Bestrijden van storend gedrag van leerlingen in klas, van allerlei disciplineproblemen is een prioriteit in onderwijs- en GOK-beleid & onderwijsonderzoek in Engeland - maar nog niet in Vlaanderen
It Just Grinds You Down
Persistent disruptive behaviour in schools and what can be done about it : higher disciplinary standards and robust enforcement of behavioural codes are vital to educational success, particularly for pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds
Vooraf: Het ministerie van onderwijs in Engeland besteedde de voorbije jaren heel veel aandacht aan het bestrijden van storend gedrag van leerlingen en aan de discipline in klas. In Vlaanderen is er al te weinig aandacht voor die problematiek. We need a cultural shift where high standards of behaviour are assumed to be the norm and, for teachers, discussing behaviour management is considered a professional responsibility rather than a source of failure. Our research shows that parents, pupils and teachers all want a school environment in which all pupils are expected to behave, are challenged and sanctioned when they do not. "
The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said: Poor behaviour disrupts both learning and teaching, often most keenly affecting disadvantaged young people.
Ensuring children behave well in schools is essential. Most fundamentally, good behaviour is necessary to protect the safety of all in a school community. Beyond this, good behaviour is vital for pupils to engage with education, a schools key purpose. Good behaviour may also be considered an end in itself: self-discipline and the ability to concentrate and work constructively with others are important qualities in their own right. Successive governments have made tackling misbehaviour a key priority.
In 2011, new guidance for teachers on behaviour and discipline in schools was issued.1 Most recently, Tom Bennetts 2017 independent review of behaviour in schools was published by the Department for Education with a government response.2 We recognise that behaviour is a key concern for teachers of even the very youngest pupils and in all school-types. However, our focus here is exclusively on secondary schools. This report evaluates what has changed in secondary schools since the 2011 guidance for teachers was published.
The focus on improving behaviour in schools has had some degree of success.
The evidence gathered in this report suggests that incidents of pupils engaging in violent, criminal or dangerous behaviour such as fighting, smoking or taking drugs in school are relatively rare.
Rates of persistent absence have fallen substantially since 2011.4 However, as our report shows, there is clearly room for schools to go much further, especially in tackling the persistent classroom disruption that damages the capacity for pupils to learn and teachers to teach.
Persistent disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools - accounting for 2,755 (35.7%) of all permanent exclusions in 2016/17.5 To this end, we welcome Education Secretary Damian Hinds recent emphasis on the importance of freeing pupils and teachers from lowlevel disruption so they can focus on learning and teaching as well as his announcement of the first substantial review of government behaviour guidance in over three years.6
Disruptive behaviour includes arriving late for lessons, talking at the same time as a teacher, inappropriate use of mobile phones, chewing gum or not doing the work set. Single incidents of disruption may appear low level or even trivial. However, when disruption occurs frequently, its cumulative impact presents a serious problem: it can significantly interrupt the process of teaching and learning. Although many teachers, parents and pupils are unhappy about the nature and impact of disorder within schools, such disruption can become accepted as inevitable.
It Just Grinds You Down
As we outline here, there now appears to be a greater consensus than ever before among school leaders, teachers, parents and pupils that higher disciplinary standards and robust enforcement of behavioural codes are vital to educational success, particularly for pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Using evidence drawn from the polling of parents, pupils, teachers and the wider public, as well as focus groups, paired interviews and triad discussions with pupils, parents and teachers, this report concludes:
Persistent disruption in Englands schools is a serious problem. Three quarters of teachers say they commonly experience disruption in their own school. Persistent disruption has a negative impact on teaching and learning. A majority of teachers think the quality of childrens education is affected by disrupted lessons. Persistent disruption has a negative impact of teacher retention. Almost two-thirds of teachers are currently, or have previously, considered leaving the profession because of poor pupil behaviour. Persistent disruption has a negative impact on teacher recruitment. Almost three-quarters of the teachers we polled agreed that potential teachers are being put off joining the profession by the fear of becoming victim to poor behaviour from pupils. Teachers are not adequately prepared to tackle disruption with confidence. Just under half of teachers polled claim their initial teacher training did not prepare them to manage pupil behaviour.
Persistent disruption is damaging childrens learning by preventing effective teaching from taking place and by driving teachers out of the classroom.7
Our research suggests that teachers, parents and pupils are aware that disruption can have a negative impact upon learning and are supportive of measures to improve discipline in schools. Likewise, parents, teachers and pupils generally agreed on the causes of disruption and what should be done to lessen its impact.
Teachers, parents and pupils consider disruption to be a problem. A third of teachers think disruption that occurs even occasionally or less than occasionally is unacceptable and 7 per cent of teachers polled said there are no acceptable levels of disruption. Behaviour management policies are interpreted and applied inconsistently.
A majority of schools have behaviour management policies in place but teachers say that in relation to many incidents of disruption, the consequences specified are mostly applied occasionally, rarely or never. Initial teacher training leaves many new teachers unprepared to manage pupil behaviour. 44 per cent of teachers polled said their training did not prepare them well for managing pupil behaviour. 40 per cent of teachers said that they felt unable to access adequate ongoing training on behaviour management. Teachers are not always confident they will have the support of senior staff when they discipline a pupil. Only 27 per cent of teachers polled claimed to be very confident that they would have the support of senior staff in their school.
A majority of teachers expressed reluctance to talk about behaviour management difficulties in case other members of staff thought their teaching ability was poor. Teachers are not always confident that they will have the support of parents when they discipline a pupil. Only 23 per cent of teachers polled felt parents fully respected a teachers authority to discipline their child.
In making recommendations for changes in practice we keep in mind that the ability to enforce boundaries and tackle persistent disruption requires headteachers to exercise authority in the school and teachers to exercise authority in the classroom. It is important that neither senior management teams within schools nor external policy directives undermine the authority of other adults in schools. Head teachers, senior managers, Ofsted and Department for Education guidelines should work to support teachers in managing pupil behaviour.
Low level disruption needs to be taken far more seriously. Higher standards of behaviour should be required of pupils for schools to achieve good or better Ofsted ratings. Ofsted inspectors need to be better trained in how best to evaluate and rate pupil behaviour.
2 Behaviour management policies alone are not enough to ensure pupils behave well. Policies must be applied and interpreted consistently by all members of staff including senior managers. Ofsted need to evaluate not just a schools behaviour management policy but, importantly, its implementation.
3 Annually, a proportion of staff professional development time (normally INSET, or in-service training days) should be dedicated to refreshing knowledge of and motivation for institutional behaviour management policies with teaching, support staff and senior managers.
The behaviour of pupils in schools has been a cause for concern for many decades now. During this time and particularly since the 2011 guidance for teachers on behaviour and discipline in schools was issued, notable progress has been made. All schools now have behaviour management policies in place.
The most serious bad behaviours, including criminal acts, violence, or threats of violence, occur rarely at most schools. However, what is often erroneously termed low level disruption appears to be a persistent problem. It is a daily fact of life for many teachers and pupils. Some individual disruption may appear fairly trivial, such as a child caught chewing gum, others may be more serious, such as a child using a mobile phone inappropriately during a lesson.
However, even single incidents of misbehaviour can interrupt a lesson and when disruption occurs persistently the cumulative impact can have a negative impact on teaching and learning.
Persistent low level disruption takes distracts pupils from learning and takes teachers time away from teaching. Pupils looking for support with their learning are less likely to be able to access it if their teacher is busy dealing with disruption.
Dealing with persistent low level disruption is exhausting and frustrating for teachers. It may contribute to teachers leaving the profession and the perception of unruly classrooms may deter potential recruits from taking up a career in teaching. Most schools now have policies and procedures (institutional behaviour management policies) in place to deal with disruption and disorder.
However, not all schools effectively implement the policies they have. A lack of consistency in the application of policies demoralises teachers and leads pupils to identify the system as being unfair and to push boundaries as a result.
In particular, teachers are looking for senior leaders within their school to support, rather than, on occasion, undermine the decisions they have made. In addition, teachers would welcome dedicated time both at the start of their careers, and throughout, to receive up to date advice and guidance on best practice in behaviour management. This could be part of regular continuing professional development. Zero tolerance behaviour management policies are currently garnering a great deal of attention. In some schools, such an approach has proved to be highly effective. However, it is not the only effective approach to behaviour management and some schools are well-run, orderly and disciplined environments without zero-tolerance policies.
In order for pupil behaviour to improve further, what is needed now are not more government directives from the Department for Education but for more diligent and consistent enforcement of existing school behaviour policies. We need a cultural shift where high standards of behaviour are assumed to be the norm and, for teachers, discussing behaviour management is considered a professional responsibility rather than a source of failure. Our research shows that parents, pupils and teachers all want a school environment in which all pupils are expected to behave, are challenged and sanctioned when they do not.
Mobile phones and social media pose a particular problem in the classroom. However, rules that are enforced at a national level, such as the ban on children taking mobile phones to school recently implemented by the French government, take no account of the circumstances of individual schools, the philosophy of a governing body or the preferred pedagogical approach of teachers. They risk undermining, rather than reinforcing the authority of teachers who are left as deferential to externally imposed rules as their pupils.
There are many schools where high standards of behaviour are effectively maintained. Some, but by no means all, adopt a zero tolerance approach to discipline. We concur with the conclusion of the Bennett Report that Bennett: Schools vary enormously in composition and context. Their challenges are similarly varied. It is therefore impossible to prescribe a set of leadership strategies that will guarantee improvement in all circumstances. The Department for Education and Ofsted should, as at present, support the work of all schools that are effectively managing pupil behaviour, rather than looking to hold such schools to a new set of expectations.
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