Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-23)

Tom Burkard, Kate Fallon, Professor Pam Maras, David Moore CBE, Professor Carl Parsons

13 October 2010

  Q1 Chair: Good morning. Thank you all very much for coming here this morning. I know that some of you travelled down last night, and I appreciate your effort in attending and giving evidence to us today in this session on behaviour and discipline. The Committee is holding this inquiry because of the impact of behaviour and discipline not only on educational outcomes within our schools, but the general well-being of children within them. Will you start by telling us why you think behaviour and discipline policies are important and say whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the new Government in terms of where we are moving from here? We will refer to you all by your Christian names, if you are happy with that. I shall start on my right with Professor Parsons—Carl.

  Professor Parsons: Behaviour and discipline should be linked with relationships. The problem is not just out there with the young people. It is a relationship thing. It is about how the adults are trained, and how the professionals who teach or deal in other ways with young people can relate to them. Schools certainly need to think really hard about behaviour and discipline, and the response to it. I conclude by saying that too often we have escalating discipline policy practices, and if one step does not work, we get more and more severe. We do not have to do that. As parents, we do not necessarily do that with our children. We work to contain it, and we expect young people to develop and grow through some of the problems that they exhibit at certain ages.

  Tom Burkard: I must admit that this is the first time that I have participated in a consultation when I find myself defending the Secretary of State. That is to a large extent because of the fact that the Government have taken on board the essential message. We believe that it really has to be considered, given the overwhelming problems of school behaviour. We now have a situation when about 400 pupils a day return to school after a temporary exclusion for assaulting either a teacher or a fellow pupil. We have a quarter of a million children attending schools when Ofsted had judged that the state of their behaviour was unsatisfactory. The endemic problem that we have had for far too long is that we are looking at the child and what is wrong with the child, not looking at what is wrong with the learning environment. I am speaking from the standpoint of someone who has been in private enterprise for the better part of my life. Anyone who ran a business by trying to decide what was wrong with their customers rather than what was wrong with their services would soon be out of business. In short, we have two problems to consider when looking at behaviour. One is the long-term problem of what to do about the endemic, structural faults in our education system. I believe that the Secretary of State and the Schools Minister understand the problems quite accurately, but doing something about them is another matter. We also have to look at the current crisis—what we do now. Schools and education do not change overnight. It will take a generation to effect the sort of structural and cultural changes in schools that will make it suitable for all children to get the education that they need. In the meantime, we have to look at what kind of short-term alternatives must be enacted right now and, in that respect, I should like very much to commend the Secretary of State for having adopted our suggestion that Skills Force and organisations train ex-service personnel to work in schools. That has an excellent record in reducing the rate of NEETs and exclusions. They should be given a much more prominent role in the running of pupil referral units and mainstream schools.

  David Moore: It is important that the Committee remembers that the majority of teachers manage most children well most of the time. That is a fact. The number of permanent exclusions averages about 10,000 a year. Out of 8 million schoolchildren, it is 0.25%. That is the extreme end. There are graduations between all of that, but most teachers manage youngsters well, despite the fact that in initial teacher training, since Kenneth Baker was Secretary of State for Education, there has been no training in child development and child psychology. That is extraordinary. If you do a three-year course, you get four to five hours if you are lucky, and if you are on a PGCE course—on which most teachers now come into the profession—you are lucky if you get between an hour and two hours on classroom management and behaviour. Marks and Spencer spends more money on training their staff to handle angry customers than we actually give teachers, which is extraordinary. The behaviour policies of a school are essential because they should be the expression of the value system of the institution and the ways of working that are expected by all. What we do know is that when behaviour starts to break down, it is often triggered by the inconsistency of the staff applying what have been agreed as the mechanisms for the well-being and running of the school. I also think that in terms of in-service training, which is now predominantly in the hands of the schools themselves, too often behaviour is not seen as being linked to quality teaching and learning. As the quality of teaching and learning increases, disruption reduces. The inspection evidence over time has come up with that and it has been said over and over again. Where teaching and learning is less well organised, the opportunities for buoyancy to take place in a classroom increase.

  Professor Maras: I agree with and echo David's comments, especially that teachers manage behaviour very well and that there is virtually no child development in any teacher training. Even in the three-year course, it is at a very low level, and for the British Psychological Society, child development is crucial in terms of developing this. It is important to think about how we define this. The notion that antisocial behaviour is a homogeneous kind of thing is problematic, because it talks about disturbance and disturbing, and it makes it very difficult for schools and organisations to deal with it. A lot of the time, it is very emotional and schools are dealing with it in terms of the effects rather than the implications for the young person. It is important that we take account of the complexity of behaviour—there are different reasons why children might have behavioural difficulties—and the different types of behavioural difficulties, from the one-off incident that occurs in school that has to be dealt with straight away, to the low-level disturbance that seems to bother teachers the most, especially when it involves groups of children. The ways that you deal with that are very different, and that is the problem with these very general definitions of behaviour and joining it with the notion of discipline. We are going to talk about special educational needs later, so I will leave that. Those are my main points at this point.

  Kate Fallon: I'm Kate Fallon from the Association of Educational Psychologists. Being fourth, I agree with quite a lot of what my colleagues have said. The question was whether behaviour and discipline is important. Yes, it is immensely important, but it has to be very closely linked to our overall approach to the nurture, care and development of children and young people. We can't have one without the other. Am I pessimistic? I tend to agree with the colleagues to my left that in many situations inside and outside schools you see a lot of children and young people behaving appropriately, responding to adults around them, and taking responsibility for their own behaviour and actions in the environment in which they operate. So generally, I don't think I am pessimistic, although I accept that some behaviours are causing huge concern. We have to look at how we initially prevent those behaviours from occurring, how we prevent them from occurring later on, and at what treatment and care need to be given to youngsters displaying the behaviours that we don't want to see anywhere. I think that behaviour and discipline is something that we need to focus on. One of the things we need to do is improve adult skills. Pam and David have talked about child development in teacher training courses. However, there seems to be a lack of knowledge of child development within the whole children's workforce training, not just in teacher training courses. When I have contributed to training within local authorities and we have looked at child development for nursery workers or teachers, they are the ones that are the most popular and the ones that people leave saying, "That was really useful and interesting," and, "I didn't know that." We have had that feedback from people, but it is about centring approaches to behaviour and discipline within that whole-child approach of how you nurture and develop our young. We have to be honest and say that we actually observe some of the behaviours that we observe now in children and young people in older people, too. We see within society less automatic respect for professionals and elders among all of us sitting here, I suspect. I also think that we see behaviours not terribly far from here that might be described as low-level disruption, such as people talking over one another, interrupting and not showing respect for the other speaker. We can't say it is just children's behaviour. We have to look at it in the context of the behaviour that we see around us—there is lots of emoting and road rage and so on, and it's not children's fault that those things occur. One of the things we have to look at is helping adults to have confidence to manage and bring up children. I think that a lot of adults now lack that confidence. It is about developing not an authoritarian approach to children but an authoritative approach that helps them feel secure—that the adults around them are in charge, not necessarily in control, and that they will keep them safe and meet their basic needs. I will leave it there because I am sure something else will be picked up later.

  Chair: Excellent. Talking about authority is a perfect prompt to bring in the next question.


  Q2 Nic Dakin: In 2009, Ofsted said that standards of behaviour were good or outstanding in 95% of primary schools and 80% of secondary schools, and it only identified 1% of primary schools and 1% of secondary schools where standards of behaviour were judged to be inadequate. That would seem to pick up the points that David and Pam were making about emphasising positive behaviour. Do you agree with that? Sir Alan Steer's recent conclusion is that publicised incidents are unrepresentative and rare. Do you think that he is exaggerating that too much the other way?

  Professor Maras: I think that you have just indicated that it is not actually supported by the data. It's an emotive subject, and it is good news. It is bad news, but good for news. It is my view that it is not supported by the data. There is a perception among all of us that there is an increase in antisocial behaviour generally, and as Kate has just said, that weighs into how people view children.

  Q3 Nic Dakin: Does anybody else want to comment on that? What circumstances do you think need to be present in a classroom or school to encourage positive behaviour?

    David Moore: First of all, the adults have to model the behaviours that they want because otherwise how does the child learn? Children come from homes where they see a variety of types of parenting and they bring those models with them. It is called received behaviour. The key for a youngster, particularly at secondary level where you change the adult every 45 to 50 minutes so their expectations may be slightly different, is that you have to adapt your behaviour to the new context. If you can't adapt your behaviour to context, you are in difficulty. There is an increasing number of youngsters who find that difficult. The staff then have to decide for their individual school what is inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour, so there is a common agreement about what it means in that school. You then have to explain that to youngsters so that they know what it is rather than simply saying, "I think that your behaviour is unacceptable." In that case, the child does not know what they have done. They are doing what they ordinarily do. The point that one of my colleagues made is that if you go into any shopping area on a Saturday and you watch parents interacting with their youngsters, you can see why the youngsters behave in the way in which they do—they model the behaviour of the adults. There is a very big training issue for teachers around how you all follow agreed procedures and expectations. For example, in the summer, the NASUWT runs a course on behaviour for newly qualified teachers. I think that the course runs for about a day or two. I have been in schools where those newly qualified young teachers say that was some of the best training that they have had to date to help them to move into the classroom. It is left to a particular organisation to do that for its members and that is very worthy, but how does it happen for everyone else?

  Kate Fallon: You asked about what needs to be in the classroom. I very often used to use a checklist when I worked with teachers. This is going back to the model of the great paediatrician, Mia Kellmer Pringle, in "The Needs of Children". The basic needs are love and security, new experiences, praise and recognition and responsibility. We used to unpick those and say, "Are those present in this classroom?" Love and security does not necessarily mean hugging and kissing all the time; it is about the children feeling valued and secure. Do they know what is expected of them and do they know that the adult is in charge and can look after them? So, do they feel secure and valued in there? The new experiences can relate to whether the curriculum is appropriate to the levels of the children in the classroom. If a particular child is causing difficulties, have we checked out their cognitive abilities, reading and numerical skills? Have we checked their hearing and their eyesight? There is a whole list of things that you go down to check whether the experiences that are occurring in this classroom are appropriate for the children. Praise and recognition are not always about saying, "Well done, you," all the time, if that is not appropriate, but recognising sometimes when something is difficult for somebody and saying, "I know you tried really hard there—let's see how we can learn from that in the future." On responsibility, are the children made to feel participative members of the community? Do we try and choose those who are not engaging particularly well with tasks of responsibility? Do we engage in their own learning? I could go on, but if you go back to those four major needs—love and security, new experiences, praise and recognition, and responsibility—and unpick those, a lot of teachers and adults can start working out themselves how best to deliver a good classroom environment.

  Tom Burkard: One of the things that has been neglected here is the importance of how children are taught and what they learn. If you go back to 1998, there was a rather remarkable article written by Minette Marrin, who is now with The Sunday Times, but was at that time with the Telegraph. She visited Kobi Nazrul primary school in Whitechapel, where 80% of its pupils were of Bangladeshi origin, of which I think 60% were on free school meals. Essentially, it had virtually every disadvantage you could possibly imagine. At that time, it had exactly 3% of its pupils on the special needs register. The reason why was that the headmistress at that time, Ruth Miskin, succeeded in teaching every single one of her children to read, which was a remarkable accomplishment. There was a lot of scepticism within the Tower Hamlets local authority about this. I tested her pupils independently, when they were up to about year 4, at age 9, and every single one was there—there were no convenient absences, which you often find on these occasions. It turned out that, on average, its pupils were 22 months ahead of norms in spelling. I was teaching at that time at a Norwich suburban comprehensive—Kobi Nazrul's spelling ability at year 4 was almost as good as our pupils at year 7. Now the thing is that that school had no discipline problems. Just two weeks ago, I visited another school that is exemplary, which is the Durand Academy in Stockwell. It has 900 pupils in probably the biggest primary school in England, of whom 95% are black minority ethnic. Yet, in a period of two hours when I went through the school—looking at all the classrooms and going into all the classrooms—every single pupil was very busily at work. Two things are really striking about Durand's policy. One, it does not have mixed-ability teaching. In other words, its goals are academic rather than social, but by achieving its academic goals it manages to achieve its social goals at the same time. The other thing is that Durand recruits and trains its own teachers under school-centred ITT programmes. This means that it is freed from a lot of the nonsense we have got about schools being all about social engineering as opposed to learning. Once you take care of the learning dimension, the vast majority of social problems fall away. This leaves room for the professional services, which we still need, to devote their attention to the children who have the most severe special needs—the ones that have medical problems, the ones that come from severely abusive homes and this sort of thing. It is sheer fantasy to pretend that any of our excellent services that work with children who have behavioural problems can possibly even begin to touch the magnitude of the problem that we have right now.

  David Moore: In the initial survey that we did in 1996 on exclusions from schools, two thirds of all the pupils who were in the disciplinary systems of secondary schools had reading ages between 8.5 and 10 years. The average readability of textbooks given to children in year 7 in maths, science and geography had reading ages around 14 years. It is also interesting at the same time that Judge Stephen Tumim's team, looking at prisons, found that three quarters of all prisoners on remand had reading ages below 10 years. If you cannot read, you cannot access the curriculum. If your vocabulary is not sufficiently developed, you cannot understand what the teachers are saying. And if you cannot change your social mode of behaviour once every 50 minutes, you really start to get into difficulty. Tom's right—once those youngsters start to achieve and to feel they are achieving, their attitudes shift significantly.

  Q4 Damian Hinds: Tom, you have quite rightly mentioned that anybody who has worked in business would say that if you have a business problem, you do not blame your customers, you look at changing your services. However, we also segment our customers to try to understand their different motivations and their different worth in business terms and, in those terms, their different behavioural characteristics. If you had to take a class of children and predict which ones were going to be more difficult—if you could know everything about their background—what are the key predictors in terms of socio-economic background, family type, older siblings or younger siblings and birth month within year?

  Tom Burkard: A very interesting American study, which was financed by the United States Department of Education, discovered that reading failure was the only one of all the various indicators which accurately predicted the later incidence of violent antisocial behaviour. That study was conducted in 1974, which makes it fairly ancient, but to my knowledge no one has ever disputed its findings. The reason that that factor was most important is not only the reading failure per se, but the child's frustration at the continual and repeated failure to achieve their aims. In other words, there is this feeling of failure that comes with not being able to read. For a number of years I was at the sharp end, working with children in social work programmes, in schools and in the military. It is safe to say that the real MacGuffin when you are talking about antisocial behaviour—I am not talking about a tiny minority of psychopaths who are going to be in trouble anyway—is that these kids have been so humiliated by their educational experience that they have developed a hostility to it. It was axiomatic in my work with the Suffolk probation service that when we were dealing with kids who were on probation or care orders, you never did anything that reminded them of school. When I was working with the Territorials as a military instructor, we found that once those pupils with marginal literacy and numeracy skills started succeeding in technical subjects such as map reading and signals—which was what I taught—their whole attitude changed. You could see them swelling with pride, because they were able to sit in a classroom and learn. The point is that when you have children who are failing all the time, it is hardly surprising that some of them go off the deep end and start assaulting both teachers and fellow pupils. Although this does not excuse that behaviour by any means, most children who fail do not do that—that is something that we have to recognise. You cannot carry on with an education system which is so manifestly failing to meet the needs of so many pupils. Some 17% of our 18-year-olds are NEETs. What does that say about the schooling that they have received?

  Professor Parsons: There is a hinterground behind not being able to pick up reading between the ages of six and 10, which relates, statistically, to poverty and free schools meals. The exclusion statistics year on year show disproportionality, because white and black Caribbean children, those on special needs and those on free school meals are much more likely to be excluded. The background that those children bring with them to school makes it more difficult for them to engage. On the other side, the schools do not sufficiently target those at risk of reading failure and all the other failures that follow it. The fact is that early intervention by a number of means—they are spread around the country, with projects here and initiatives there—does work with children who come to school with the fewest advantages, from workless households, disruptive backgrounds and, in many cases, from sheer poverty. Those means can obviate the later dangers and failures and underperformance that often occur. I am in and out of schools that are like that. One that I am spending a lot of time in was in the press in 2003 as the worst school in England. It was a secondary school that was almost unmanageable—it was one of Nic's 1% of horror schools and it is not even in the middle of a city. It has turned around now and good work can do that.

  Q5 Damian Hinds: Free school meals is such a blunt instrument when we talk about any statistic. You could be out of work and poor, in work and poor—you get all sorts of family structures. Sometimes—I am not saying that you are—as a country we get lazy and we say that you can predict all these things by who is on free school meals. Sadly, that does not tell you what to do about it.

  Professor Parsons: May I give one quick response? It is a statistical likelihood; it is not that all who have free school meals will go that way. Even when you get clever and bring in the index of educational deprivation it does not make a lot of difference, it still gives you the same message.

    Professor Maras: We have been counting—we always count, we are very good at that in this country. In 1988, when Warnock came in, we started to count and give money in terms of that. Behaviour has been a major concern for teachers and schools for an awful long time. I absolutely agree with my colleague's comments about reading. However, we are really in danger of moving down a route where not being able to read is a predictor of antisocial behaviour. One of the problems is the definition of antisocial behaviour, because there are many reasons why children behave badly in school as well as feeling bad about not being able to read. That is why early assessment is crucial in terms of defining what that reason is. What you do will be different at the individual level. Of course, well-led schools have less disruptive behaviour, but we have known that for quite a long time. What we need to know is how to work with specific children who have specific difficulties, who are really not learning. It is not just that they are disturbing others; they are not intellectually gaining anything at all from education. They will go into the prison system or other services, so there will be a cost, and they will lose out from that.

  Q6 Chair: Is that about the child or about the institution? Tom's point that I was picking up on was the sense that when you have the right policies in place, children who could be seen in a weaker context as having a particular problem may turn out not to have a problem. If you run the institution properly the child gets engaged, their behaviour improves and they learn.

  Professor Maras: I think that it is both. We have done numerous studies, which have all been published, that show that if you ask schools the cause of individual children's behaviour, they very rarely say the school. It is mostly internalised or it is given to the child or given to the parents. It is both. There is a real danger of moving down the path: we will find one really good intervention and that will work. Carl is absolutely right that the UK system relies on local management of schools, which means that people have to manage, within a local area, the behaviour of those schools. They buy in really good interventions, but we do not know what it is about those specific interventions that works. Until we do, we will keep adding on more really good interventions without looking at the needs of the individual children and the different reasons why they might have behaviour problems.

  Q7 Chair: Can I press you on that, Pam? Famously, the commitment of British Leyland in regard to the quality of its car was shown by how many people it had at the end of the line fixing all the problems. The Japanese approach was of getting it right the first time and stopping the production line at any point. I would hate to turn children into manufactured cars, but I am sure that if you get it right the first time you do not have to have brilliant interventions later.

  Professor Maras: I absolutely agree with you.

  Q8 Chair: Most children's behavioural difficulties are anticipated and corrected by getting it right the first time rather than having ever more brilliant interventions to pick up the cost of failure.

  Professor Maras: The two things merge. For some young people and children, an assessment when they come into school would show that they have some difficulties for various reasons. In other situations, being in school and the interaction between school and family, and a child's social background, mean that things go wrong and therefore the behaviour goes wrong. There is a danger that we come up with only one really good fix and we cannot do that, because a lot of things have got to change. Schools that are well led have low levels of low-level disturbance, but they will still have within them children who need to have some interventions. The two things converge and it is not straightforward, which is one of the problems with the very simple definitions of antisocial behaviour.

  David Moore: Can I comment?

  Q9 Damian Hinds: I think that Kate is waiting patiently to say something.   

  Kate Fallon: You asked the question: if you knew everything about the children in your classroom at quite a young age, would you be able to predict which children are likely to be affected? You know there are particular at-risk factors, which have been talked about. Boys are more at risk—summer-born boys, going to school just as they are turning four, for example. Some summer-born boys have mums with low educational achievement, which is another factor, along with poverty and the stresses and strains that go with that. Poor attachment with early carers is one of the most crucial and reliable predictors of poor behaviour later on, if a child has not had good, strong early attachments—not necessarily with mum, but with a good carer in those early days. You can look at all those and say those are risk factors, and you will find some children who, despite all that, actually do okay. Because something happened to address one of those factors—by the teachers, staff or nursery workers—resilience has been built, which has alleviated the possible effects of those others. But if we look at those particular factors, we know there are a number of things you can do at different stages. For example, there has been a well researched project over a longitudinal period in Canada—the nurse-family partnership—which highlighted young, single, pregnant girls aged 15 to 17. They started working with them during their pregnancy and getting them aware of the fact that they were going to take responsibility for a human being—how you build up attachment and love and care for a child. Followed up 25 or 30 years later against a control group, it has shown immense improvement on what you would expect. I think the nurse-family partnership is being piloted in a couple of places in Britain at the moment. Clearly, it's too soon to know what the effects are, because it is a longitudinal thing, but we have concrete research from a very good study in Canada. The trouble with a lot of the early years interventions is that some of them are so short-term at the moment, you don't know what the long-term effects are going to be. We've had other early years interventions. There are schools with nurture groups, where a head has looked specifically at children who come in with poor relationships and poor attachments. They are occurring all over Britain. If you were to go and look at projects that are taking place, I would urge you to look at schools and authorities that have nurture groups and nurturing schools. That is a very educational, school-based short-term intervention that has been shown to have an immense effect on children's social behaviour, and also on their achievements and attainments as well. I set up a couple in Lancashire when I was working there. We did a reasonable research project with the University of Huddersfield. We expected the social and emotional behaviours to improve and we expected attainment to improve. We didn't expect quite the significant improvement we got in achievements as well. That is something I would urge you to go and have a look at. Look at the evaluations that have been done on those. That is when they have come into school and you haven't been able to do those things before school, but you can do it with a trained teacher and a trained nursery nurse—trained well in child development and knowing how to meet the needs of the children.

  Q10 Damian Hinds: Chairman, I know time marches on—you probably want me to skip on. I had a number of things I wanted to ask about the school environment, which I suggest we skip and perhaps come back to if there is time in the second session. There is one thing I really want to ask while this panel is here—Tom brought it up. It won't always be possible, depending on the size of school and so on, but you were talking specifically about the role of mixed ability teaching versus anything else. Nobody else mentioned it. In every single one of your submissions, you've talked about the absolute importance of reading, having achievement and being seen to have achievement and so on. I wonder what your comments are on mixed ability.

  Tom Burkard: I'll start off if you want, because obviously I'm going to have the heterodox view here. I'd like to quote something from the Teaching Battleground blog. It says, "the movement for mixed ability classes is indistinguishable from the movement against teaching. The mixed ability class teacher is not a teacher at all. They are, often quite explicitly, a facilitator. They are a person who designs educational activities for children but doesn't actually tell them what they need to know. They are a friend to the child, but not an expert on an academic subject." This really resonated with me because when I worked for Suffolk social services, if you asked kids what they thought about their schools one thing they would always say was, "They didn't teach you nothing." That was something that was repeated, right down to the double negative, with such accuracy that I think we have to listen to it. We also have to think in terms of the study on truancy that was done by my colleague Professor Dennis O'Keeffe. He was commissioned by the DFE, or whatever it was back in 1994, to try to discover what the reasons for truancy were. He took the novel step of actually interviewing truants to find out why they truanted and, lo and behold, it turned out that the vast majority of truancy was not their not registering for school, but what he called post-registration truancy, when they left because there was a class they didn't like or a teacher they couldn't stand. So, when we are looking at these problems we do have to think, "Why is it that they can't cope with this?" One of the problems here is that if you are dealing with a mixed-ability class, you are dealing with children who are engaged in a lot of group work, project work and various independent activities, and a key thing that has come up in recent years about children at the low end of the ability range is that certain children who are quite frequently diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder have, in fact, problems with working memory. Working memory is the facility we have that holds all the words in a sentence together until we can form them into a meaningful whole. It is the sort of thing that enables us to take a lot of related information and come up with a meaningful conclusion. If you don't have this ability and you're sitting in a mixed-ability class, which is relying to a large extent upon your investigations—shall we say—you are going to find the whole procedure totally and utterly meaningless. If you're lucky, the child will sit at the back of the class and do very little; if not, they're going to act up. I think that one of the things that we have to take into consideration is that the whole edifice of modern pedagogy that was installed under the terms of the Gilbert review under new Labour, almost guarantees that a very large percentage of children are so disengaged from the educational process that this happens. Personalised learning was theoretically supposed to engage this problem, but unfortunately it is an absolute fantasy to assume that you can take teachers and impose on them the burden of trying to design learning programmes for each and every child and think that each child is going to get an adequate amount of attention. The more duties you impose on teachers, in terms of—

  Chair: Can I cut you off there, Tom? I think that your point is clear. David was indicating.

  David Moore: This is just an observation from inspection. The issue isn't whether it's mixed-ability or streamed teaching; the issue is whether it works for those children. Does it deliver? Simply saying that mixed ability is good or bad, or streaming is good or bad, is nonsense. The issue is: does it work? In exactly the same way as when—

  Q11 Damian Hinds: So, how is that a different question? You said that it is not a question of whether streaming is good or bad but of whether it works.

  David Moore: For example, if you go into a school that has streaming, and you sit through three lessons in the same year group, by ability, does the teaching strategy change for each of those groups or do they get the same? If they're getting the same, why are they divided up? The thing is based on the outcome that the children provide, not necessarily the teacher. There is a point on which I agree with Tom. In some of our inner-area schools they use mixed-ability teaching but some of those schools have very high levels of transience. So, at the beginning of the term that group might be balanced in ability, but within six to eight weeks it isn't; it's a random grouping, because when the new children come they just have to be fitted into a class. So the planning is thrown by the transience.

  Q12 Damian Hinds: With respect, these are different arguments; they are about the operational simplicity and the doability. I think that the issue is more whether it is done well. Presumably you can do mixed ability well and you can do setting well, assuming you've got a bright person doing it and doing it quite well. I appreciate that there are many other arguments and angles to this but today's subject is discipline—compare and contrast: setting, streaming and mixed ability.

  David Moore: If the teaching is good and the children are involved and motivated, it really doesn't make that much difference whether it is mixed ability or streaming. That is by and large, but you will always find exceptions.

  Q13 Chair: What is the evidence for that?

  David Moore: If you go back through Ofsted reports, you will see that they have never come down on one particular teaching strategy as being either the best or the worst.

  Q14 Damian Hinds: For discipline, specifically, because that is today's subject. Ofsted is concerned with lots of angles.

  David Moore: Looking at discipline as part of that, in well organised classrooms, irrespective of whether they are mixed ability, streamed or any other grouping, it is about the quality of the organisation and the engagement of the youngsters through the actions of the teacher.

  Kate Fallon: Most schools actually now have pretty good systems for assessing and evaluating both achievement and behaviour. If a school decides that, in a particular situation, the behaviour of a group is not as it should be, it will ask itself whether that is because it is a mixed ability group, whereby the school is not getting the curriculum differentiation right for those children and, therefore, whether they should be put into ability or setting groups for that subject. Conversely, the school may have setting and streaming that isn't working well, because some of the children are not getting good models of behaviour from others, and that might be stretching. In some situations, mixed ability teaching can work well, and it can produce a very disciplined and ordered environment, and so can streaming and setting. It depends on the particular context that you are looking at. Sorry, you would expect that answer from a psychologist—it depends.

  Q15 Damian Hinds: If you were a head teacher or on a board of governors and you had to make that decision, what contextual differences would you look for to help you make that decision? You say that it depends on the context, will you explain how?

  Kate Fallon: The head teacher and the staff are looking all the time at what they are achieving, on a daily basis, on a weekly basis and on a departmental basis. A school isn't a static place, is it? A school has to respond to its children.

  Q16 Damian Hinds: I'm not seeing a decision tree emerge from that.

  Kate Fallon: The decision tree would be created by sitting down at a management meeting and, after looking at the data and observing that there seems to be an issue with discipline and behaviour within a group, asking why that is happening. If the discipline problem is within a mixed-ability group, is it because it is a mixed-ability group? If the problem is within a high-flying set group, is it because, for example, they are winding one another up about being too smart? Such questions will very clearly be asked within a school's decision-making management system.

  Q17 Charlotte Leslie: I want to talk about preventing and managing exclusions, but I will start off with prevention. I have carried out some very meagre work on that subject, and I want to run some ideas and thoughts past the panel in order to gain from your expertise. First, I have interviewed a young offender who had truanted and had behavioural difficulties—I have interviewed quite a few such people, and the same thing kept coming out—and, although one expects the problems to be just about kids, the tragic thing was that this chap said, "I wanted to be an electrician, but every time that I thought I was actually going to do some wiring of a plug or do some electronics, I was just given a paper on how to do it. I can't do paper, but I can do stuff." To what extent does the panel think that our practical and technical curriculum—I hesitate to call it vocational, because I don't quite know what "vocational" means—has let down children, and to what extent does that contribute to behavioural difficulties?

  Professor Maras: I have done a lot of work on what is now commonly known as the year 10 effect, which is the developmental dip that our young people have in their attitude to most things that aren't to do with other young people, music and stuff like that. That developmental dip happens at a time when young people are now making more and more decisions. In fact, they are making the decisions before the dip occurs, so all young people become a bit more negative. The options that they have at that time are now so limited. If they are not supported and have some reason for their behavioural difficulties—they might be inclined to behave badly or have a history of bad behaviour—that is the time when they are most likely to drop out of school. I absolutely agree with you that opportunities and choices for young people occur at the time when all young people are most likely to be a bit more negative about life other than other young people.

  Charlotte Leslie: The tragedy there was that here was a young man who had something positive that he wanted to do but the system just did not provide it: all it offered was paper.

  Professor Maras: May I add one point? The interesting thing is that the alternative curriculum, which is really brilliant in lots of instances, only comes in when you hit a really bad episode. It is not available to young people who have not reached the situation where the school says, "What are we going to do now because this is serious?" The problem is that it comes in a little bit too late. The alternative curriculum is probably something he would have taken had he been offered it earlier.

  David Moore: The alternative curriculum has made a significant difference to a lot of youngsters. The links between schools and colleges increases at a very fast rate. However, there is an issue around year 9 because the colleges only take youngsters when they are in year 10 and there is a whole group of youngsters in year 9, and some stretching back to year 8, who are totally switched off by the paper curriculum. Yet some schools have managed to do things with them and so their engagement is better. Their attendance increases. The incidence of them walking out of classrooms or being difficult decreases and they engage better. Their attendance, particularly at the colleges, is very high. It pulls up their school attendance and so makes a significant shift for a number of youngsters, but there are some youngsters for whom it makes no difference in the end.

  Professor Maras: There is evidence from France and the US that it is a very effective thing to do, but it has a different status there.

  David Moore: It is breaking it away from the idea that the naughties get this and that if you are naughty you go on a practical course. It is about how you make the thing open to all youngsters.

  Professor Parsons: Can I build on that? It is not just that we suddenly have a solution at year 10. What we don't do is design a system of education for the client group that is coming in then. We certainly don't do it collectively as an educational community locally. It is a single school that gets the input. What we have been recommending to prevent exclusions is to look at it as community-based inclusion. A collection of schools in an area will sort itself out so that it has the full range of provision necessary to accommodate all of those children. Attendance is a huge thing. Don't let them be out of school. Having them in is important. It is one of the things that bothers us about exclusion, whether it is fixed term or whether it is permanent where you wait for 15 days while the governors deal with it and a further 15 days so that it can go to an independent appeals panel. If you design locally—this is a matter also of adjusting whether you have mixed ability, setting or streaming—you have detailed information online on individual children and you know what the needs of individual children are. I was in a school last week in Cheshire that did without PRUs, but in this one school there were three different bases. One was certainly for Key Stage 4 and kids who would not work well in the ordinary classroom. There was a youth-based input there. These are kids who struggle to get to bed before 2 am and so on. But there was provision for them. They were there. They were working with good adults and what I witnessed there was good. But they had another sort of base for those at Key Stage 3. There were practical things. It was a matter of sorting out things from which they would learn, to which they would relate and from which they would benefit. There were also good links across the schools so that if things get really tough in the one school—the behaviour is astonishing and it breaks down-then there are systems of in-year fair access where children are moved, although not necessarily in a compulsory way as it can be mediated and there is that agreement with parents and children that things have broken down here. But the four things we talk about as managing exclusion are broadening the school in that way so that you have a range of other bases. You also have off-site provision, which can include special schools, units and so on. You have multi-agency provision, which has to work quickly; casework where people are in with difficult children and families and so on, building bridges so that there can be movement of children, where things break down, without this quasi-legalistic exclusion process.

  Q18 Charlotte Leslie: Two things follow on from that. First, the progress through school. I know the transition from primary to secondary school is often a rocky time for attendance and behaviour. Has the panel evidence as to how all-through schools perform on behaviour and attendance measures compared to stand-alone secondary schools? That is, schools that start from junior/primary and go right through to sixth form. Has the panel any experience or evidence on how they perform, the differences?

  Professor Maras: I think it would be difficult to monitor this to be sure enough. I have done work on transitions for children with special educational needs and I agree that transitions are the most difficult time. The transitions within secondary are particularly difficult, especially when you take account of child development. I know we keep banging on about that, but it is really important, because there is normal and then there is what is out of the ordinary and what we should worry about. I would say that they have not been around sufficiently long to be able to look at them.

  Q19 Charlotte Leslie: When tackling that gulf—from the nest to the jungle, to put it simply—from primary to secondary, does the panel think that the structural change of putting primary and secondary schools together for an all-through school might alleviate some behaviour and attendance difficulties?

  Professor Maras: I think the transition isn't just physical; the style of teaching is very different. I can't cite evidence. David might have some.

  David Moore: No. The point is about the change from being with one teacher and a number of other adults in the room all day, to having to switch to the foibles of up to six adults. That is what makes it difficult.

  Professor Maras: I have seen some very good work locally in London—in Bromley—on transitions for children who would find it particularly difficult. There are some excellent case studies of transitions between primary and secondary, including following the bus in a car, all the stuff—the different things—that you encounter. That was aimed at children who find that transition particularly difficult, who will be deemed likely to have some kind of behaviour difficulties.

  Q20 Charlotte Leslie: Another thing also interested me. A while ago I did some rudimentary work on children who fall out of the system altogether. I had an estimate of about 7,000 per year who go missing. Do you think the current idea of excluding from school—and in a sense from education—is contributory to that problem of invisible children? How do you think we can solve it, or is it inevitable?

  Professor Parsons: Can I say it does contribute? The number who disappear from education is much greater than those who experience permanent exclusion. It is easier for a parent just to remove their child, kid the system that it is home-educating, say, "She's gone to live with her dad in Leicester," and so on. We need much better tracking of these children.

  Q21 Charlotte Leslie: Finally, there are two ideologies—I am always a bit worried about ideologies—zero tolerance and zero exclusion. Is one of those ideologies wrong or can and how should they work together?

  Professor Parsons: There are 17 local authorities in the country that operate zero exclusion. There are clusters of schools that use zero exclusion. There is also zero tolerance of disruptive behaviour. There is zero tolerance of neglect of needy individuals. I don't see the clash. I leave it with a plea: places are doing it, places are managing, and they are designing their systems to accommodate all but without the damaging, punitive, rejecting experience of exclusion.

  Professor Maras: Then we have an overriding ideology of doing the best for young people in their school, making sure they are stimulated. The other bit is probably a result of that I would imagine.

  Charlotte Leslie: I am going to annoy the Chairman and come in with one final thing.

  Chair: No, I don't think you are actually, Charlotte. There really isn't the time. I'm terribly sorry. I am going to cut you off and bring in Lisa on special educational needs.

  Q22 Lisa Nandy: We have received two types of written evidence about children with special educational need. On the one hand, it seems that SEN classifications are being used to cover up schools' own failings. Some of you have touched on that. On the other hand, we have been told that there are children with special educational needs—often factors such as autism—who are overlooked and seen purely as having behavioural problems, rather than the serious issues they are. Which of those views is correct and what can be done about it?

  Tom Burkard: I think that you have to bear in mind that there is a spectrum of problems. I would not, for a moment, doubt that there are some children who, for the lack of a better word, are psychopaths and are extremely difficult to contain, even with the most highly skilled professional help. On the other hand, of the approximately 18 to 20% of children who get labelled as special needs, probably only 3 or 4% of those actually have the problems that are predominantly or individually part of the child, as opposed to the school environment. In other words, there are 3 or 4% of the children who would have difficulty no matter how good their educational environment is.

  Q23 Lisa Nandy: I suppose I am really interested in what the solution to that is. I do not think that those two things necessarily conflict. It may well be that both are happening concurrently, but what can be done to deal with that?

  Kate Fallon: Both are potentially true, depending on what your approach is. We may have to get away—and some would say, controversially—from the term special educational needs, and actually start looking at what the individual needs of the individual children who are coming into our schools are. You are right; some children with autism are perceived as children with behavioural difficulties. Having said that, if the manifestations of their autism are behaviours that are disrupting the learning of others, it is about managing their behaviour, as well as improving some of their particular skills and teaching them to manage their behaviour in a classroom situation so that it does not affect other children. Boringly, I would go back to those points I was making at the beginning about what the needs of children are. We can have children who have particular inherent difficulties—if you like, some cognitive difficulties—or difficulties that they have brought into school because of environmental factors. It is about saying, "Okay, here is this child, what are their strengths, challenges and difficulties? How can we make sure that the classroom environment, school environment and wider environment are best suited to help that child grow, develop and learn within this setting?" I will stop there, and keep my answer short.

  Professor Maras: Schools find it very difficult to interpret SEN policies in relation to behaviour, because, of course, behaviour is also dealt with through disciplinary action and, unless you have a label of ADHD, or autism, or Asperger's, or one of the spectrums, that is also difficult for parents. I absolutely agree with what Kate said. There is, however, an issue about the label of SEN and the way it has been conceptualised.

  Chair: Thank you all very much indeed for giving evidence this morning.

Witnesses: Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary, NASUWT, and Ian Toone, Senior Professional Officer (Education), Voice the Union, gave evidence.

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