail to address the
issue of serious misbehaviour by parents and what to do when the relationship
between school and home breaks down.

The National Association of Head Teachers has submitted its views to the
Department for Education’s Leadership Group on Behaviour and Discipline. The
union is proposing changes to the current system under four headings – new
powers, parents’ responsibilities, independent appeal panels and collaboration.

The NAHT says current DfES guidance needs to be changed to free heads from
bureaucracy, give them more autonomy and support them when dealing with pupil
misconduct. The heads want the guidelines to make it clear that bullying and
racial and sexual harassment have to be regarded as serious offences, all
violence is intolerable and any harm to the education or welfare of fellow
pupils is a serious matter. They also want possession or use of an illegal drug
to be treated as serious if the school so decides.

They believe that at the moment there are too many obstacles preventing heads
from dealing with misbehaviour and call for the need for a higher level of proof
in serious cases to be removed, believing the balance of probabilities should be
enough. They also want fixed term exclusions to be capable of extension if
parents refuse to attend a meeting with the school and for parents to be obliged
to sign a parenting contract as a condition of reinstatement.

The present guidance, says the NAHT, totally fails to address the issue of
serious parental misbehaviour such as assault, threatened violence, harassment,
intimidation and attacks on the homes of staff. The union says there should be a
mechanism to deal with these extreme cases and a managed exclusion has to be the
answer if the relationship between home and school has broken down.

The NAHT believes Independent Appeal Panels have to exist but says this does not
justify the retention of all their powers. The heads also believe the DfES has
failed to recognise the crucial role that Special Schools can play in schemes
devoted to improving behaviour and alternative provision.

David Hart, the NAHT General Secretary, said the establishment of the Leadership
Group on Behaviour and Discipline was a golden opportunity to sweep away some of
the bureaucracy surrounding the exclusion process and give heads the autonomy
they needed to tackle violent and disruptive behaviour.