British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be meeting with educators next Wednesday in order to see if something can be done to address the chronic problem of poor student discipline in government-operated schools: (emphasis added)
Ahead of a meeting with educationalists on Wednesday, the prime minister suggested that children who are suspended from school take part in community service.Once again, I find myself impressed with the willingness of Prime Minister Blair to personally take-on tough problems, and foster meaningful discussion. Even the opposition is talking about how to confront the problem of poorly behaving students!
In a letter to Sir Alan Steer, head of a taskforce on pupil behavior, Blair says that suspensions are "a crucial sanction for head teachers" but they should be made more of a punishment.
"Should we legally require suspended students to stay at home, accompanied by a parent, rather than allowing them freely to cause a nuisance on the streets or in shopping centres?" he wrote.
Ministers believe school discipline is essential if standards are to be raised and the wider problem of anti-social behavior is to be brought under control.
The government also wants to see parents taking more control and responsibility for the behavior of their children.
Commenting on the plans, Ruth Kelly said: "What we've now got to do is restore the link between parents and their children's behaviour in school."
The education secretary said the public would back the government's new drive.
"Everyone knows parents are responsible for their children's behaviour out of school," she told the BBC.
"I think most of your listeners and viewers would think it pretty common sense that, where a child is suspended from school, that they don't regard it as some sort of unofficial holiday where they can go down to the shopping centre and create havoc.
"That actually a parent should take responsibility for that and make sure it's at home and indeed to make sure that child is learning, if there's work set by the school."
However shadow education secretary David Cameron said the focus should be on giving schools more powers on exclusions and the ability to enforce home-school contracts. "The fact is that when it comes to schools, we have a shared responsibility," he said.
"We are all in it together - teachers, parents, pupils and politicians.
"The government's responsibility is to put their own house in order and give teachers the powers they need.
As a classroom teacher who teaches kids every school day, I wish that President Bush would take a leading role in addressing the sorry state of student discipline that is to be found in schools all over the United States. But instead of the President discussing the issue, all we get is Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings whose very first acts after taking office in late January involved confronting the "Evil Powers" who were behind cartoon rabbit Buster Baxter's journey to Vermont.
Secretary Spellings doesn't hesitate to take the schools to task when they're "underperforming" but when it comes to student and parent accountability, the Secretary has nothing to say.
We've stated the obvious before, and we will keep on stating it: The establishment of a safe, secure, nurturing, and orderly learning environment for all children is an absolutely essential component of any meaningful educational reform.
Parents and students must also be held accountable for "doing their part" if the our nation's public schools are to have any chance of accomplishing President Bush's goal of "Leaving no child behind."
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