Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Concerns voiced over restrictions to search powers

Restrictions to proposed new powers to search are likely to mean that it is impracticable for schools to use them, ASCL has warned Minister Jim Knight in a letter in March.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill going through Parliament contains powers to search pupils' belongings and outer clothing for drugs and stolen property as well as for offensive weapons, using reasonable force if necessary.

However the government is proposing restrictions in the bill that two staff of the same sex must be present when a student is searched. ASCL has clearly pointed out - both to Jim Knight and to the committee working on the bill - that this would make many searches impossible, especially on school trips.

Another clause states that a student must be present when his/her belongings are searched. ASCL has argued that this should not apply to desks or lockers, which would severely compromise the ability to conduct wide-scale searches.

The letter to Jim Knight said: "Our concern is that these provisions, far from giving schools enhanced powers, will in fact take away powers that schools already have. This will make the running of safe and orderly schools more difficult.

"We are also concerned that if searches become impracticable schools will turn quickly to the police. We are already seeing an increasing tendency by schools to involve the police in what would have once been seen as matters of school discipline.

"Schools will only hold off from criminalising in-school behaviour if they have adequate powers to detect bad behaviour and discipline those guilty of it."

ASCL raised these concerns and others regarding the ASCL Bill when officers met with the team working on the bill in early March.

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