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Discipline in schools speech

Full text of Charles Clarke’s Discipline in Schools speech

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Why discipline matters
Every day around 50,000 pupils miss school without permission. Bad behaviour disrupts education at one in twelve secondary schools, according to Ofsted. And four out of five secondary pupils say some of their classmates regularly try to disrupt lessons.

The mission of this government is to raise educational standards. But you can’t raise standards if pupils miss school and behave badly when they are there. Attendance and good behaviour are preconditions for effective learning. Tackling poor behaviour is as much part of improving pupil performance as good teaching. There are two other reasons why we must tackle the behaviour problem.

First, education is about values as well as knowledge and skills. Values such as respect, courtesy and consideration are the foundations of a civilized society. That includes respect for others and respect for authority.

Heads, teachers and other school staff deserve respect.

There can never be any justification for subjecting them to assault – verbal or physical.

Residents living near schools and older people in particular also deserve respect – they should not have to put up with being jostled or abused while waiting for a bus, walking near their home or shopping at the local store.

And in case anyone thinks that sounds a bit old fashioned or authoritarian then just reflect on this fact. Forty five per cent of teachers leaving the profession cited behaviour as one of the main reasons for doing so.

They are highlighting a lack of respect in too many of our schools. It is time to restore respect for authority to its rightful place.

That in turn must mean a sustained drive to strengthen school discipline. Second, we know that if we do not address behaviour problems early on then both the children themselves and society at large suffer.

Half our children are now getting five or more good GCSEs. But only 10% of persistent truants and 17% of pupils who have been excluded achieve that standard. And a survey from the Youth Justice Board published earlier this year reported that two thirds of truants and excludees said they had committed a criminal offence.

Children need clear boundaries: boundaries that adults – parents as well as teachers – must set. We cannot abdicate our responsibility when children move outside those boundaries. To do that is to betray children, because the consequences of bad behaviour are so damaging.

Of course we must keep a sense of proportion. I know from visiting schools that most pupils attend regularly and behave well. And the vast majority of parents value and support their children’s school and its staff. But that is all the more reason why we owe it to pupils, parents and teachers alike to deal with those who do truant or who are ill-disciplined.

Strong leadership by head teachers and schools can make a huge difference. Armley Primary school in Leeds, for example, has raised attendance from 71% to 91% in a year.

This extraordinary achievement by headteacher, Kath Andrews, her staff and the school’s education welfare officer shows just how much can be done by combining a welcoming environment, clear rules and a determination to make parents face up to their responsibilities.

Hillcrest school in Dudley came out of special measures six months after Mo Brennan’s appointment as headteacher. The school’s unauthorised absence rate has dropped by nearly two thirds in two years and as important the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs has more than doubled. What some schools have achieved is a model for others to follow. But we cannot leave it all to schools. Heads need action and support from parents, governors and local authorities. We must challenge cultural acceptance of bad behaviour and truancy. And the government too has a duty to take the lead with a coherent and sustained programme of measures. Our measures must deal with attendance as well as with behaviour in schools. They must promote early intervention, which means helping primary schools as well as secondary schools. And they must strike the right balance between supporting the “can’ts” – families in real difficulty – and putting pressure on the “won’ts”.

What’s happening now?
Thanks to the determined work of my predecessor, Estelle Morris, a national drive against truancy and support for schools with the biggest behaviour problems is already well under way. This school year we are making £50 million available to the 34 local education authorities with the highest levels of street crime and truancy. The money is funding packages of intensive support for targeted schools. Each package supports up to four secondary schools and linked primary schools. Together these Behaviour Improvement Projects are helping 130 secondary and 555 primary schools with over 300,000 pupils.

The make-up of each package varies with local needs. But nearly all include multi-agency Behaviour and Education Support Teams – BEST teams – to work with pupils with the most serious behaviour and attendance problems. 81 BEST teams should be up and running by January. And by then there should be a key worker for every pupil who is at risk of exclusion, persistent truancy or crime and full-time education from day one for every excluded pupil – fixed term as well as permanent.

These are ambitious targets, but we are well on the way to achieving them. But we have an even more ambitious target – a national reduction in truancy of 10% by October 2004 – which I am determined to achieve.

Truancy is a long-standing and deep-rooted problem. It is by no means confined to children from disadvantaged and disorganised families. I regard any kind of absence that has not been authorised by the school as truancy, whether that is taking a child Christmas shopping, going on a trip to Disneyland in Florida in the middle of the school term or just letting a child roam around the local neighbourhood. So we have to challenge cultural acceptance of any form of truancy as we enforce school attendance. That’s what truancy sweeps are about. This week truancy sweeps are taking place in all but the three smallest LEAs. And this national campaign is being backed by publicity aimed at parents and the wider community.

The message is simple: regular attendance really matters. Parents have a responsibility for ensuring their child goes to school regularly. Neglecting this responsibility is a criminal offence. Yes, a criminal offence.

What happens next?
So we have made a strong start. But we need to go much further. Today I am setting out a five point programme and I am backing this programme with both money and reform. We will be investing £134m next year, £149m in 2004/05 and £186m in 2005/6 in a national behaviour and attendance strategy. And we will reform rules to reinforce the authority of head teachers and the responsibilities of parents.

The five points of the plan are:

· a national behaviour and attendance strategy for schools
· improved working with the police
· modernising the role of the Education Welfare Service
· new measures and rules on exclusions
· making parents face up to their responsibilities.

Let me deal with each part of this programme in turn.

The national behaviour and attendance strategy
The national behaviour and attendance strategy has two parts – universal and targeted. The universal strand is designed for all secondary schools but we will particularly focus on 11-14 year old pupils. That is the age at which behaviour and attendance problems emerge and the stage where we are putting more effort into supporting the transition from primary to secondary school.

As part of the strategy all secondary schools will have access to training materials and behaviour experts so that the senior management team in a school is confident and equipped in dealing with poor behaviour and can pass on its knowledge to other staff. Schools will be challenged to think about: · what time they start and finish the school day and the timing and length of the lunch break
· whether they have clear rules on bullying and dealing with unacceptable behaviour in the playground
· how clubs and other activities outside the school day and at weekends can support what happens during formal school sessions
· how to make the best use of computerised registration to monitor lateness and attendance
· how to work with education welfare officers to chase up families who have not sent their child into school
· whether staff are sufficiently well trained in responding to classroom disruptions and in dealing with disruptive pupils; and
· how to develop the use of learning mentors and learning support units to help children with particular problems. We are recruiting additional people with the relevant expertise and skills to support schools and education authorities in this work.

The problems in some schools are very serious and deep seated.

They will require intensive support.

That is where the targeted part of our national behaviour and attendance strategy kicks in. Over the next three years we will extend the Behaviour Improvement Projects from the 34 initial high crime localities to all the Excellence in Cities education authorities that don’t already have one and to all Excellence Clusters. This will mean intensive support for about 400 secondary and 1,500 primary schools educating around 800,000 children.

In addition we are developing extended schools that operate after school, at weekends and in school holidays. They will provide a wide range of activities and services including after-school and homework clubs, childcare, adult and family learning, health and social care and leisure activities. We know this can have a positive approach to learning and behaviour.

Some pupils behave badly because of serious personal or family problems. There is often little that teachers on their own can do about that. A key part of the strategy will involve supporting teachers by giving them ready access to professionals such as education psychologists and social and mental health workers who can help with behaviour problems.

The Behaviour and Education Support Teams will facilitate this multi-disciplinary working and in three years time there should be more than 200 of these teams supporting schools.

The Connexions Service also has a key role to play in working with pupils at risk. This year they took the lead in co-ordinating summer activities for disaffected young people. The summer plus programme supported over 10,000 young people at risk of crime.

Many of them have now returned to education with renewed motivation. This work will continue. Connexions Personal Advisers are also working with schools on problems that cause misbehaviour and truancy.

For example, they can help to negotiate flexible learning packages for older pupils who are not motivated by traditional provision.

The role of the police
As a former minister for the police I know what a valuable role police play in supporting schools. In primary schools they help young children to learn about road safety and to deal with the adult world. In secondary schools they provide a valuable bridge between schools and the local community and help with drug education and tackling bullying. The police also support truancy sweeps and in most localities build up excellent relations with head teachers. But over the past 12 months it has become clear that there is a further role that the police can play. In areas where there is a high level of crime or there are severe problems with anti social behaviour, local residents – including children and young people – want the reassurance of police officers being very visible in their neighbourhood. So we are now using police officers to patrol within and around the school grounds, organise diversionary activities and resolve conflicts and help to reduce anti social behaviour, cut crime and create a safer learning environment for pupils and staff. As part of the government’s street crime initiative we now have 100 officers undertaking this role. Let me give you just two examples of the benefit this approach. PC David Atherfold working at Pimlico school in Westminster has cracked down on unwelcome visitors. When he started, there were young people from elsewhere coming on to the school site.

After he reported them for assaults they had committed, they did not return. Due to this police constable’s work the deputy head says that teaching staff can focus on teaching and learning and the pupils have someone they can talk to about issues of concern. PC Paul Scott, at Albion Secondary school in Salford, gets to know pupils due to join the school the next autumn by helping on sports events in their last primary year. This week, for example, he refereed the inter-schools five-a-side. At half term he helped present the prizes for the inter-schools cross-country. In this way he establishes relationships that enable him to exercise authority within the school and support the teachers.

I can confirm that I am working with my colleague, David Blunkett, in his role as home secretary on how to expand the use of police patrols in and around schools over the next year. We believe it will help to reduce disorder and boost the confidence of parents, pupils and teachers in schools and areas which have been beset by anti social behaviour.

The role of education welfare officers

Another change we are considering relates to the role education welfare officers. They are currently employed by local education authorities and spend much of their time working with schools dealing with pupils who are not attending school, are truanting or have some other behaviour problem. They make home visits, work with the family and have powers to prosecute parents.

One of the factors common to those schools that are successfully tackling truanting and behaviour problems is a close working relationship with an education welfare officer. In some cases the key to that co-operation has been having the welfare officer based on the school site.

So much so that some heads are suggesting to us that EWOs should be employed directly by schools, or groups of schools, and report directly to them. We have been piloting and evaluating this approach in a number of schools and we will shortly be consulting teaching organisations, local authorities, youth offending teams – as well as EWOs themselves – about the best way to organise the education welfare service.

Dealing with exclusions
Much of what I have said so far has focused on dealing with behaviour problems within schools. But we need to get the balance right. You cannot keep a pupil in a particular school at all costs. Sometimes permanent exclusion is necessary. Exclusion must be an option available to head teachers. This doesn’t mean that excluded pupils should be written off. We expect LEAs to ensure that excluded pupils continue to receive good quality full-time education. One option is through the 371 pupil referral units that are now up and running. These units provide assessment and personal guidance as well as continuing tuition. They help pupils to face up to the problems they are causing. We also expect LEAs and schools to work together to place excluded pupils in another school as soon as it is practical and reasonable to do so. But it must be another school. A different school. Restoring the authority of head teachers means making sure that, when a head excludes a pupil for good reasons, the pupil does not return to that school.

Recent high-profile cases have seen pupils excluded for serious offences reinstated by appeal panels. The knee-jerk response from some has been to say that we should abolish appeal panels. But that cannot be right. Exclusion is a serious matter and parents must be able to appeal. Abolishing appeal panels would simply mean many more cases ending up in court, and that is not in anyone’s interests. The right approach is to reform appeal panels. And that is precisely what I am doing. The new regulations that I am announcing today will come into force next month. They will make four very significant changes in the make-up of appeal panels and the way they work.

First, panels will in future be made up of a serving or retired head teacher, a school governor and a lay member. In other words people who understand the realities of dealing with school discipline will from now on play a major part on the panels.

Second, the panel will have to balance the interests of the excluded pupil against those of the school community as a whole. Third, panels will not be able to overturn exclusions solely on technicalities. And fourth, panels will be able to conclude that a pupil should not have been excluded without automatically having to order the pupil’s reinstatement. At first sight, the fourth change may look odd. But the reasoning is simple. Education depends on relationships between school staff, pupils and families. Even where an exclusion was not fully justified, relationships may sometimes have broken down to such an extent that it is no-one’s interests for the pupil to return to that school. Reforming appeal panels will, I believe, reinforce heads’ authority and discipline in schools.

Making parents face up to their responsibilities
Finally, I want to turn to the role of parents because as we all know discipline begins at home. Parents must face up to their responsibilities. But I know some parents need help to do that. So the new measures we will be introducing will combine sanctions with support.

Some parents think that responsibility for their child’s behaviour stops at the school gate. I want them to be absolutely clear that it doesn’t. So we are looking at ways of strengthening Home-School Agreements. For example, we are proposing to introduce parenting contracts when pupils are excluded for a fixed-term. Parents would be asked to sign a contract agreeing to attend parenting classes with the aim of improving their child’s behaviour. This would be backed by the threat of a court-imposed Parenting Order if they refused to sign or broke the contract. Parents’ other key responsibility is making sure their child gets to school every day. Most parents take that responsibility seriously, but too many do not. The sad fact is that half the children stopped in the national truancy sweep in May were with their parents.

The current national sweep and publicity campaign will help to tackle the problem of condoned truancy. But we need to go further. The first step is to make best use of existing legislation. Failing to secure your child’s regular attendance at school is, as I highlighted earlier, a criminal offence for which parents can be prosecuted. But this can be a lengthy process. So we are developing a faster and more focused approach. From next month, nine LEAs will act as pathfinders for fast track truancy prosecution. More LEAs are set to join the project in the months that follow. Parents who have condoned or ignored truancy will be given 12 weeks to achieve a sustained improvement in their child’s attendance. A court hearing date will be set for the end of that period. If attendance does not improve the hearing will take place on that date. If found guilty, parents could face a fine of up to £2,500 or imprisonment. If these pathfinder projects are successful we shall extend the scheme nationwide.

Simple prosecution is right for the hardest cases. But schools and LEAs need a wider range of tools to deal with parents in different circumstances. So we are planning new legislation to give schools and LEAs an explicit power to arrange parenting contracts for truancy.

As with contracts for bad behaviour, parents would be asked to sign a contract agreeing to attend parenting classes and to achieve a sustained improvement in their child’s attendance within a specified period. In most cases the contract would be backed by the threat of sanctions. So if parents refused to sign or broke the contract they would be prosecuted or, under legislation we propose to enact in the forthcoming Anti Social Behaviour Bill receive a fixed penalty notice. Police and education welfare officers would have the power to issue fixed penalty notices following truancy sweeps or in other circumstances where a pupil’s absence is clearly unauthorised. Head teachers will also be able to apply this sanction should they consider it appropriate. It will be a matter for their judgement. And it will be for head teachers to set out the precise rules for authorising absence in each school by, for example, including them in the home school contract. For our part we shall provide national guidance on how best to do this.

The level of the fixed penalty would be lower if parents paid promptly. And as with other fixed penalty schemes parents would, of course, be able to appeal to a magistrates’ court against the imposition of a notice. Fixed penalty notices are just one part of our assault on truancy and bad behaviour but they will be a useful way of giving parents a sharp reminder of their responsibilities.

What I have described in this speech is a major programme of investment and legislative change aimed at achieving substantial improvements in behaviour and attendance over the next three years. The scale of this programme shows the strength of my commitment to raising standards of discipline in schools by restoring heads’ authority. So does the radical nature of some of the measures it includes. They are bound to provoke debate, and I look forward to that. Discipline and respect for authority may be unfashionable concepts. But let’s not be afraid to use them. Because in the end what matters is the future of our children. We owe it to them to have the chance to grow up in a society that is safe and to learn in an environment where there is respect for all.


  • Schools

  • Classroom violence

  • Pupil behaviour

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Importance of discipline in school life

Vijay Sharma
July 27, 2016
Importance of discipline in school life

Discipline in school life is very important for students. We can’t be well educated without discipline. Without learning and the following discipline in school life can cost students later in their career. In school education, discipline is a set of rules & regulations that remind us of the proper code of behaviour. Discipline is ever more important during school life.

But discipline is not only important for school students it’s for everyone. Discipline is self-improvement practice. It is what helps us all to achieve our goals in life.

See a successful business owner, a popular leader and you will find that are well disciplined. Disciplined founders and leaders have higher business intelligence and strong analytical skills. Because they practiced their business growth strategies consistently and with focus.

For example, you have goals and dreams. You want to achieve them. And most of the time people got 50% success. But discipline aligns us to keep going, keep working, keep dreaming until it is not 100%. That’s the way of success.

And that’s why I think implementations of discipline in students mind help them to achieve their goals and dreams later in the life. But let’s learn about the importance of discipline in students life in details with example.

In school life, students have a tender mind that does not know what is right or wrong. Students need constant guidance and supervision from his teachers otherwise, he can go towards the wrong path.

Using an analogy to explain this, we can say that a school is like a canal that a farmer builds for irrigating his fields. There is a purpose behind building a canal.

The purpose is to guide/redirect the water to those areas that are far from the water source. Its purpose is to connect two water sources and provide nourishment to villages so that crops can grow.

Likewise, there is a purpose of building a school. Its purpose is to guide/redirect the students in school life to the right direction so that they grow up to become socially, scientifically and morally educated. This is where discipline comes into the picture.

The nature of water is to flow where gravity takes it. If there is no canal to give it a fixed path, it will disperse everywhere. It becomes useless for the farmer because his fields are still dry. In the same way, a student’s mind is playful by nature, it will go in every direction unless the student is given a fixed path (discipline) to follow.

Building a canal and maintaining discipline in schools is not an easy task.  The water in the canal and the students in the schools will resist any attempts to control or regulate them. The water will try to seep through the canal if there are cracks in it or it will try to flow over the wall if they are not high enough.

Similarly, the students will try to escape the rules and regulations if discipline is not maintained or enforced strictly. If their mind is not occupied by their teachers in learning activities, it will wander into bad activities. They might even wonder themselves outside class if there is no teacher to watch them.

Like they say, an empty mind is a devil’s workshop.

But it takes a lot of hard work to build a strong canal that keeps the water flowing properly. With a school also it’s the same; there is a lot of hard work that goes into running a school such that the students don’t fall out of line.

Just like the walls of a canal don’t let the water go outside it and guide the water to the field, the discipline in school doesn’t let the students go outside their ethical and moral boundaries and guides them to become good human beings.

Related:   Importance of communication skills for students

To sum it up, we can say that students are like water and discipline in schools is like the walls of a canal. The water if flow well if the walls of the canal are strong and the students will do better in life if the discipline in their schools is strict.

That’s why discipline is really important and plays a great role in students school life.

When students (water) are aligned to the purpose then the future of the country will be great.

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Vijay Sharma

Computer Teacher at Klient Solutech in Shimla. Freelancer on Upwork. Web Designer and Internet Marketer at if you’re looking for any IT related solutions/suggestion/query/answer please contact here

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class development education Importance knowledge learning life personal student teachers


  1. I want a essay on – strictness to the students in the school make them disciplined

    1. Thanks for informing us!

  2. Thank you very much…. It has helped a lot for my assignment and I am also motivated by this essay…..

  3. It is nice to achieve they goals

  4. Only with discipline, anyone can achieve their goals.

  5. I am a teacher and I must say this is an amazing piece of writing. Well, I always advise all my students to lead a disciplined life. Only then they can achieve their goals. I would love to share this with my students. Thanks!

  6. It is good but it doesn’t have any good conclusion


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