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16/01/14

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Misbehaving children are the reason why new teachers quit – In Ireland they lock pupils in padded cells

The Independent of 16 January carried two stories here and here.

The first article reports comments from Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools about why forty percent of NQTs quit teaching within five years.

“Speaking at the North of England education conference in Nottingham yesterday, Sir Michael said the main reason why teachers quit was the lack of discipline in the classroom – for which they had not been adequately trained to deal with.”

But what are the most serious complaints of actual NQTs?

A TES article of 1 Feb 2013 here based on interviews with ‘Teach First’ recruits, the cream of NQTs, paints a different picture.

‘Secret” performance management systems, 160-minute lessons, exam cheating, “crazy working hours” and bullying, overpaid school leaders – a new survey has lifted the lid on the problems facing teachers working in state schools in England.

“One year into their placements, the results from a survey of 477 Teach First teachers show that many of the high-flyers have serious concerns about how their schools are run. “Teachers forced to cheat on GCSE assessments” and “extreme bending of rules in writing controlled assessments and exams” were among the many complaints about tactics employed by schools to climb league tables.

“The poll was organised by the independent Academies Commission, convened by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and the Pearson thinktank, as evidence for its recently published report on the academies programme.

“The responses revealed that significant numbers of Teach First participants feel that the extra academy freedoms over curriculum, lesson times and teachers’ pay are having a “negative impact” on school improvement.”

No mention of being driven out by unruly pupils at all, but plenty of complaints about the way Heads and Principals run their schools. But who regulates the way schools are run? Isn’t it OfSTED?

The second article reports that badly behaved pupils in Irish schools risk being locked in padded punishment cells.

“Autistic children as young as eight are being locked in “withdrawal rooms” in schools in Ireland for hours, according to a report.

“An 11-year-old with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was kept in one of the rooms, which are sometimes padded, for three days in a row in January last year, according to The Journal news website. He spent five hours in the room on two of the days.

“On one day, the child attempted to smash the only window and was found by the parent who came to collect him, still in the room, surrounded by broken glass and bleeding from his feet.

“Ireland’s Department of Education describes the rooms as a “small safe space” and pays for them to be built. They are designed to be used for “a short period of time”.

This would be a crime in the UK, but for how much longer? Academies introduced ‘isolation’ and this ‘automatic’ sanction can now be found in the ‘zero tolerance’ behaviour policies of many schools including proposed Free Schools approved by Michael Gove.

Marketisation and league tables put enormous stress on school leaders. They react to this by passing their stresses down the line in ways that are unacceptable to our best graduates. This is the chief complaint of the ‘Teach First’ NQTs. This was presumably not a welcome message to Sir Michael.

As for locked padded cells for disruptive pupils – how long before they are pioneered in one of our innovative Free Schools?

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. jane eades says:

    Surely, Roger, “free” schools won’t need padded cells – they will just pass any students who don’t make the grade or have problems on to the increasingly small pool of community schools.

    • Jane – and then the community schools which accept pupils other schools don’t want will be pilloried for their poor results while those who’ve managed to exclude or discourage challenging pupils, children who aren’t “academic” and any child who is likely to have a negative impact on league table position will boast about their superior results.

      The Academies Commission warned a year ago about the possible emergence of a group of “hard-to-place” children.

      No prizes for guessing which schools are most likely to accept them.

  2. Susan says:

    My daughter, a talented maths teacher, was driven out of her last job by management bullying. She didn’t have a problem with the students. Her colleagues were resentful of her ability and did not cooperate with her, and senior management gave her more and more work to do-culminating in a stress induced nervous breakdown. She has been out of teaching for several years now-a great loss to the profession.

  3. Andy says:

    It is also accurate to say that where appropriate, and necessary, LA schools can and do exercise the option refer to a PRU or organise off site provision or PX such pupils.

    These ‘hard to reach’ groups have always existed.

    • Andy – the Academies Commission wasn’t talking about “hard-to-reach” but “hard-to-place” pupils. These were defined as “vulnerable pupils who might be seen as detrimental to the school’s attainment profile” or “children with multiple challenges”. These aren’t necessarily the same as pupils who would be referred to PRUs.

      • Andy says:

        Janet, I didn’t specify the label/categorisation of pupil. Rather I acknowledged that those “pupils other schools don’t want” can just as easily be recycled by LA schools as they are rejected by others.

        • Andy – the Academies Commission wrote:

          “The Commission received reports of breakdowns of local behaviour and attendance partnerships, with some academies reportedly refusing to cooperate with other local schools in relation to hard-to-place and excluded pupils, despite the legal requirements.”

          It was this evidence that prompted the Commission to make its comments about the emergence of a group of hard-to-place children particularly when more secondary schools become academies.

          However, you’re right that it isn’t just academies. Any school which is its own admission authority (academies, free schools, foundation and voluntary aided schools) can manipulate its admission criteria to deter pupils whose presence is likely to have a negative impact on league table results.

          The Academies Commission also expressed concern that not all academies were committed to social inclusion.

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