A new study
by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that pupils' behaviour has got better in the past decade and the behaviour of pupils' in the UK is better than the European average. This certainly backs up my experience as a teacher in the last few years. A while ago, I felt that there was a crisis of discipline in the classroom: teachers were overloaded with centralised dictats, didn't have enough pastoral support, and there was a culture of low expectations in some schools.
Then the Labour government eased the burden of centralised dictats, got rid of the Key Stage 3 tests, and poured money into where it was needed: helping schools buy in good pastoral support staff who had the time and resources to follow up on poorly behaved children, one-to-one tuition for strugglers, mentors for challenging kids, and made the curriculum more accessible generally, giving pupils who found the academic subjects difficult better vocational options. Furthermore, the concentration on literacy and numeracy in the primary schools started to pay dividends, with children being much more literate when they arrived at secondary school. All these factors meant that behaviour has improved in the last few years -- a fact borne out not only by Ofsted but now the OECD. I've certainly noticed in my classes that they are much better behaved than the ones I took five years ago. The pupils are simply better educated; better able to cope challenging texts by authors such as Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson.
This is one of the reason I've found the Coalition government's approach to education so depressing; just as local authority schools have really got their acts together and behaviour has improved, they've opted to impose policies that will almost make behaviour worse, turning back the clock. They've jettisoned one-to-one tuition, reduced funds for pastoral managers and mentors, rubbished some perfectly good vocational courses, and instituted a policy of bribing schools to become "academies", whereby what goes on in these schools will be hidden by a cloak of secrecy. I know from own bitter experience that when there's a lack of transparency, bullying and bad behaviour become rife.