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Mr. Pound: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will get no comedy from me todaythis is not a humorous subject. The worst case of a primary school pupil assaulting a teacher was found, on examination, to have behind it the fact that the seven-year-old child involved had been systematically brutalised by his mother and her boyfriend. In fact, the child was simply repeating the behaviour that he had seen that morning. The school was anxious not to exclude the child, even though he had committed a horrendous assault on the teacher. For every terrible case and example that the hon. Gentleman can bring to the Dispatch Box, Members can bring others. Let us try to discuss the generality of the issue, not individual cases.
Mr. Brady: None the less, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. His example supports my pointa head teacher took the appropriate action, identified a problem that ran deeper than the superficial difficulties, and tried to respond in a way that would benefit the child concerned. That is welcome and appropriate, and is the kind of good practice that goes on in schools throughout the country every day. It cannot be appropriate to undermine that through appeals panels and Government guidance. The Government must be clearer and more robust in what they say appeals panels ought to do.
Listening to the hon. Member for Ealing, North, I am tempted to refer to just one other hard case to give a measure of what some heads and teachers around the country are dealing with. I shall not name the school in question, but it is the worst case that I have ever encountered. It has had 13 heads over six years. There have been two shootings and a fatal stabbing outside the school gates in the recent past.
Mr. Brady: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is correct, but I shall not reveal the school's identity. The list of problems goes on, and they are genuine and huge. The Government owe it to parents, teachers and the country to take those problems seriously and to tackle them. Their school discipline policy has been, to date, a massive fraud on the parents of Britain. They have talked tough at every turn, but they always act weakly.
Mr. Brady: I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), is trying to encourage a dialogue between himself and me.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): I had some severe doubts and felt some trepidation about the debate when I realised that it would be on a Friday because, first, I have to be here on a Friday, which is not my favourite time to be here, and secondly, because it would encourage the type of speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), a gentleman of whom we are all rather fond. He is certainly not unpopular in the House. The bulk of his speech was about some horrific cases, but we would like to have much fuller details, such as what the head teacher did and whether there was immediate exclusion after the violence or an appeals panel. He seemed to link a previous case with a case that was reported only last week.
I welcome the Minister to his jobit was nice to hear him make his first speech at the Dispatch Boxbut he is not going to get an easy ride. During the debate, even he fell into the trap a little. Having listened to this debate, which has lasted for more than an hour, one would think that our schools are falling apart because of bad behaviour. That is not the case. This country has successful schools, where pupils learn and get good teaching, and where there is little incidence of poor behaviour. I would love it if Opposition Members would sometimes quote what Ofsted, rather than the Daily Mail, thinks about behaviour. In fact, behaviour is unsatisfactory in only one school in 12, according to Ofsted.
Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): Is it not the point that it takes only one or two children to disrupt a class? The fact that, overall, only one in 12 schools has a behavioral problem does not provide an answer for parents whose children's classes are being disrupted by those one or two children.
According to Ofsted, only one school in 12 has a problem with poor behaviour. Even small incidents of bad behaviourand large ones in the 8 per cent. of schools in which that is a problemcan be incredibly disruptive. All my children have attended state schools and have had problems with their studies because they were sitting close to students who were not keen on the lessons. My children have come home and said, "We had an interesting history lesson, but some people in our class would not let the teacher teach." That is to be deplored.
Mr. Brady: The hon. Gentleman thinks that I went too far in my remarks. Is there not a danger that he is sounding complacent? He refers to a tiny minority of cases and schools. How can that possibly explain the 45 per cent. of teachers leaving the profession, citing pupil behaviour as their main reason for doing so? It is a much more widespread problem than he is prepared to accept.
Mr. Sheerman: If the hon. Gentleman listens to my speech, he will realise that I have great concerns about bad behaviour. I am interested in the ways in which we can interpret and analyse that on the basis of good research, before we bring in policies to try to remedy the situation. There is no doubt that a child's learning will be disrupted when there is bad behaviour in the class.
I have asked consistentlycolleagues may ask why I am asking it againwhat is most important in education and schooling. It is the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. Anything that disrupts that must be deplored.
When I go around schoolsI am not ambulance-chasing hereI hear head after head saying that something happened to the moral standards of this country under Thatcher. There was a moral vacuum; it was a time of "anything goes" materialism and the quick buck. During the Thatcher period moral values seemed to disappear. Something happened in that 18-year period of Conservative rule to undermine all behaviour in all schools, and that is to be deplored. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West ought to visit his schools and speak to some of the older heads who have been around for while about the moral decay of the Thatcher years. I hear about that very often.
There are real problems, and the links to crime are worrying. Statistics from Ofsted and the Home Office show the relationship between poor behaviour and exclusion, and the dreadful cycle of decline into petty crime, more serious crime and prison. What is shameful is our track record of failure in the education of people who are in prison. I am keen that the Select Committee should look at prison education soon, as that subject has only come into our remit since Ofsted was given a role in that matter.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is absolutely right that the figure of 70,000 people in prison for non-violent offences is far too high. We must track back with prisoners to see what their educational experience was. We must learn from thatwhat happened to their education and how and why did that occur?
Family background is very important and we can be too politically correct in this House. I visit schools in my constituency and around the country. What kind of behaviour can we expect from the children of the large number of drug addicts in this country? What kind of behaviour can we expect from the children of those affected by that much more common drug, alcohol? There is disruptive and violent behaviour by parents. What is it like to go to school after a night lying in bed hearing your parents fighting and screaming? What sort of misery does that bring to a child? What chance does a child who has been physically and sexually abused have of an
There was a disruptive child in a school in my constituency. He never went to bed; he fell asleep in an armchair. He stayed up at night, watching pornographic videos with his parents. What sort of behaviour does that teach a child in terms of his fellow pupils and their parents? There are horror stories, but we must remember the background of many children in our country.
The Minister rightly said that bullying in schools was a dangerous form of bad behaviour. One third of all girls and one quarter of all boys are afraid to go to school at some point because of bullying. That figure comes from the Department for Education and Skills website. Whether it is physical, verbal or indirect bullyingpsychological bullying, especially among girls, is very often more damaging than physical bullyingit has a long-lasting effect on people and can result in a loss of confidence and truancy and can adversely affect school achievement, creating a life of misery.
Anti-bullying packs have been sent to all schools and the DFES has produced an excellent website on the theme of "Don't suffer in silence." I do not think that the Minister mentioned that good innovation this morning. Nevertheless, however good these measures are, bullying still occurs far too regularly.
Where I have seen good and well-managed schools, I have seen very little evidence of bullying. The lesson is that good, well-managed schools with consistent policies can, over time, sort out bullying and poor behaviour. We need to tackle the root causes of bullying and other forms of bad behaviour in schools, and we must also support the teaching profession when bullying occurs. How do we begin to improve behaviour? How do we turn bad behaviour into good?
Good behaviour is linked to better attendance rates and better opportunity so that those from deprived backgrounds are not restricted in what they can attain. It is linked also to the wonderful work that the Select Committee has seen on the sure start initiative. The Government are very reluctant to say what the future of sure start is. When the Select Committee considered early years education, we looked at sure start. In terms of breaking the cycle of social deprivation in education, sure start has been extremely successful. It engaged parents, including the pre-birth period involving the pregnant woman and her partner.
We have seen classes promoting the early stimulation of children. We know the importance of playing with, stimulating and massaging the baby. It is important to tell the stories that one assumes every parent in the country knows. I am blessed to have my first grandchild. I got great pleasure only yesterday, seeing her at nine months old, and trying to remembermy wife is much better at itall the nursery rhymes that form part of our heritage and oral tradition.