Tuesday, 26 April 2005

Mr Blair: All talk on School Discipline

A documentary to be screened this week on Channel 5 will reveal the shocking extent of indiscipline in our schools under Mr Blair. Conservatives will take a stand on the things that matter – and restore discipline to our classrooms.

Why Labour are all talk
Mr Blair stated in 1997: ‘Teachers will be entitled to positive support … to promote good attendance and sound discipline’ (Labour Party Manifesto, Apr 97). All talk.
• A teacher is assaulted every seven minutes (NASUWT Press Release, 3 April 2003, and Times Educational Supplement, 6 Aug 04).
• Examples of pupil violence cited by the NUT include a teacher who was stabbed in the neck by a 14 year-old, another who had a kettle of boiling water poured over them, and one who was left with severe leg injuries after a pupil attack (BBC News Online and The Guardian, 28 Mar 05).
• Truancy is up by a third and over one million children play truant each year. In 1996-7, 965,400 pupils truanted. In 2003-4, 1,264,103 did so - a 31 per cent increase (Hansard, 30 April 03, Col. 413WA, and DfES, Pupil Absence in Schools in England 03-04, 14 Dec 04).
• The National Audit Office reported in 2005 that, despite massive spending of £885 million on truancy initiatives, ‘unauthorised absence [truancy] has not declined’, even using the Government’s own measure (NAO, Improving School Attendance in England, 4 Feb 05).
• Appeals panels overrule head teachers in one in five cases, forcing them to readmit pupils they have expelled. Of 1,070 appeals made in the last year for which figures are available, 21 per cent were upheld – putting 210 expelled pupils back into the classroom (Hansard, 31 Jan 05, Col. 506WA).
• There were over 17,000 expulsions for violence in just one term in 2003. Teaching unions believe even this could be an underestimate, since schools may have failed to report the true figures for fear of being labelled ‘failing’ (Times Educational Supplement, 6 Aug 04).
• 31 per cent of teachers considering leaving the profession cite poor pupil behaviour as a reason (The Guardian, 7 Jan 03).
• Nearly one in ten (nine per cent) of secondary schools have unsatisfactory levels of behaviour, and the number of schools where behaviour is unsatisfactory ‘shows no sign of reducing’, according to the Chief Inspector of Schools (Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 03/04, Feb 05).

Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats have no policies to improve school discipline. They want to continue Labour’s discredited inclusion policy and say that ‘increasing exclusions is a recipe for disaster’ (Liberal Democrat Press Release, 29 November 2004).

What will Conservatives do?
Conservatives have a five-point Action Plan to restore discipline in our schools:
1. We will give head teachers the final say over exclusions and scrap appeals panels.
2. We will give head teachers an unqualified right to insist on parental agreement to discipline as part of the conditions of entry/attendance for their children.
3. We will scrap Labour’s plans to force all state schools to take their share of undisciplined pupils.
4. We will give schools the funds and financial freedom to introduce random drug- testing, CCTV and metal detectors.
5. We will give teachers greater legal protection so that they can enforce discipline without fear of having their lives ruined if a child alleges abuse.

Conservatives are taking a stand on the issues that matter.

Voters have a clear choice on 5 May: schools with poor discipline and falling standards under Mr Blair and the Liberal Democrats, or schools with good discipline and high standards with the Conservatives.

Promoted by Gavin Barwell on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 25 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0DL. Printed by the Conservative Party.

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