Unruly Pupils To Be Forced To Pick Up Litter, Tidy Classrooms And Weed Playgrounds

14/08/2014 16:57 | Updated 20 May 2015

Education Secretary Michael Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove has urged schools to get tough on badly behaved pupils by forcing them to pick up litter, tidy classrooms or mop dining hall floors.

As part of a major overhaul of school discipline, Mr Gove wants schools to introduced 'community service'-style sanctions, such as weeding school grounds and cleaning up graffiti.

The new guidance from the Department for Education, which will be sent to every state school in England, are intended to ensure that more teachers take a 'tough' line with disruptive pupils.

Official figures reveal that more than 700,000 children are being taught in schools where behaviour in the classroom and playground is not good enough. And a recent survey found that almost one third of secondary school teachers do not feel confident about using the powers they have to discipline children who behave badly.

Mr Gove is concerned that many heads and teachers are confused about their own legal powers to punish children and fear being sued by parents or falling foul of health and safety laws.

The new Department for Education guide will contain a menu of potential punishments for the first time.

These include traditional sanctions such as 'writing lines', issuing no-notice detentions for the same day and searching pupils without their consent for illicit items such as knives or alcohol.

The recommendations also make clear that teachers have the legal authority to use 'reasonable force' to remove an unruly child from a classroom when necessary.

Mr Gove said: "The best schools already ask pupils who are behaving poorly to make it up to their teachers and fellow pupils through community service.

"I want more schools to follow their example by making badly behaved pupils pick up litter or help clear up the dining hall after meal times.

"Standards of behaviour are already improving in schools but there is much more still to do. "These new guidelines will give teachers the confidence to be tougher on bad behaviour and ensure every child has the chance to learn in a controlled, orderly environment."

The new list of recommended punishments includes:

• School-based community service – such as picking up litter or weeding school grounds, tidying a classroom, helping clear up the dining hall after meal times, or removing graffiti;

• Writing lines or an essay;

• Loss of privileges – for instance the loss of a prized responsibility or not being able to participate in a non-uniform day;

• Being 'on report', requiring a pupil to attend early in the morning and at other scheduled times.

Mr Gove has been in conflict with classroom teachers' unions, who have mounted industrial action over pay, pensions and jobs, but many school staff are expected to welcome the new clarity over discipline.

Peter Barnes, head of Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes, said he imposed 'community service' punishments on badly behaved pupils to 'head off' problems before they get out of hand.

He said: "Some teachers do get worried about setting tough sanctions and so updated guidelines are a good idea as they show we are supported at the highest level when tackling bad behaviour.

"Everyone will know where they stand. We have a very strong ethos of discipline in our school. Pupils, teachers and parents are aware of our behaviour policy and we have introduced a policy of community service where pupils who break the rules perform a task that benefits the school."


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