This is the headline in the Independent
of 14 April, following the publication of a report by researchers from the University of East Anglia.
"Unruly behaviour in schools is far worse than inspectors and official government reports indicate, according to a major study of classroom disruption out today.
Even teachers in the most popular, oversubscribed state schools have to work hard to avoid their classrooms getting out of control, it adds. Hardly any schools are free of disruptive behaviour."
Let us try to apply some logic to this paradoxical scenario.
Indiscipline is found in the most popular, over-subscribed schools. So how do schools become popular and over-subscribed? Presumably by getting 'Outstanding' OfSTED judgements. Am I stretching this too far by suggesting that at least some schools have been getting 'Outstanding' judgments from OfSTED despite poor pupil behaviour?
This seems odd, but I have a hypothesis that may explain this perverse pattern. I admit to not having a lot of evidence, but maybe it will emerge.
I am suggesting that this is just another outcome of Inspectors making their minds up from performance data, before they even enter the school. We know that this approach affects OfSTED judgements of individual lessons. It is called 'triangulation'. If an inspector sees a poor lesson in a school with outstanding results, then we know that the judgment is 'moderated' on the basis that as so little time is spent in so few lessons that the observation evidence can be disregarded.
This works the other way too. If Inspectors find superb teaching in a school that fails to meet floor targets, then this must be moderated so as not to get in the way of the 'Inadequate' or 'Requires Improvement' judgment that has already been decided in advance.
According to posts by OfSTED insiders on other threads, this definitely happens.
I am proposing that the disruptive growth in poor behaviour noted in the study is real and is a consequence of the increasing popularity of 'zero tolerance' behaviour policies with automatic punishments applied according to arbitrary tariffs. I am further suggesting that such behaviourism in regard to discipline policies goes hand in hand with behaviourist 'filling heads with knowledge' teaching methods. These are frequently so tedious and boring that pupils naturally become restless and distracted. This generates automatic tariff based punishments. These punishments are sometimes unjust and undeserved because of teacher jumping to conclusions (Kahneman System 1) and a lack of proper investigation. Classroom incidents are rarely as simple as they may seem to a hard pressed teacher fearful of losing control, so catastrophic misjudgments are likely.
Nothing feeds pupil negativity and infectious sedition like being severely and unfairly punished for something you didn't do in a system that brooks no argument or debate ('backchat' just escalates the punishment).
Lots of 'Outstanding' schools have zero-tolerance behaviour policies. These are recommended by the Chief Inspector and the Secretary of State for Education and are beloved of parents. So if a school has 'Outstanding' performance data and adopts the officially prescribed zero-tolerance behaviour policies, then what is a Lead Inspector to do, except fail to notice the poor behaviour or make some sort of excuse for it?
This goes with failing to notice gaming through early GCSE entry and exploitation of vocational equivalents. Will someone please find me an OfSTED report where these have drawn the proper negative comments.
But schools must prevent disruptive behaviour preventing teaching and learning.
Of course, but like so much in the real, complex world of education, the ways of achieving good relationships in classrooms between pupils and between pupils and teachers are counter intuitive and do not fit with the prevailing paradigm. The clue is in the word 'relationships'.
I suspect that Henry picked up a lot of wisdom in his visit to Finland.