HC Deb 11 December 1996 vol 287 cc264-5
4. Mr. Soley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what new proposals she has on returning excluded pupils to full-time education. [7054]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

The Education Bill will require local education authorities to publish a full statement of their arrangements for pupils with behavioural problems.

Mr. Soley

Will the Secretary of State give a careful and considered response to the report prepared by the university of Plymouth for the Economic and Social Research Council which shows that something like 60 per cent. of excluded children have a history of neglect, abuse or violence at home? Does she agree with the all-party group on parenting matters, who believe that there is a serious need for the Government to co-ordinate a response to such problems across Departments and between Government Departments and local authorities?

Mrs. Shephard

I have not yet seen the report that the hon. Gentleman mentions and about which he had the courtesy to forewarn me. He will know that once the Education Bill is enacted, we shall be issuing detailed guidance to local education authorities on the implementation of the new behaviour support plans. For the first time, there will be a requirement for proper co-ordination between schools, local education authorities and social services. We are also looking to see how else we can promote good practice in joint working between education and social services in that sphere.

On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, with the Department of Health we are considering options to help collaboration through a number of pilot projects so as to spread any lessons that might be learnt. The hon. Gentleman is right that there needs to be more collaboration between agencies for some of these children.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has raised a very interesting matter. Many hon. Members will agree that far too many youngsters are now being excluded from schools. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that exclusions result in those children who would benefit most from being in school being left out? Has she had an opportunity to read what the Commission for Racial Equality said about the total cost of exclusions, which I believe was part of the point made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith? Will my right hon. Friend join me in seeking alternatives to exclusion, of which corporal punishment might be one?

Mrs. Shephard

The Government's views on corporal punishment have been set out by me and by others. My hon. Friend's views are equally well known to the House. I remind him of the findings of the recent Ofsted report on exclusions, which pointed out that good teaching in particular is likely to be the solution to many behavioural problems. The report also said that schools which exclude few pupils tend to be better at managing behaviour than those which exclude many.

Mr. Davidson

Let us return to the serious issue of excluded students, and not talk nonsense about corporal punishment. When will the Government recognise that an increasing number of young people who have been excluded from school join the large percentage—14 per cent.—of people who receive no education or training beyond the age of 16? That is a shameful record, and an indictment of 17 years of Conservative rule.

Mrs. Shephard

As the festive season is approaching, I do not wish to be ungracious to the hon. Gentleman. I merely mention Calderdale and Labour control as providing a lesson in how not to cope with behaviour problems. It is clear that a well-structured and soundly taught curriculum is the best way of dealing with unruly behaviour. Some pupils are demotivated and thus at risk of disaffection, and they will be helped by the relaunch provisions and entry qualifications arrangements outlined in the White Paper that I announced on Monday.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend think that the old maxim which is often applied in schools as it is in families—"Spare the rod and spoil the child"—is entirely out of date?

Mrs. Shephard

I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey).