Zero-tolerance schools should be 'unreservedly celebrated', says MP

A teacher-turned-MP said schools with zero-tolerance behaviour policies should be “unreservedly celebrated” for ensuring staff aren’t “treated as punch bags”.

In a Westminster Hall debate on exclusions yesterday, Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, dismissed concerns schools were on a “exclusions spree”.

If we do not have zero-tolerance policies or exclusions, where is the protection for our teachers

He even said he’d witnessed headteachers keep children that should have been excluded in internal exclusion for fear of “triggering an Ofsted inspection and breeding further stresses for teachers, pupils and parents”.

The debate was moved by Labour MP for Croydon Central Sarah Jones, who said increasing numbers of school exclusions was “one element of inequality in society that is moving in the wrong direction”.

Gullis, who was a teacher for eight years before becoming an MP at the recent election, said: “There is not some excluding spree going on; it is not a decision taken lightly.”

“We should unreservedly celebrate schools with high expectations and zero-tolerance policies,” he added. “We should follow the example set by Michaela Community School, in Brent, and Magna Academy, in Poole, both of which have excellent Ofsted ratings, excellent results and the highest standards of behaviour.”

He said such policies protect teachers from being “treated like a punch-bag”.

“Policies and laws are in place to protect our police, emergency workers, nurses and so on. If we do not have zero-tolerance policies or exclusions, where is the protection for our teachers?”

He also said there’s a culture in schools “that means we must try to find an excuse for poor behaviour of young people”.

“It is time we start to back our teachers, not run them down. It is forgotten far too easily that teachers spend the vast majority of their time and energy to help and support the 2 per cent to 3 per cent who display poor behavioural discipline, neglecting for large portions of the school day those pupils who behave correctly and simply want to learn.”

Edward Timpson, the Conservative MP for Eddisbury and former children’s minister, also used the debate to challenge the government to accelerate implementation of the recommendations of his review into exclusions.

Timpson asked when work on the accountability of excluded children will be “stepped up and shared outside the Department for Education”.

He also asked when a promised consultation on reducing the upper-limit of fixed-term exclusions will happen and for more information around plans, revealed by Schools Week, for large academy trusts to open their own AP.

On accountability of excluded pupils, the schools minister Nick Gibb said expectations for pupils in AP “have not been high enough in the past”.

“As part of our drive to improve quality across the AP sector, we will consider how we can better assess performance and strengthen accountability for pupils in AP. We will have more to say on that in due course.”