HC Deb 12 July 1994 vol 246 cc815-6
5. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps he is taking to help improve levels of discipline in schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth)

In May, my right hon. Friend issued to all schools guidance on pupil behaviour and discipline based on existing good practice. The guidance aims to help them to maintain and improve discipline.

Mr. Coombs

Is my hon. Friend aware that the added emphasis on the important role of parents in disciplinary matters has been widely welcomed? How does he envisage that role being expanded? What experience does he have of other European Governments' attempts to tackle the important problem of maintaining discipline in schools so that children have the right environment in which to learn?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend makes two valuable points. We should always learn from others when that is appropriate, but I suspect that in this area, where so much is bound up in tradition and custom and in the approach of individual countries, what is done in other countries—no matter how excellent it may seem—may not in any sense be directly transferable to this country, but I would never rule it out.

My hon. Friend's point about parents is good. We have done everything possible to encourage parental involvement in schools, whether through parents being governors or through joining parent-teacher associations and so on. Their involvement in discipline is the key. We cannot expect teachers and head teachers to deal with discipline without the support of parents. Unless parents are whole-heartedly prepared to support what goes on in schools, we shall win only half the battle.

Mr. Bryan Davies

Does not good discipline start at the top? What is the world of education to make of a Secretary of State who plays truant during major stages of the Education Bill, who shows such a lack of self-discipline that he ends up in court, and who is rapidly becoming the Maradona of British politics? Is not it about time that he was shown the red card and sent home?

Mr. Forth

That ill-conceived question shows the absolute and desperate paucity of the Opposition's thoughts on education. We hear nothing from them about policy, about their thinking or anything else. The hon. Gentleman's disgraceful question sums up their attitude all too well.