Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Call for more searches of pupils

BBC News

Teachers should be able to search pupils for alcohol and drugs, inside or outside of school, says a review on tackling bad behavior among pupils.

Sir Alan Steer has delivered the proposals in a government-commissioned review of ways to improve discipline.

Alcohol is identified as a growing problem and Sir Alan wants teachers in England to have the legal power to search pupils and confiscate drink.

At present, teachers only have the right to search for weapons.

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls has welcomed the report - and its conclusion that "behaviour is generally good and is improving in our schools".

Stolen property

The call for wider powers to search pupils is a response to the concerns of head teachers about the influence of alcohol and, to a lesser extent, illegal drugs.

This power "should apply when pupils are on the school site, or off site on school trips and activities," says Sir Alan.

But he rejects as "unviable" suggestions that schools should introduce drug testing on pupils.

Teachers should also have the power to search for suspected stolen property in pupils' pockets or bags, in situations such as disputes over stolen mobile phones or music players.

Last year, schools were given legal powers to search pupils they suspected of carrying weapons - and they were allowed to refuse entry to any pupil who refused to be searched.

Sir Alan is also expected to call for more ways to involve parents in improving school discipline.

This could include using text messages and e-mails to make immediate contact with parents where there are concerns about pupils' behaviour or if they are absent from school.

The review also calls for more parent advisers and parent councils and a local authority panel to hear parents' complaints about schools.

The review on behaviour in school comes against a background of growing concern over teenage knife crime - and Sir Alan highlights the responsibility of adults in creating the cultures of good and bad behaviour.

Sir Alan, head teacher of Seven Kings High School, Ilford, has warned that adults can too often set a bad example for young people, showing them behaviour that is greedy and aggressive.

Safe havens

This latest interim report from Sir Alan, published on Monday, will be the latest instalment of his work on improving behaviour, which was initially commissioned by the education secretary in 2005.

Sir Alan reported in March that good progress was being made in tackling bad behaviour - and he highlighted a range of important influences on behaviour.

These included the quality of teaching, clear and consistent rules, mutual respect and the support of parents. But he cautioned against assuming there were "simple solutions".

Sir Alan has also emphasised that schools are not the places of danger in young people's lives - and that often they can be the safest havens in disrupted lives.

This latest report emphasises that young people's behaviour is not deteriorating within school.

"I remain extremely optimistic about the current situation in schools," says Sir Alan.

"There will always be problems in bringing up the young but these should not be exaggerated. I believe that the vast majority of young people are as idealistic, committed and enthusiastic as they ever were and that standards of behaviour in schools are generally good."