HC Deb 13 March 1979 vol 964 cc243-4
1. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she proposes to take in the light of the recent Her Majesty's Inspectorate report on special units for disruptive pupils.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Margaret Jackson)

Our first aim has been to ensure that local education authorities and other interested bodies know about the report. It has, therefore, been distributed to them free of charge. It is primarily for the local authorities and schools to decide whether the report indicates a need for action on their part, but should public discussion reveal ways in which my Department could continue to be of assistance, we will gladly consider them.

Mr. Winterton

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for that reply. May I ask whether she read the excellent article by Stuart Froome—a former headmaster and a member of the Bullock committee—published in the Sunday Express on 11 February? In that article Mr. Froome drew attention to the fact that it was probably lack of discipline in schools, trendy and progressive teaching methods in schools and large schools which had resulted in so many disruptive pupils taking to the battleground within the school classroom. Will the hon. Lady, her right hon. Friend and the Government try to instil new discipline into education, as I believe that this development will remove the necessity for the provision of"sin-bins"in so many of our schools.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that other hon. Members will not follow that bad example on the first question.

Miss Jackson

I shall say briefly that I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says on the report that he quoted. I do not accept either the theories or the conclusions of the hon. Gentleman. I should like to draw his attention to a report which accompanied the one to which I have just referred, which was a study by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of those schools which were successful in dealing with behavioural problems. I think he will find that that report does not bear out his comments.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my hon. Friend ask her Department to prepare a special report on disruptive pupils who are excluded from schools in multi-racial areas? Is she aware that very often, when a pupil is excluded for normal reasons in a multi-racial area, it can look as though a racial attitude is being put forward, when in fact it does not exist?

Miss Jackson

As I think my hon. Friend will know, a special survey is being conducted into the general educational problems affecting, in particular, West Indian children but also other ethnic minorities. I am sure that the kind of situation to which my hon. Friend referred will be considered.

Mr. William Shelton

Does the Under-Secretary of State know that in certain parts of the Inner London Education Authority area psychiatrists and social workers are recommending that children should be sent to these units although they do not exist?

Miss Jackson

I was not aware of that. I appreciate that not every authority or school has an associated unit. Indeed, one of the matters that arose in the report to which I referred earlier was that some schools do not wish to have access to such units and would rather deal with the problems themselves. I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman indicating such a degree of ignorance on the part of some of those involved.