Poor behaviour in schools can be down to a failure to identify special education needs early enough, says a government adviser. Sir Alan Steer says England's schools need more support in this area and that unlawful informal exclusions of pupils must stop. His report is also expected to call for schools to work with a local police officer to tackle discipline problems. Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said he will accept the recommendations.
Sir Alan Steer's report is the latest in an ongoing review into bad behaviour in schools ordered by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Unofficial or informal exclusions should stop, his report, to be released later, is expected to say. Such exclusions can be particularly harmful to children with special needs, it will state.
He will say he found inconsistency in approach in schools, but also identified some good practice. "It is my view that there are countless examples of exemplary work in our schools," he said. "It is also my view that there is too great a degree of variation of performance and that, were we able to reduce this, the effect on children, teachers and schools would be profound," he said.
He will recommend more partnerships between schools to share resources and information about help for parents. His report is expected to say that behaviour and attendance partnerships between schools have a positive effect on pupil behaviour, and that they should have a clear focus on early intervention. There should be a clear procedure for moving pupils to more suitable schools and a focus on how best to work with the most challenging pupils.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls said he was "committed to helping schools intervene early". "We want to make sure that every child, including those with special educational needs, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and that we intervene early to tackle the barriers to progress so we can keep young people on the right track," he said. "We know there is some excellent work going on in our schools to support children with SEN, but teachers have told me they need help in being able to identify children with SEN earlier and quicker," he added.
Pupils with identified special educational needs are more than nine times as likely to be permanently excluded from schools than other pupils, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. They are more than three times as likely to be persistently absent, the department says. The National Autistic Society welcomed Sir Alan's expected emphasis on identifying children's special needs at an early age. It said that many children with SEN were failed by the school system as a lack of awareness and understanding could mean they were labelled as "badly-behaved".