In a powerful contribution to Platform, early last month, Graeme Archer brought alive the problem of school breakdown.
It is a MASSIVE problem. 140,000 pupils were suspended from secondary schools in 2005/06 for violence or persistent disruption. The rate of suspension is twelve times higher in the most deprived areas than in the least. Surveys of teachers suggest that a third have been physically attacked and one-in-five threatened with a weapon. Early retirement amongst teachers has tripled. As Justice Coleridge said on Saturday: family breakdown is the leading cause of these and other social problems.
The Tories already have a growing policy platform to renew the family (although it needs to be much bolder) and today, David Cameron and Michael Gove announce their school discipline strategy for Giving Power Back To Teachers. Measures include:
- Parents will lose the right to appeal to a tribunal and overturn a headteacher's decision to exclude a disruptive pupil;
- Abolition of Labour's new idea that schools must take in one excluded child for every child they exclude;
- Ending the financial penalty that means a school loses a whole year's funding for an excluded child even if many months of costs have been incurred.
- Bonuses for teachers who take effective action against disruptive pupils.
Other measures are set out in the full document - a PDF of which you can read here.
A Telegraph leader - unfairly - describes the Tory ideas as "a painfully cautious step in the right direction". The Telegraph is much more impressed with Gordon Brown's ideas on army cadet forces:
"Much more encouraging is that Gordon Brown appears to favour cadet forces, and is keen to increase their number in comprehensive schools. The objection that delinquent pupils will flock to use the guns is nonsense: they will be put off by the uniforms and the discipline. And the primary function of a cadet force is not to train children for military service, but to inculcate initiative and responsibility. Young people who have been answerable, not just for the performance and safety, but for the behaviour of others, make better citizens and better parents. If the Prime Minister understands this, in defiance of his own party's pacifist dogma, we applaud him for it - and we wish him luck."
We'd urge The Telegraph to be more cautious. The Brown-Blair years have often been characterised by good ideas - and this is another - but they've been more associated with inept implementation. Britain no longer wants a government good at announcements but it craves one that will get things done.