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The Education Forum

Tory Policy on Disruptive Children

John Simkin

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Conservative plans to establish a network of separate schools to teach 24,000 of the most disruptive children could create a system of "boot camps", teaching unions warned yesterday.

Tory leader Michael Howard said a Conservative government would give headteachers more power to exclude pupils and increase the number of places available outside mainstream education for badly behaved youngsters from 4,000 to 24,000.

"My priority is simple," Mr Howard said. "To ensure that every child has a decent education. I suspect that many parents share my frustration that school discipline is even an issue today.

"But it is - and it matters to millions of families. They are right to be concerned."

Mr Howard said 9,500 pupils were excluded last year and because there were only places for 4,000 of them in the pupil referral units, many were "slipping through the net".

He said the Tories would replace existing provision with 24,000 new places in "turnaround schools".

But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The proposal that turnaround schools should be run by private companies seems to indicate this provision is in danger of becoming a national network of boot camps for the disaffected."

The Conservative party said that while firms may run some schools, the majority would remain under local authority control "in the first instance".

During his speech at Copland community school in Wembley, north-west London, Mr Howard set out plans to return full powers of admissions and expulsion to headteachers by scrapping appeals panels which allow parents to challenge decisions.

"The Tories fail to explain how they would pay for security and policing and what the consequences are if a pupil fails to attend," said Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said Phil Willis.

"Michael Howard seems to have no idea how he is planning to recruit and specially train the necessary teachers and how he will negotiate the legal minefield created by abolishing the appeals process."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said Mr Howard had identified "the right issue but offers the wrong solution".

"Teachers and the vast majority of young people do not want to see their lessons disrupted by unacceptable behaviour by a minority."

He said turnaround schools could mean children being labelled for life. "No child should be written off in this way."


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