New Clause 1 — Abolition of appeals against permanent exclusion of pupils

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 13th May 2008.

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'(1) The Education (Pupil Exclusions and Appeals) (Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2002 are amended as follows.

(2) Omit regulation 6 and the Schedule to the Regulations.'.— [Mr. Gibb.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2— Home-school contracts

'(1) An admission authority may make it a condition of a child's admission to a school that the parent of a child agrees to secure compliance with any school rules made by the head teacher and governors of that school.

(2) In this section "admission authority" has the same meaning as in section 88 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.'.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

New clauses 1 and 2 deal with behaviour. Poor behaviour, disruptive behaviour and even violent behaviour in our schools has become one of the main problems facing our education system. Tackling poor behaviour lies at the centre of the Conservatives' education policy and our determination to raise standards and the quality of our schools.

According to Home Office figures, a quarter of young people aged 10 to 25 said that they had committed a crime in the previous year. In 2006, 94,000 custodial sentences were handed down to 10 to 17-year-olds, and there were more than 250,000 persistent truants. Two thirds of teachers had been verbally or physically assaulted in the previous year of the survey, and nearly one in 10 had been threatened with a weapon. In March this year the Association of Teachers and Lecturers published a survey showing that 29 per cent. of all teachers had been punched, kicked or bitten by their pupils. No one should therefore be in any doubt about the extent of the problem or its seriousness.

When I visit schools I am continually told by head teachers that one of the main hurdles that they face is the difficulty in expelling persistently disruptive pupils. No head whom I have met wants to expel pupils from their school, but when every avenue has been explored to try to change the behaviour of a disruptive child, heads need to be able to apply the ultimate deterrent of expulsion. However, when children know that expulsion is rarely an option, the credibility of the head in his attempts to instil good behaviour is severely undermined.

The particular difficulty that heads mention is the nightmare that they have to go through if a parent appeals to the independent appeals panel administered by the local authority against their child's expulsion. Those appeals are stressful and distracting for the head and they can be time consuming and expensive for the school.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

Will the hon. Gentleman, in the course of his remarks, respond to the statement issued by the special education consortium, which said in its briefing in response to his new clause that

"independent exclusion appeal panels remain an important safeguard to allow further consideration of whether exclusion is an appropriate response in each individual case"?

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I understand that concern, but there will be a safeguard under our new clause. The safeguard will be the appeal to the governing body. A section of the governing body that is not involved in the original expulsion will hear the appeal. That should deal with the concern.

The effect of appeal panels on schools is clear. Since 1997 permanent exclusions have fallen from 12,700 to 9,300. In that period suspensions have risen from 290,000 to 340,000. That is a matter of concern to Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, who points out that when a child is expelled for hitting a teacher or for verbal abuse and goes through the appeals panel, they come back. A quarter of all appeals are won by parents. In half of the appeals that are won, the pupil returns to the school.

I urge the Government to consider carefully new clause 1 and new clause 2, which makes home-school contracts a condition of admission to a school, which is currently forbidden.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

I shall be very brief, given the time available. I ask my hon. Friends to resist the new clauses. There are two reasons to reject them in respect of school appeals panels on exclusions. I mentioned one in my intervention: the panels are an important safeguard for pupils with special educational needs. Conservative Front Benchers often ask us to do as much as we can to protect such pupils' interests.

Secondly, abolishing the panels would result in more and more cases in court. That would only line the pockets of the lawyers and take more time. The proposal is opposed by the Association of School and College Leaders. Head teachers are not in agreement with Mr. Gibb and the other Conservative Front Benchers.

Home-school contracts would be yet another way—

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It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day.]

The House divided: Ayes 103, Noes 300.

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Division number 179 Orders of the Day — New Clause 1 — Abolition of appeals against permanent exclusion of pupils

Aye: 103 MPs

No: 300 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

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Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day.]

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