Prime minister warns of benefit cuts over truanting

9 Sep 11
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned parents whose children regularly truant from schools that they could face cuts to their benefits
By Richard Johnstone | 9 September 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned parents whose children regularly play truant from schools that they could face cuts to their benefits.

In a speech at the opening of a new free school in Norwich, Cameron said that parents need to face ‘real consequences’ if their children continually misbehave.

The government’s social policy review, announced after the riots in England last month, will now examine if benefit cuts should be introduced. Cameron said that ‘tough measure’ could help restore ‘order and respect in the classroom’.

Arguing that discipline and rigour were needed to mend a ‘broken society’, Cameron said: ‘I don’t want ideas like this to be off the table.’

Speaking at the launch of one of 24 free schools opening in the new school term, Cameron said the coalition government wanted to ‘create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure’.

He outlined that the government will make it easier for head teachers to sack poor teachers, saying that the there will be ‘no more excuses’ for failing schools.

‘We are being more honest about what constitutes a failing school, and more radical in the way we deal with them.’

Schools will be deemed to be failing if less than half of pupils fail to get five GCSE passes, up from the 30% threshold of the previous government. If improvement plans don’t work, these schools could then be taken over by head teachers of local academies or even private schools.

The prime minister said these changes form part of plans to give parents more choice in education, so that schools face a ‘real and permanent pressure’ to improve.

‘Instead of parents having to take what they are given, we are giving them real choice in where their child goes to school, and backing that decision with state money, with an extra payment for those from the poorest backgrounds.

Added to this choice and freedom, we are also bringing in the dynamic of competition. This is what our free schools revolution is all about.’

He added that opponents of free schools, which include teaching unions, are ‘simply defending the establishment that has failed pupils and infuriated parents for too long’.

Responding to the speech, the National Union of Teachers said that free schools will ‘fragment’ the education system in England.

Calling the policy a ‘divisive and unnecessary experiment’, general secretary Christine Blower added that the new threshold for failing schools would ‘impose yet more draconian targets on schools that will further stifle the education system in this country’.


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