Write to schools about their behaviour policies, Children's Commissioner tells DfE

The Children’s Commissioner wants to write a letter to all schools reminding leaders that behaviour policies must respect children’s rights, after hearing an example which labelled quiet pupils as “not that bright”.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told MPs in a parliamentary committee this morning that intended to call for action from the Department for Education on school behaviour policies that “don’t have regard to children’s own needs”.

She was responding to questions from Emma Hardy (pictured), a Labour MP and former National Union of Teachers activist, who read out one school behaviour policy which states that pupils who talk quietly or with their heads down, eyes averted or hands over their mouth “come across as lacking in confidence, immature and not even that bright”.

It’s something I will recommend to the DfE and would also be very happy to co-author as well

The policy also says that “little baby voices that no-one can hear waste everyone’s time” and demands pupils have “confident, professional projection”,

The MP claimed the policy violates the UN convention on the rights of the child – and Longfield agreed.

Article 28 of the convention states that governments should take “all appropriate measures” to ensure school discipline is administered in a manner “consistent with the child’s human dignity”.

Longfield said she would take up Hardy’s suggestion that schools be reminded of their duty to consider those rights when writing behaviour policies.

“I think that is a very strong idea, very good idea,” she said. “It’s something I will recommend to the DfE”.

Longfield said she would be willing to co-author the letter along with government officials.

The children’s commissioner also expressed wider concerns about exclusions, warning that schools are increasingly “gaming the system” by off-rolling certain pupils into alternative provision or home education to improve their results.

These pupils were often “encouraged to leave” because of behaviour problems, rather than officially excluded, she said.

“We are in a position at the moment of seeing children wholesale moving out of schools, especially those with special educational needs. There will always be children who need specialist provision, but I think at the moment this is something which seems to be benefiting schools more than the best interests of children.

Longfield called for schools to remain responsible for pupils placed into alternative provision.