Education & Family

Heads promised more power to punish outside schools

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Media captionMichael Gove will give head teachers discipline powers away from school

Head teachers in England will be able to discipline pupils "any time, any place, anywhere", says Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Addressing the Conservative party conference, Mr Gove promised tougher powers for head teachers.

There will be guidance that heads have authority in public places, such as in shopping centres, said Mr Gove.

Shadow Schools Minister Vernon Coaker accused the goverment of announcing powers that already exist.

The NASUWT teachers' union also claimed Mr Gove was restating current disciplinary powers.

"This power already exists. The question is whether schools feel confident to use it," said NASUWT general secretary, Chris Keates.

The ASCL head teachers' union welcomed "reasserting the right of school leaders to deal with indiscipline outside of school" but warned "that ultimate responsibility for behaviour lies with the parents".

'Running wild'

In his party conference speech, Mr Gove promised to strengthen the hand of head teachers by allowing them to punish misbehaving pupils going to and from school.

"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.

"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 - any time, any place, anywhere."

These powers of intervention are aimed at behaviour problems caused by children away from school - such as fighting between pupils from different schools and "low-level anti-social behaviour".

The education department says statutory guidance will say that "non-criminal anti-social behaviour outside school" will fall under the disciplinary remit of the head teacher.

He called for the balance of power to be returned to head teachers, rather than trouble-making pupils.

"We have to stop treating children like adults and adults like children," he said.

There was also a commitment to use the education department's property as accommodation for academies.

Mr Gove said his department had 100 buildings. One of these is believed to be a former school building, but so far there have been no other details of their location or suitability for conversion to schools.

"At the moment there is floor space in those buildings lying empty or under-used - when every resource we have should be put at the service of children. And from now on it will be," he said.

A first wave of 32 new-style academies were opened this term and plans to open 16 free schools next year have been announced.

History review

Mr Gove also promised greater emphasis in England's schools for British history - and announced that historian Simon Schama is to advise a national curriculum review on history.

At present, he said there was a failure to provide a "connected narrative" in history.

Labour's schools spokesman Vernon Coaker attacked the promise to use departmental buildings as schools as an "ill-thought-out gimmick".

"The promise of opening up a handful of schools in disused education department office blocks will be of no comfort to the 700 communities and over 700,000 children who have seen their promised new school building cancelled by the coalition government," said Mr Coaker.

Three councils have begun a legal challenge against the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme to rebuild schools.

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