Should central government be telling schools how to deal with naughty children?

Francis Gilbert's picture
The government's "discipline" tsar has just issued a checklist of "tough measures" to help schools deal with misbehaviour. Teachers are being told to make punishments clear, to patrol playgrounds, to know the names of every pupil, to keep calm when dealing with difficult children, to impose a good system of rewards and so on...

Er, excuse me, but isn't it hugely patronising for central government to be telling teachers these things? Shouldn't teachers be TRUSTED to deal with misbehaviour as and when it occurs? The thing I've noticed during my twenty years in the classroom is that human behaviour is very complex; there is no magic formula. A whole host of things need to be got right before children behave properly. Improving the "context" of learning is just as important as having a set of rules on the wall; the curriculum needs to be appropriate and challenging, assessment regimes need to be fair, teacher and pupil morale needs to be high and so on.

I think it sends the coded message that, yet again, teachers just simply don't know what they're doing.

The problem is that this government is utterly muddled in its thinking about education. On the one hand, it prides itself in "setting schools free", and yet, on the other, it's about to impose an entirely new and centralised National Curriculum and exam system upon us, and tell us how to manage behaviour in our schools. It's completely topsy-turvy. This latest set of guidelines beg all sorts of questions: just how "voluntary" are they? Will they form part of Ofsted's checklist? Will free schools be obliged to follow these guidelines?

It just doesn't add up.

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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 19/10/2011 - 16:31

The link to the full checklist is at the bottom. The Telegraph article was inaccurate - teachers are not being told what to do, it's guidance. And most of it is so obvious it doesn't need saying. Do Heads really need to be told that they should know the names of their staff? Or that teachers should have resources ready before the lesson?

The Telegraph likes the idea that rules and sanctions are displayed in classrooms and around the school - a tariff for misbehaviour. Very useful in reception classes where pupils can't read. And a list is nowhere near as effective as the teacher. How could the actions of Mr Drew (Educating Essex) be written in advance on a list:

1 If you refuse to give me your coat I will follow you around the school until you do.

Discipline is complex - reducing it to simplistic tasks of the "telling grandma how to suck eggs" type is no help to teachers. But then the list isn't really for teachers - it's for voters and certain sections of the media. The government likes to be seen as being tough on discipline.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 19/10/2011 - 16:40

One item on the checklist should be followed by the Secretary of State: praise your staff. To this I would add - don't have favourites. Mr Gove neglects the first but does the second. In a DfE press release on 10 October 2011 announcing the approval of 79 new schools, Mr Gove said, "The people who are driving Free Schools and UTCs are true pioneers. They are leading a revolution in the education system. These new schools allow talented and experienced people to be imaginative and bold in creating great new schools."

79 new schools approved + 24 free schools opened in September 2011 = 103. There are 20,303 state maintained schools in England and Mr Gove has just insulted and demoralised all the staff in 20,200 of them. That's a lot of voters in the next election.

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