LBC radio's Nick Ferrari grills Government minister over Millfield School's policy of excluding pupils who forget pens

A senior government minister has been grilled on national radio over a Lancashire school’s disciplinary policy on excluding pupils who forget to bring pens and rulers to class.

By Matthew Calderbank
Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:12 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:42 pm

LBC Breakfast host Nick Ferrari quizzed School Standards Minister Robin Walker about Millfield School in Thornton when he took to the airwaves this morning (Friday, June 10).

Yesterday, the Gazette revealed that the school was excluding children who attend class without a pen, pencil or ruler. The policy provoked the fury of some parents who deemed the punishment ‘too harsh’ and ‘excessive’.

Millfield’s headteacher Nicola Regan has already defended her school’s discipline policy, saying “the rules help to prepare students for the responsibilities of life after school”.

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Today, with the Government Schools Minister in the hot seat, Nick Ferrari pressed him on the controversial policy, asking “Is it too draconian?”

Skip to 8:40 in the video for the debate about Millfield School.

While Mr Walker hadn’t yet heard about the story, he said “we don't want to see unnecessary exclusions from schools” and pledged to "look into" the disciplinary measures at Millfield.

Mr Ferrari said: "Staying with schools, I would imagine you're a fan of discipline. Can I take you to the Millfield High School in Thornton in Lancashire?

LBC’s Nick Ferrari grilled Robin Walker, Minister of State for School Standards, on his Breakfast show this morning (Friday, June 10). Credit: LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast

"I don't expect you to know about this story, so I will tell you about it. Where the rules are, every pupil must have two pens, a pencil and a ruler in their pencil case.

"If they forget twice in a week, they face detention. Three times leads to a fixed term exclusion. Many of the parents are furious.

"One little girl, in fact, her father has said that this is a first strike on her education career and it's not fair. Is it too draconian?”

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Robin Walker, Minister of State for School Standards discussing Millfield School in Thornton on today's LBC Breakfast show with Nick Ferrari. Credit: LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast

Mr Walker replied: "I haven't seen the detail and I will look into the detail, understand the nature of the sanctions that they're talking about. But I was actually at a school just yesterday, which was looking at a system of support for good behaviour and reinforcing that, which included having the right equipment at the beginning of every lesson.

"And I think it's right, but what we should be doing with schools is trying to support them and create cultures of good behaviour, explaining to children in those schools why behaviour matters, why getting things right is important and having the right equipment for lessons is important, so that it doesn't disrupt lessons, but doing it in a constructive way.

"And this shouldn't be about detentions and penalising people unnecessarily. Clearly, we don't want to see unnecessary exclusions from schools, but what we actually see is where schools get their behaviour policies right and create a good, stronger culture of behaviour, exclusions can be reduced.

"And by introducing a rigorous but reasonable behaviour policy, and one that engages both with children and parents, they were able to turn around the culture of behaviour and do it in a supportive way.

Millfield High School in Thornton

"It's good for pupils. It's good for teachers, where we can do that, and it's right that schools should work with their parents and their parental body to ensure that any concerns are addressed."