For the first time ever, staff in English state schools will have the power to be able to search pupils without consent for any banned item they believe could be used to disrupt lessons, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.
In the past, teachers could only search for objects that they deemed dangerous – weapons, drugs, alcohol and stolen goods. But the Education Act 2011 was granted Royal Assent this week and will allow them to frisk pupils and search bags or lockers for equipment such as mobile phones, iPods, iPads, MP3 players and other electronic gadgets.
The new legislation will also give staff the power to look for legal highs, pornography, cigarettes and fireworks – without infringing on students' legal rights.
The Act will also abolish the current requirement for at least 24 hours' warning for detentions. Before, children could only be kept behind at the end of the school day given enough notice was issued. Now, in an attempt to establish a more direct link between bad behavior and related punishments, no notice is required.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said:
"This new legislation hands to teachers all the powers they need to ensure that every classroom is a safe and ordered place where children are free to learn.
"We are determined to deliver for parents the type of schools they want for their children and this new Education Act is an important part of this program."
Education Secretary Michael Gove says the changes will cut bureaucracy and give teachers the power to "restore order to the classroom", writes Angela Harrison at the BBC.
But critics have accused the government of "going back to the 1950s".
The new rules enacted in the Education Act include:
- Increased search powers for heads – to include pornography and mobile telephones and any items banned by schools
- The removal of the power of appeal panels to force schools to re-instate pupils they have expelled
- The granting of anonymity to teachers who have been accused of misconduct by pupils
- The extension of heads' powers to discipline pupils if they misbehave on the way to or from school
- The granting of the power to schools to impose a detention without giving 24-hours' notice
Mr Gove said:
"Under the last government, thousands of great people left the teaching profession because behavior was out of control and they were forced to spend far too much time on paperwork.
"That's why we're taking action to restore discipline and reduce bureaucracy," he said.
"Teachers will be free to impose the penalties they need to keep order, and free from the red tape which swallows up teaching time, so they can get on with their first duty – raising standards."