HC Deb 24 October 2002 vol 391 cc394-6
7. Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham)

What further measures he proposes to deal with the problems caused by disruptive pupils in schools. [75272]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Stephen Twigg)

We continue to invest in a range of measures to establish good behaviour and discipline in all schools. Teachers dealing with the most challenging behaviour have access to in-school support from learning mentors and others. We stand by the head teacher's right to exclude the most disruptive pupils in the best interests of the school community as a whole. Such pupils now have access to full-time education outside the school. We will set out shortly the next stages of our strategy to improve pupil behaviour, discipline and attendance.

Mr. Pond

Will the Minister accept from me later a brief dossier from head teachers in Gravesham about the effects of disruptive pupils in their schools? The dossier includes a report of an incident yesterday in which a nine-year-old kicked his teacher, but could not be sent home because his parents refused to collect him. Does my hon. Friend consider that we need special provision in primary schools for disruptive pupils and perhaps also wider use of parenting orders to ensure that parents take responsibility for their children's behaviour?

Mr. Twigg

I will be very happy to receive the dossier from my hon. Friend, who highlights one example from a number of very disturbing cases. Much of the focus of the strategy has so far been on secondary schools, but he is right to emphasise that, tragically, many such cases are arising in primary schools. Staff in our schools have a right to work in an environment where they are not subject to violence, abuse and harassment, and parents have a duty to take responsibility for their children.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Is the Minister aware that many head teachers find when they become caught up in issues of process in relation to appeals panels that they have no guidance about that process? When he modifies the appeals panel process this January, will he consider the guidance that head teachers are given about the specific processes that are needed to ensure that they are watertight in any legal discussions?

Mr. Twigg

That is exactly what we are doing. We are saying that we want appeals panels to be more effective and want to ensure that somebody with practical classroom experience is included on every panel. We do not want the panels to overturn the decision made by a head teacher simply on the basis of a technicality. We want to balance the interests of the individual child who might appeal with the wider interests of the school community. We have listened to the concerns of head teachers and taken them on board, which is why we will issue the new proposals starting in January.

John Mann (Bassetlaw)

There is often a link between disruptive behaviour and experimentation with drugs. Can some changes be made to the guidelines on the national curriculum for secondary schools to ensure that every school has to have high-quality anti-drugs education?

Mr. Twigg

I met my hon. Friend earlier this week, when he took the opportunity to present me with the report of his local inquiry into the use of heroin. The findings are extremely disturbing. I am considering the advice and guidance that is given to schools on drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We are listening to a range of people who work in the field and we will be looking to see that the curriculum meets those challenges.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

Does the Minister recognise that many children who are excluded from school have disruptive behavioural problems not by chance, but as a result of medical disabilities? Such children already have special educational needs, but when their schools can no longer cope with their disruptive behaviour and they have rightly to be excluded to protect the education of other children, current policy means that they receive only a few hours' education a week. I know one little boy, Michael, who has Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome, which means that he cannot help being disruptive. He has had almost no education for the last seven months. What will the Minister do to help children like him?

Mr. Twigg

I want to ensure that people have full and equal access to education regardless of their disability or their special educational needs. That is why we legislated in the previous Parliament with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. That is also why we have extended the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to cover schools. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady, however, that this is a big challenge: services are not universally good and a lot more work needs to be done. I am working with many of the organisations in the field to try to deliver a general improvement in the quality of service.