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Mr. Pound: "Absolutely Fabulous".

Mr. Willis: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

There is a relish and glorification in the appalling behaviour depicted in those programmes, but in schools such behaviour is out of order. We now have a laddish culture on our streets. There was an appalling report of City brokers—highly educated young men and, I presume, young women—who trawl the sex bars of London and regard that as normal behaviour. They are as heavily involved in the drug culture as are the youth on our streets. Let us not simply think that the only people involved in the drug problem are youngsters in poor communities. That is nonsense and we must understand that.

It also horrifies me that the behaviour of footballers such as the two from Leeds United has been glorified. The club, which I support and have supported for many years, should have set an example by condemning such behaviour.

There is no doubt that discipline in schools is becoming worse and more polarised, as is evident from the number of exclusions, up 11 per cent. between 1999–2000 and 2000–01. I think that the Minister will accept that it was a gross mistake for the previous Secretary of State to have issued a target to reduce exclusions—that was a nonsense of a policy. Schools supported that, but discipline and heads' authority in schools was undermined.

The House should know that the greatest rise in permanent exclusions occurred under the previous Conservative Government. Between 1993 and 1998, permanent exclusions rose from 3,000 to 13,000, an increase of more than 400 per cent. Let us not give the impression, as Conservative Front Benchers sometimes do, that those exclusions are the result of the failure of this Government and of schools. They have been rising for many years, and that is something with which all of us, irrespective of our political persuasions, must deal.

The Keele university study has been referred to and I shall not repeat the statistics, but it was interesting because each year between 5,000 and 10,000 young people are interviewed about their attitudes. Poor behaviour in schools is creating a culture where it is de rigueur not to work and engage in the curriculum and in what the school wishes to achieve on behalf of young people. It is an increasingly worrying trend. The peer pressure is not to work and to fool around and to be one of the crowd. We must get to grips with that.

The NUT-Warwick university study produced some appalling statistics, to which it is right to draw attention, on the effect of poor behaviour on teachers and on what they have to put up with. If we want to support our teachers and schools, the Government must address such key issues head on. They must recognise the reality of working in a classroom and accept that every new initiative that is thrust down from on high, in relation to which teachers must perform like performing monkeys, undermines what they should be doing: tackling the relationships in a school. That is what they often cannot do.

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I am pleased that Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools, referred in two of his last reports to the deterioration of pupil behaviour. The problem might affect only one in 12 schools, but that is an enormous number. The consequence is that teachers want out, which is a problem for us all, but in many ways the real problem is that many of our youngsters cannot engage with the education process, as they cannot learn in a disruptive environment—a matter on which I am sure the whole House can unite.

I want now to turn to the analysis of the youngsters who are causing disruption in our schools—especially those who are being permanently excluded—and whether we can learn any lessons from it. On breaking down the statistics, we see that 83 per cent. of youngsters who were permanently excluded last year were boys, so it is significantly a boys' problem. Some 61 per cent. of those boys were aged 13, 14 or 15. There is an immediate challenge for the Government to consider what is happening to boys with challenging behaviour. The Government need to ask what is being taught and what they are doing in relation to the curriculum to say to those boys that it is far better to mess about, be permanently excluded and get out of the system than to engage with schools.

More worrying is the fact that children with special educational needs are seven times more likely than any other child to be excluded from school. Those with emotional and behavioural needs are especially affected. I applaud both the previous and the current Governments for the work that they have done in respect of special educational needs—a comment that I frequently make in the House, as that work is a credit to those on both sides of the Chamber—but we have not got it right. We now have an inclusion policy that I support with all my heart, but we are finding that the children whom we are including, who have emotional and behavioural difficulties, are the very ones who are being turfed out because schools cannot handle them and do not have the strategies to enable them to do so. One cannot teach these youngsters in groups of 30 or 35; it is just not possible for a teacher to engage with them in such circumstances. That is a lesson that the Government must try to learn.

Before the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) became so excited that he had to leave the Chamber, he mentioned the ethnic minority issue, but I was hoping that he would go a little further. It is all right to say that there are problems in engaging with young people from ethnic minorities who speak another language, but it is utterly wrong to say that children from such backgrounds do not want to learn English. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that that is the case. I accept that such evidence exists in respect of parents, although it applies to a very small number of them, but the children have a thirst to learn English. The fact that most of those youngsters are bilingual—indeed, some are trilingual—is a huge compliment to them.

The ethnic minority group that poses a real problem is Afro-Caribbeans. The expulsion rate of Afro-Caribbean youngsters is 38 in every 10,000 children, making them the largest ethnic group of youngsters who are being permanently excluded. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) recently made a number of very challenging statements to the Government in asking how we should deal with black students, but I do not believe that they engaged with her comments. It is

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not that the Afro-Caribbean community does not want its kids not to be educated or involved in society, but that the schooling system that we are offering and the culture in many of our schools is totally alien to its youngsters. We have got to address some of those problems.

Michael Fabricant: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on raising that point. There is a genuine problem with some of the ethnic groups in our society. Some perform far better than white caucasians, but the problems must be tackled. So many Members of Parliament and others, even the Government, do not deal with them because of the tyranny of political correctness.

Mr. Willis: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman made that intervention because I was trying to make an important point about analysing the problem, not suggesting simple solutions. We have all failed to tackle the problem in the past. That includes previous Conservative Governments. It is now time to act.

I want to consider in more detail the youngsters who are being turfed out of our schools and permanently excluded. Evidence from the Youth Justice cohort study in 2002 was published in March this year. It showed that permanently excluded students were less likely than school pupils to live in a two-parent household—47 per cent., compared with 79 per cent. Permanently excluded students are far more likely to live in a single-parent household; 40 per cent. are in that category. Thirteen per cent. of such students live in a household with no parent or step-parent; many are in care. It is a major problem that many of our most disadvantaged youngsters, who are in care, are more likely to be excluded.

We must acknowledge that excluded children are often concentrated in specific sorts of schools in particular sorts of communities. We often discuss grammar schools, but I point out to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West that such children do not come from grammar schools; 84 per cent. come from community schools, where the number of pupils who receive free school meals is three times higher than the average. They come from schools where twice as many pupils as the average are on the SEN register and have statements, and from schools that have three times the average level of unauthorised absences. Such schools have three times the average number of permanently excluded pupils.

Although we must consider specific categories of schools, we should tackle one issue perhaps above all others. I say that while acknowledging that the Minister has a genuine feel for young people and the circumstances that we are discussing. I have met many disruptive youngsters, but I have not met any who did not hate themselves more than the people against whom their behaviour was directed. They have an appalling self-image. That applies increasingly to many ethnic minority communities. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) referred to that at the weekend. There is a major problem of self-image and the way in which society perceives those students. Unless we can make young people feel good about themselves, they will not engage with education, society or end their offending or disruptive behaviour. Who is to blame?

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