Conservative Conference 2011: Michael Gove On Searching Kids And Confiscating Mobiles
Michael Gove has told Conservative Party conference that a third of teaching time was being lost because of a lack of discipline in the classroom, and pledged that teachers would be given more freedom to use their own judgement under new laws currently being considered by Parliament.
"We've reduced the amount of guidance that teachers have," Gove told a fringe meeting hosted by by the Association of School and College Leaders in Manchester. "There used to be six hundred pages of dos and don'ts, we've reduced that to fifty."
The Education Secretary for England also told the fringe that teachers often had to be "quasi-social workers", but that the maximum amount of time in the classroom as possible should be spent on teaching and learning.
"Teachers should have the powers to search children," he said. "Children will often bring in mobile phones and video cameras, sometimes to film scenes of disruption in the classroom and then post them online.
"There will be moments when children will quite rightly be equipped by parents to make sure they are safe on the way home from school. But teachers should have the powers to search and if necessary confiscate the mobile phones used to disrupt classes."
Gove also said that the law was making some of the best headteachers in England criminals for imposing same-day detentions. "Any attempt by those outside the school to take away that autonomy sends a signal that we don't trust the profession."
Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the fringe that problems with school discipline stemmed from changes in society: "We have moved from an age where a respect culture has been replaced by a celebrity culture. Parental expectations are very different. Very often when children misbehave at school, we find we are challenged by parents, who do not support the school in the way they should.
"But I'm not convinced legislation is necessarily the answer," said Lightman. "It's about the messages that need to be given by government. I worry about some of those messages. I worry about the message that says discipline has broken down and that Mr. Cameron is going to 'restore' discipline. That is not an accurate picture and actually is very damaging. They don't help discipline, they undermine it."
"We also have to worry about messages going out to young people telling them there are no jobs. We have to give young people hope, and that's not the same as lying to them.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said changes proposed by the Education Bill, currently going through Parliament, would undermine the rights of children and young people, particularly new powers for teachers to search pupils.
She also lambasted the media for talking about 'feral youth' being behind the riots in England in August, saying such terms were "quite repugnant, and an attempt by some parts of society to demonise young people."
Keats claimed that 85% of the people involved in those riots were over 18. The involvement of school-age children was approximately 15% and over half of those children had never been excluded from school, involved with social services or the police, she said.