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Michael Fabricant: I am encouraged to ask the Minister whether he is aware of bullying that goes on in Scotland against English pupils there whose parents have moved to Scotland to work? Does he agree that that is also a deplorable form of bullying?
Let me focus briefly today on homophobic bullying. A survey in 199697 showed that only about 6 per cent. of schools referred specifically to homophobic bullying in their written anti-bullying policies. Such policies are now a legal requirement, and I fervently hope that more of those policies in schools will acknowledge homophobic bullying and set out how it should be tackled. That is very important not only in dealing with a serious problem but in helping those who suffer homophobic bullying to overcome any reluctance to report it. For too long, this form of bullying has not been given the priority that it deserves. I want it to be addressed in a sensible and sensitive way in our schools.
The trauma caused by homophobic bullyingwhether the pupil is gay or straight, or whether the pupil knows what their sexuality will becan have a huge impact on learning and emotional development. Many callers to Childline report feeling suicidal because of the homophobic bullying that they are facing. However, there are many examples of good practice to draw on.
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): I am delighted that the Minister is including homophobic bullying in his speech opening the debate. Will he also address the problem of homophobic bullying of teachers? That is a very real issue. Is he aware that section 69 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 contains an open agenda for the homophobic bullying of teachers in single-faith schools where, because homosexuality is not an accepted part of a particular faith, it could be a reason for a teacher to be sacked or not to be employed at that school? Will the Minister give an undertaking to look into the matter and to issue guidance?
I am pleased to say that there are some positive examples of good work that is being undertaken to tackle bullying and discrimination against pupils and also against teachers. I put on record a tribute to the teaching unions, which have been in the vanguard of work on the issue, even when it was much less easy for people to speak about it, and to the Stonewall group.
I should like to cite an innovative projectthe Bolton homophobic bullying forum, which uses various methods, such as staff awareness training, follow-up work in personal, social and health education lessons, and theatre work to target homophobic bullying in its pilot schools. I am pleased to pay tribute to that excellent work in Bolton and in some other schools. I want to work with schools generally to make such initiatives the norm, rather than the exception.
Naturally, we all want to do all that can be done to persuade schools and others that all forms of bullying need to be tackled decisively, and not swept under the carpet. I hope that as many schools as possible will obtain a copy of our new anti-bullying pack when it is launched in the autumn. All of that highlights the need to deal with behavioural problems before they adversely affect other pupils.
We have invested significant amounts of money to improve behaviour and to deal with those issues. More than £600 million has been made available through the standards fund to tackle bad behaviour and truancy. Last year, £163 million was allocated to tackle truancy and exclusions.
More than 1,000 learning support units are helping to prevent disruption to mainstream classes by providing separate short-term teaching and support for disruptive pupils at risk of exclusion. Such units can have a profound effect by helping challenging pupils to improve their behaviour. We recently published good practice guidance based on the experiences of the best learning support units so that they can extend their influence, as in-school centres of excellence in behaviour management, to helping teachers in the classroom with advice on behaviour improvement strategies that really work.
Under the excellence in cities programme, 3,500 learning mentors are developing one-to-one relationships with children who need extra support, as a result of which pupils can be kept in school and working while their behaviour problems are tackled.
I pay tribute to the work done by the Connexions service, working closely with pupils over the age of 13. Connexions is now up and running in half of England, and will go national next year. More than 2,000 personal advisers are already in post, with a large proportion based in schools, helping pupils to raise their aspirations and motivation, and working with them to tackle issues and barriers that could lead to poor behaviour, truancy, exclusion, and on to crime. Excellent work is being done in many schools and I am delighted that it is being extended.
More than 330 pupil referral units have been set up for children who need additional support and whose problems cannot easily be tackled in school. They deal with children who have been excluded or who are simply not managing in mainstream classes, and they are successfully
Simply targeting the pupils who are posing the problems is not the most effective way of raising standards of behaviour. We must lay the foundations of promoting good behaviour in the classroom. That does not just mean good classroom management, although that is important; it means giving interesting lessons that capture and hold pupils' attention, and teaching styles that engage in order to encourage pupils to stay in school in the first place. We are working through the key stage 3 strategy to ensure that the pace and quality of lessons improve, so that children are keen to learn.
More widely, we are encouraging schools to develop far greater engagement of their pupils, so that schools become places where children want to be. Some schools offer activities such as arts, sports and voluntary learning activities for pupils before and after school and in the holidays. Evidence shows that those activities help pupils to gain new skills and increase their confidence, and that their behaviour and attitude to learning improve.
Michael Fabricant: I am grateful to the Minister for generously giving way to me a third time. I totally agree with what he says about morning and evening clubs, but does he appreciate that many teachers nowadays feel unable to do such extra-curricular activities because they are bombarded by the Department with more and more paperwork and obligations which take up time outside teaching? Would not a little less bombardment from his office and a few more of the sort of clubs to which he has just referred be a better option?
Mr. Twigg: We are well aware of the concerns about work load and bureaucracy, and the Department has made the reduction of that a priority. Many of those activities do not directly involve teachers; sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. We are not in the business of imposing new burdens on teachers; we are in the business of making the best use of our schools and giving those opportunities to young people.
Through personal, social and health education and citizenship classes, children can learn to appreciate the effect of their actions on their own lives and the lives of others. They can learn to understand the difference between right and wrong and the fact that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, and to consider their behaviour both in and beyond the classroom towards those in authority and each other.
We are also keen, on a cross-government basis, to promote opportunities for young people to speak up for themselves. We are keen to encourage school councils in every schoolthey have a real ability to have an influence within the schoolsand a role for young people within some of the governing bodies of our schools, giving young people a chance to have their voice heard.
Those are just some of the existing general initiatives, but we are not resting on our laurels. In the Chancellor's Budget statement this year, £66 million was given to the Department for a programme for behaviour improvement.
Local education authorities can pick the measures that complement their existing provision from a range that includes learning support units, additional support staff and e-registration. All children at risk of truancy or exclusion will have a named key worker with whom to work. We have also set those LEAs the challenge of providing full-time supervised education from day one of temporary or permanent exclusion in schools involved in the programmehundreds of schools throughout those 34 LEAs. Plans include in-school and out-of-school provision and, in some cases, working with external providers.
All the LEAs involved will be working with the police on that project, building on existing police involvement in schools that has previously been primarily a teaching role or in citizenship education. A police presence in schools will help to reduce victimisation, criminality and antisocial behaviour within the school and its community. I know that there are sensitivities about police being placed in schools and I pay tribute to the positive developments taking place in many schools, which involve them working with the police and local education authorities to ensure that we tackle criminality in and around our schools.
We know that the earlier a behavioural problem manifests itself, the more serious it will become and the more expensive it will be to remedy. The diverse causes of behavioural problems can result in a range of piecemeal, short-term interventions that do not present long-lasting solutions. That is why we are encouraging LEAs to develop behaviour and education support teams with part of their behaviour improvement programme funding.
Each team will contain four to five professionals, who between them have a complementary mix of education, social and health skills to meet the many needs of children, young people and their parents. The aim of the BESTs is to offer intensive support, using key workers, to young people aged five to 13 who show signs of emotional or behavioural problems, and to their parents, providing an over-arching service.
We have not just plucked the idea out of thin air. It builds on existing schemes, the evaluation of which has shown the many benefits of agencies working together with young people to deliver results. The evaluation that I have seen showed that teachers gained greater confidence in their ability to manage challenging behaviour and felt that they had acquired more strategies for working with difficult pupils.
We are also working on removing one of the root causes of truancy and poor behaviour: the boredom and alienation that is felt by many young people in respect of the traditional curriculum. The Green Paper "14-19: Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards" proposes
However, good behaviour in individual classrooms is not enough. To ensure consistency, schools need to adopt a whole-school approach. Strategies that set the tone on behaviour issues, such as anti-bullying and discipline policies, pupil and community involvement and behaviour audits, are very important in providing a consistent approach. That is why we are working hard to ensure that schools have the confidence that they need to develop those whole-school approaches to promoting good behaviour and to develop and maintain positive learning environments for all children and have access to additional support for children who are experiencing problems.
We are currently designing comprehensive training materials for classroom teachers and developing the role of the lead behaviour professionals. Their role will be to take the lead on all aspects of behaviour in the school by training and supporting their peers and colleagues in the classroom and around the school, and in turn receiving ongoing mentoring support themselves. We are also responding to the strong requests from school staff for support in improving their skills in behaviour management. For example, we are providing such support in the programmes for continuing professional development for senior staff, some of the new leadership programmes and qualifications, the new "Leading from the Middle" programme for middle managers and the programmes for teaching assistants and trainee teachers, all of which now involve training in behaviour management techniques.
Of course, that is not all that is involved if we are to improve behaviour. Children are in school for a significant amount of their time, but school is only part of their life as they grow up. Schools cannot be expected to take the entire responsibility for improving behaviour and raising standards. This is an issue that the wider community needs to tackle. In particular, we need to tackle it with the help of parents, whose participation is vital to our success in this behaviour project.
Greater parental involvement is surely one of the benefits that is to be gained from extended schools. We are encouraging more schools to consider extending the services that are offered on the school site to benefit not only pupils but their families and the wider community. New services could include health and social care, child care, community learning opportunities, information and communications technology and sports facilities.
Through the provision of easy-to-access services, schools can forge better links with parents and encourage them to become actively involved in their child's education. The provision of other services on the school site can help pupils and families to deal with any problems that can contribute to poor behaviour. Schools that maintain and develop strong links with parents and the wider community can share responsibility for children's behaviour and their emotional and social well-being.
We are also emphasising parents' responsibilities towards their children by, for example, challenging the attitudes of those who condone their children's absence from school and extending the use of parenting orders to emphasise the importance of those responsibilities. The truancy sweeps that were conducted in May, focusing on the 34 local education authorities to which I referred, sent out a very strong message both locally and nationally that trivial excuses for missing school are unacceptable. Last week, we launched a new toolkit for schools on dealing with abusive or violent adultsoften parentsto ensure that schools are aware of the legal avenues that are open to them in such cases, as well as to reinforce the fact that such action is intolerable. Of course, the vast majority of parents are not abusive or violent, but the clear message to those who are is one of zero tolerance.
We want to create a culture in schools that supports the emotional well-being of children and staff. I believe that the measures to which I have briefly referred will help us to accomplish that aim. They will help to ensure that improvements in achievement and behaviour are ongoing and nationwide, and that children who are at risk of developing behavioural problems will be helped within a supportive framework. Our main objective is to safeguard the interests of all children and to ensure that they have the chance to achieve their full potential by making sure that their educational options are not limited by their own poor behaviour or that of others.
As I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House will know, in many communities it is the behaviour of pupils when arriving at and leaving school that determines the local perception of what that school is like. In turn, that local perception, which is shaped by the behaviour of pupils at school, can determine the views of local parents in making choices about which school they would prefer for their own children. For many schoolsespecially some of those in challenging circumstancesbehaviour policy is therefore absolutely central to school improvement.
In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of schools to speak to pupils, staff, governors and parents. It is absolutely clear that behaviour is a key concern in all those groups, whether it means that pupils are living in fear of being bullied, members of staff are considering quitting the profession because of the pressure or parents feeling that they have no ability to choose to send their children to the local school because of the behaviour that they see at the local bus stop. I want to work with schools, young people and local education authorities to promote good behaviour. I hope that today's debate can play a positive part in this very important area of work to promote the best behaviour in all our schools.