Monday, 11 July 2011

More reasonable force in the classroom

I'm delighted to see that the coalition is ending decades of wet liberal discipline policies in schools by giving teachers the right to use reasonable force in the classroom, something they have not been legally allowed to do since that scourge of disciplinarians David Blunkett published a piece of guidance entitled circular 10/98 (with those same rights to be enshrined in a 'right to discipline' in the 2006 Education and Inspections Act). Circular 10/98 said that teachers could use reasonable force where pupils were
  • committing a criminal offence (including behaving in a way that would be an offence if the pupil were not under the age of criminal responsibility)
  • injuring themselves or others;
  • causing damage to property (including the pupil's own property); 
  • engaging in any behaviour prejudicial to maintaining good order and discipline at the school or among any of its pupils, whether that behaviour occurs in a classroom during a teaching session or elsewhere.
It received the backing of teaching unions (aside from NASUWT, which warned teachers off it as it is worried about litigation ) at the time. Of course, there may be a little more rhetorical flourish in the new regulations. But it is absurd to suggest that previous governments have not sought to address this issue. The reality is that it is fear of parental litigation not too much state regulation that is holding back teachers who don't use their existing powers. Perhaps, the parallel changes to the rules on allegations against teachers will change that. But in today's litigious climate, I wouldn't count on it.

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