Although nothing has been confirmed as yet, it’s fair to say that we have now entered a period of unofficial General Election campaigning. And with the new Prime Minister intent on asserting his domestic agenda, accusations of electioneering and election gimmickry have been flying around the political arena from all sides.

There’s no doubt that education will be a key issue in the next General Election, whenever that might be. To be fair, it usually is a big issue anyway; but the impact of almost a decade of austerity on schools, and changes to the funding formula, means that education is likely to be a genuine vote-winner when the nation does go to the polls.

Leaked document reveals new proposals

A leaked DfE document has suggested that the government is preparing to begin a crackdown on poor behaviour in schools with a fresh approach to the problem, essentially advising teachers that they will be able to use ‘reasonable force’ with unruly pupils.

Other new proposals being more mooted are allowing schools to issue same-day detentions and to make it easier to confiscate and ban mobile phones. Some of the more stringent measures will raise a few eyebrows but are obviously designed to appeal to parents concerned that their children’s education is being affected by disruption in lessons.

The leaked DfE paper also focuses on giving headteachers further powers to exclude unruly pupils and comes hot on the heels of a previous announcement from the DfE of a £10million new initiative to tackle poor behaviour in over 500 schools. This will involve setting up a network of ‘expert schools’ to support other schools to tackle poor behaviour and develop strategies to handle disruption.

Are the proposals short-sighted and gimmicky?

Critics will claim that the new hard-line approach to poor behaviour is nothing more than an election gimmick and that he government just wants to be seen to be ‘talking tough’. Of course, many parents will like what they hear. Indeed, poor behaviour is always cited as one of the main reasons why teachers decide to leave the profession. Because of this, there is bound to be some support in schools for the new proposals.

However, there are already concerns about the wider impact on society of the number of excluded pupils. There are questions about the quality of provision that is currently offered for such young people. Many community leaders have made a link between pupils who are excluded from schools and membership of gangs. Therefore, many people are concerned that excluding pupils merely shifts the problem – it doesn’t remove it.

Other new proposals for education

The government is considering a range of other new proposals for schools. These include a provision for a 3% pay increase for 2020/2021, and raising teacher starting salaries from £25,000 to £30,000 by 2022.

With an election imminent, we are likely to be hearing a variety of pledges about education from all political parties anytime soon.

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