Headteachers will be given greater powers to punish pupils for bad behaviour outside school in a fresh attempt to tackle anti-social conduct, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said yesterday at the Conservative Party Conference.
New guidance will be handed out to teachers, making it explicit that they can step in to discipline their students for misbehaving before or after school, or at the weekends.
Aides to Mr Gove said that many heads currently believe they can only intervene if pupils are in school uniform. The new rules will make it clear that teachers can act on complaints received "any time, any place, anywhere", Mr Gove told conference delegates
"At the moment heads are prevented from dealing with their pupils if they run wild in a shopping mall or behave anti-socially in town centres," he said. "So we will change the rules to send one clear and consistent message. Heads will have the freedom they need to keep pupils in line.
"We have to stop treating adults like children and children like adults. Under this Government we will ensure that the balance of power in the classroom changes – and teachers are back in charge."
Mr Gove also revealed yesterday that he was beaten with a leather tawse - a leather belt - during his school years as punishment for "cheek, insubordination and sheer rudeness towards staff". He did however tell a fringe meeting that Britain was "definitely better off for the fact that we no longer beat children".
"In Scotland, they tended not to use canes, they had a tawse – which was basically a leather belt – and I was belted on the hand a couple of times," he said. "I was a cheeky beggar when I was at school, so I probably needed taking in hand, but I don't think we should hit children, myself."
Corporal punishment was outlawed in publicly funded schools in 1987. It was banned in private schools in 1999 in England and Wales and a year later in Scotland.
Mr Gove's rules on disciplining children for misbehaving beyond the school gates come soon after he announced similar plans to reassure teachers they could touch pupils to comfort or restrain them in the classroom.
Mr Gove was immediately accused by Labour of spreading "myths and untruths" about the powers that teachers already have to tackle bad behaviour. "Teachers already have very clear powers to use reasonable physical force where necessary and to discipline pupils for bad behaviour on the journey to and from school," said shadow schools minister Vernon Coaker.
"To imply otherwise is misleading and undermines the confidence of teachers in using the tough powers the last Labour government gave them."
What do you think?
Should teachers and headteachers get involved when their pupils behave badly outside school?