Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 24-56)

Christine Blower, Dr Mary Bousted, Dr Patrick Roach, Ian Toone

13 October 2010

  Q24 Chair: Thank you very much for joining us this morning for this important session on behaviour and discipline. I think you were all here and heard the first panel session. We have limited time, but perhaps each of you can start with a brief comment on what you have heard.

  Ian Toone: Discipline and behaviour are obviously very important in schools, because learning cannot take place without them. We did a survey of our members recently and I would not say that it is representative in every way, but I think that it gives us some indications. We found that 25% of members who responded actually believed that behaviour was improving. It is important to bear in mind that 95% of children are reasonably well behaved most of the time. With the number of initiatives to improve behaviour that we have seen over recent years we would expect improvement to have been made, certainly in some settings and in some schools.

  Q25 Chair: But Ian, 75% of your members from that survey obviously do not think that behaviour is improving.

  Ian Toone: Yes, another 25% believe that there is no change. Now, it can be difficult to interpret that.

  Q26 Chair: I would have thought it was fairly easy; 75% say that there has not been any improvement, and only 25% say that there has been.

  Ian Toone: 50% think that there is a decline. We need to put that into a context, because what I suspect is happening—certainly, what I pick up from casework with members—is that the persistent low-level disruption that is the bane of many teachers' lives is an ongoing concern. It is probably not getting any worse, but what is getting worse is more extreme aggression and violence. Although extreme incidents are still quite rare, they are increasing in number. Also, disability-related behaviour problems—the kind of disabilities that I am thinking about are psychiatric disorders such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and attention deficit disorder, particularly where hyperactivity is a feature of the attention deficit—are where we see a deterioration in behaviour, rather than in the general low-level disruption.

  Q27 Chair: Thank you. Patrick.

  Dr Roach: Good morning. From our point of view as NASUWT, largely representing teachers who are teaching in classrooms as well as representing school leaders, our experience shows quite clearly that schools continue to be relative safe havens of calm and security. That is backed up by Ofsted, and the previous witnesses have given a high degree of testimony to that. Teachers are actually doing a fantastic job in our schools in terms not only of maintaining good order and discipline, but of delivering higher and higher levels of educational standards. They are often working with some children and young people whom perhaps the rest of society might otherwise seek to avoid. We know from our own research evidence that the vast majority of schools—pretty much every school in the country—now have a behaviour management policy. Having a policy and what happens in practice are two very different things, however. Last year, and indeed for a number of years prior to that, Sir Alan Steer chaired an expert group looking at behaviour and attendance in schools. That confirmed the point about the importance not only of having policy but of translating it into practice. In other words, how does behaviour policy sit within the context of a school's policy and programme for teaching and learning? How is it given life? That is an issue that I want to return to during the course of the session.

  Q28 Chair: Do you have any evidence over time of how satisfied teachers are with behaviour policies within the schools in which they work?

  Dr Roach: I was just going to come on to that. Despite the fact that across the board behaviour is seen as being good or outstanding in schools, there is a perception that behaviour is becoming more challenging. When we have asked teachers about their perceptions of behaviour, the feedback has been quite stark. According to a recent poll of teachers that we undertook as part of the review of special educational needs provision in schools in England, four fifths of teachers said that behaviour is more challenging than it was, say, five years ago. Two thirds of teachers said that they now have more pupils with complex behavioural needs than perhaps they did five years ago, and the nature of the behaviour challenges presenting themselves in schools and in classrooms is also changing. We are seeing the phenomenon of cyber-bullying, for example, in our schools, and we are seeing prejudice-related bullying, which requires different types of approaches. Where Ian, again, is absolutely right is to highlight the issue of low-level disruption in schools, and that is an issue which is keenly felt by our members in schools. It undermines teachers' professionalism, and it undermines teacher confidence, but it also contributes to a loss of teaching time. A survey that we undertook last year sought to calculate the amount of time that is lost to teaching as a result of low-level disruption—refusal to obey instructions, refusal to sit down, refusal to stop chattering and so on and so forth. We estimate that, on average, 30 minutes per teacher per day is lost in terms of teaching time. That is quite significant and quite serious. Fundamentally, what we would be pointing to isn't so much about the quality of the curriculum or about what teachers themselves do in classrooms, because, as I say, I think teachers are doing a fantastic job, but rather the extent to which teachers are actually supported in the doing of teaching. That is to say the extent to which parents and carers are actually supporting children and ensuring that children and young people attend school ready to learn, and the extent to which school leaders and school leadership teams within schools are actually delivering timely support to classroom practitioners.

  Q29 Chair: That wasn't the nature of my question, Patrick, which you didn't touch on. You talked about the incidence and perceptions of problems with behaviour overall, but not specifically about the policies within schools. Teachers have told us that where you have a school with excellent consistent behaviour management policies, teachers feel supported, and it is very different from being in a school where they don't have that. Over time, is it felt by your members that within the institution in which they work, behaviour and discipline policies are more consistently applied, and therefore they are better supported by the leaders within those schools?

  Dr Roach: Yes. There are two things about that. First, in terms of behaviour management policies, while all schools might have them, it is not always the case that teachers are consulted about the design of those behaviour management policies, and therefore whether indeed the workforce in general takes ownership of those policies or those policies are imposed on the workforce is a significant issue and one that needs to be addressed. The second issue, however, is that where policies do exist and everybody is familiar with what that policy happens to be, around half of classroom teachers are actually saying that those policies are not being applied consistently, largely by school managements where the judgment of the classroom teacher isn't always backed up in terms of leadership and management decisions.

  Chair: Thank you. Christine.

  Christine Blower: I agree with much of what my colleagues have said so I will try and say something new, because it's quite difficult at this stage of the morning isn't it? The NUT starts from the premise that what we have to have in the education system is a continuum of provision to meet a continuum of need, and I think that actually sums up much of what we have been saying this morning. It says that if we are going to have children who have a wide range of ability, a wide range of background, and a wide range of aptitude and readiness to come in and learn, we have to make sure that in those classrooms, we have the personnel, the resources and the situation so that all of those children can access the learning. That means that we have to have, for example, services on which the school can draw from outside and, critically, we have to have behaviour and discipline policies that, as Patrick has said, have been drawn up in consultation with the staff. But I must say that the NUT would also say that they should be drawn up in consultation with the children and young people, because while I accept what Michael Gove said at the Conservative party conference about stopping treating adults like children and children like adults, this is not about treating children like adults. It is about saying that they must be engaged in their learning. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for them at least to have a view of how the behaviour and discipline structure works. The point is that colleagues who gave evidence earlier talked about definitions of "inappropriate" and "unacceptable". It frankly isn't very clever just to say to a child, "Your behaviour is unacceptable", if they don't really know what you mean. So going from first principles, it is important that the whole school community is involved in making sure that the policy is drawn up, implemented on a proper and consistent basis and, before implementation, drawn up and understood by everyone. I want to say one brief thing about the colleague earlier who mentioned child development. It is absolutely critical that those who go into teaching understand what the normal process of child development is. They are not going to be psychologists or child development professionals, but if we are not training our teachers in that basic understanding of how things would develop in, if you like, the most normal of circumstances, it is more difficult for them to spot difficulties and decide whether they are serious difficulties that might need referral to an additional and specialist service, or whether it is just something that can be easily managed in the classroom. The other thing I want to point to is that Lord Elton did a report into behaviour in schools in 1989. One of the critical things that came out of that was that it was, as two colleagues here have said, persistent and repeated low level behaviour, in particular out-of-seat behaviour and talking out of turn—oos and toot[1]—that people talked about all the time. If those things are not well managed in classrooms, children have a tendency to see that this is not a well-managed situation. A previous colleague gave evidence before Patrick arrived and talked about the NASUWT's intervention in doing behaviour management CPD with their members. I think that is something that all of the teachers unions probably do. Certainly, the NUT has a very big programme, not just with beginner teachers, but with other teachers, because we see this as absolutely critical. Teaching can essentially be quite an isolated activity, and it is important that you get out and discuss with people how behaviour can be best managed. That isn't something that ends at the end of your initial training; you need to do it and develop that repertoire, and revisit bits of your repertoire throughout your career.

  Chair: Thank you. Mary.

  Dr Bousted: Well, I'd better put a plug in. All the teacher unions do behaviour courses like that. We do it for beginning teachers, and actually it is the course that goes most quickly. The brochure goes out in September, and the behaviour management courses are full to bursting within a week, so there is a real demand for it. I agree with everything my previous colleague said—I was at the previous session—so I would like to take just two things. The first is mixed-ability teaching, which you, Damian, were really keen on, and the other is ITT. Before I became general secretary of the association I was in higher education in departments of teacher training for 11 years, so I have a bit of a mixed history. In terms of mixed-ability teaching, I will give you a teacher's tale, which is mine. When I became head of English at my high school in Harrow, we had about 30% of the pupils passing GCSE English language and about 25% doing English literature. I instituted mixed-ability teaching throughout the department to GSCE, and when I left, 80% of the pupils were getting English language, and about 85% English literature. So it is not the method you choose. I did that for the reason that the behaviour in sets 3 and 4 was appalling. That was because kids were looking around and didn't like themselves because they weren't achieving. I said to the teachers in my department, "We can do this". To those who didn't like it, I said, "Do you want to teach set 3 or 4, because I don't like them very much at the moment? I don't like teaching them." They were largely inhabited by boys with poor reading, and it was poor reading and access to spoken and written standard English that we focused on. We directly taught spoken and written standard English to a school where 63% of the children spoke a first language other than English. It doesn't really matter what method you choose; it is that the method works and you have the teaching techniques, and you ensure the curriculum meets the needs of the pupils. That is what I think was key about the previous session—the importance of the link between curriculum and behaviour. I think that is essential, and if you don't get the curriculum right, the incidence of bad behaviour will increase. There is no doubt in my mind about that. In terms of ITT, I think there was something misleading said in the previous session, which was that only about two hours is devoted to behaviour management on ITT courses. That is just simply not true. In a 36-week PGCE course, 12 weeks will be spent at the university and 24 weeks in school. An awful lot of the school-based training will be on issues around behaviour management. In fact, that is the best place to do it. You can teach behaviour management in a theoretical way. You can touch on it in the course. There are techniques and things you can learn, but the vast majority of that will be done in the school. Remember that initial teacher training is a partnership between schools and universities—it has to be, by law. The final thing about child psychology is that it is not that teacher trainers decided not to do child psychology. That was a political decision. It was a political decision by Kenneth Baker, through Kenneth Clarke etc, and not repealed by new Labour—essentially, that beginning teachers did not need to understand how children developed, how the mind developed and how their behaviour developed. It was a political decision that what was needed in primary was literacy and numeracy and in secondary it was subject-based teaching. We have not moved away from that yet. I know the Government are announcing a review of initial teacher training and in my view that review should tackle that question head-on. I believe that teachers today and teacher trainers, through no fault of their own, have been stopped by a political decision about doing something that is really important.

  Chair: Thank you very much indeed. Tessa.

  Q30 Tessa Munt: I am interested in having a look, in the historical context, at the situation perhaps 40 years ago, the situation 20 years ago and the situation now. The context I would like to place that in is the various statements that I have picked up on this morning: that behaviour in schools is in the top three quoted reasons for leaving teaching, the question of what is acceptable behaviour and what is appropriate behaviour, and the comments about low-level disruption. I am interested to know what you think about the interaction with parents. Christine said that you need to sign children up to what is acceptable behaviour and what is appropriate behaviour. It has to be a contract between school and pupils. But I would be interested to know what role you see parents having and whether they are accountable for their children's behaviour. I do not want to pre-empt your response in any way, but what strikes me is that in the context of exclusions, when we say to young people, "Okay, now you're excluded", they go back, one assumes, to a place where there may not be an understanding of what is acceptable and appropriate behaviour—back to their parents.

     Chair: Who would like to pick up on that vast range of issues?  

    Christine Blower: I'll start if you like, but there is likely to be, I hope, a reasonable level of agreement about this. The rearing and education of children has to be a joint endeavour between the education service and parents. Teachers are not necessarily the parents of the children they teach and the parents are not in there every day being teachers, so it is important that there is a common understanding between parents and teachers as to what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable. The classic thing is that a child hits another child in the playground. The child who has been hit goes home and the parent says, "Well, you just hit him back next time". Of course, that will not, for the most part, be the discipline and behaviour policy that operates in schools. There are sometimes very basic misunderstandings or differences of values. The difficulty for us, for teachers, school governors and school management, is to make the bridge so that those parents, who might have values that would be at variance with what the school is trying to do, come to buy into that. It is a difficult job. I do not think that you succeed in it by simply having something called a home-school contract and expecting people to sign it. You do it partly by making sure that there is proper interaction. For example, at the primary level one of the things that we in the National Union of Teachers would categorically say is that we must, more often than we sometimes do, communicate with parents about the good things, the positive things, the helpful things and so on that the children are doing in school. If there is an issue when there is a problem, it is not that the parents feel that they can only get in touch when there is something wrong. For everyone, it is work in progress; and it is a shared responsibility. However, I think that schools have to go out of their way to say positive things about children and young people, not just to them but to their parents and carers, so that everyone can see that it is a joint endeavour and that we are trying to make sure that everyone understands everything that is going on for the young person.

  Ian Toone: It is very important to have a positive engagement with parents from the time that the child is admittable—or before the child is admitted—to school. What is often lacking is the building up of a positive dialogue with parents. If the only time we contact the parents is to give a negative message, it is not the best way of gaining their support. If we are involved in an ongoing dialogue and sharing information about the child, we are more likely to have the parents on board when we need to say something negative. Tessa, you mentioned earlier the accountability of parents. It is always better to support parents rather than punishing them. It is something like a parenting contract, a voluntary arrangement as long as it is supportive. That could enable the parents to go on a parenting course to learn some valuable skills. That could work. If the parent refuses to do that, we might want to apply for a parenting order, but the objective would be to put support in place to change the situation rather than just to punish the parent.

  Q31 Tessa Munt: I have a note saying that by August 2008 no parenting order for behaviour had been issued. Is that wrong?

  Ian Toone: Only for attendance.

  Q32 Tessa Munt: Yes. That's different isn't?

  Ian Toone: Yes. They are being used in a punitive way rather than a supportive way.

  Dr Roach: I absolutely concur with much of what colleagues have said, but the key—

  Q33 Chair: To what extent do you agree? Would you tease that out?

  Dr Roach: I would like to tease out the issue about dialogue, which has not had much of an airing in terms of how we ensure that dialogue can take place in a sustained way.

  Q34 Tessa Munt: May I ask how it happens? I am a parent.

  Dr Roach: For example, we tended to talk this morning about the role of teachers. It is important that we do so, in terms of the dialogue between school and home, but it often cannot be left simply to teachers to do all that on top of everything else that they are being asked to do. How we model our schools, how we organise them and how we build into the equation the relationship between school and home, as part and parcel of how we deliver a modern education service, is absolutely critical. One of the areas that we could look at, for example, is the role of parental support advisers, who can act almost as interlocutors between the school and the home—in other words, setting out the school's aspirations and expectations on behaviour and attendance, trying to identify and explore with parents some of the issues, what the challenges and barriers to attendance and non-attendance might be, what the issues are around behaviour and what the needs of the child might be, and playing that back into what actually happens within everyday school life. That is really important. When we have seen parental support advisers in practice, they have had a massive impact in terms of transforming parental confidence in what happens in schools. We should not forget that some of the parents that we are talking about may have had poor experiences of school. They may themselves have been non-attenders at school, and the prospect of coming back into school and talking to teachers about their child's behaviour and attendance would simply send them into fits of panic. We need to find solutions to that, recognising and building on the team around the child so that we can begin to bridge that gap between home and school.

  Q35 Craig Whittaker: One quick question. The comments about the joint endeavour between parents and teachers—the interaction—are absolutely spot on. It was something that you said, Patrick—that teachers can't be held responsible for that on top of everything else they do. It is good to hear about the parent support offers, but what about the children when there is no interaction with parents? Who takes ultimate responsibility for the small element of children whose parents you cannot break through to at all? Surely, we just don't let them go off into the wilderness. Who takes responsibility for those children?

  Dr Bousted: The school does. We did a survey about behaviour in March, and that was one of the things that came through most strongly. It is a really key question—what do you do about the most hard to engage parents? Where does the responsibility lie for those children? Actually, in the end it is the school, because they come to school. The difficulty that teachers have is that their experience of the support services, which should be provided to help them engage with the most hard to reach, are very varied. Frankly, there is not enough of CAMHS—child and adolescent mental health services—and it is too slow. We know that there is a rising incidence of mental health problems with children and adolescents. Getting help for adolescents who display very disturbed behaviour can be difficult. Local authorities are already making significant cuts in central services and support, and what is coming through very strongly is that teachers are very worried about the most difficult children, who display the most disturbed behaviour. Teachers do a lot and have a good understanding of many issues but they are not experts in child and adolescent mental health, or developmental issues and what might be the causes of them, nor can they be expected to be expert in the wide range of special educational needs that they will come across in the classroom. What they need is the support of experts to inform them about what they should do. I am talking about low-incident special educational needs—the sort of issue that you might come across twice, once or never in your career. It is that targeted and supported help that teachers need more than anything else. The other thing that I should like to say about parents is that if you can get the engagement with parents right, you will often find that the parents of the most disturbed and disturbing children are run ragged themselves. If you can get a proper dialogue between those parents and teachers in the school and a joint approach, parents can start to feel supported. If you can get it right, it could be used as a vehicle. For example, a child is staying out until 2 in the morning. They are not learning at school because they are exhausted, so how are we jointly going to deal with this? Parents can stop feeling so isolated and feel that there is some support. We need to get that interaction right. Schools that have remodelled do that very well. You don't just have teachers doing that. Sometimes, parents can find it much easier to talk to a member of support staff who is a parent and a member of the local community, and can act like an intermediary. Remodelled schools can do that job very well. As Patrick says, it doesn't all have to be teachers.

  Q36 Chair: Children's centres have a remit specifically to reach out to the hard to reach, engage with parents in a supportive and voluntary way and build exactly that relationship and trust with them. When children arrive at primary school, are you seeing any evidence that that has had a positive effect and made parents more likely to engage, thus making it easier to create a sense of co-operation?

  Dr Bousted: We did a survey on that very recently. Our members are finding that Sure Start is beginning to have a real effect in many deprived areas in inner-city locations. Evidence shows that one of the reasons for that is that Sure Start is universal. You're not being invited to go to a Sure Start centre because you're a bad parent; you're being invited to go there because it's in the area. I know that those services are being used by the middle-class—perhaps privileged parents who don't need them so much—but just as the most successful school has a mixed social intake, part of Sure Start's success is that it's not a stigmatising service. It's there for everybody.

  Q37 Lisa Nandy: You've talked a lot about what teachers need to be able to deal with behaviour and discipline. One of the things that this Government are very keen on pursuing is reducing bureaucracy, which I would imagine is quite welcome, although I'd welcome some views on that. One of the possibilities that strikes me, though, is that bureaucracy can actually protect teachers. A recent example that springs to mind is the scrapping of the requirement to record significant incidents of restraint against pupils. Can I ask the panel to express some views on that?

  Dr Roach: From our point of view, bureaucracy isn't a dirty word. There's good bureaucracy and there's bad bureaucracy. Stripping away unnecessary bureaucracy is certainly something which is a very valuable activity, but in the context of this particular evidence session, which focuses on behaviour, on discipline and indeed on the allied issue around attendance and non-attendance, we do need to understand the problem. I talked earlier in my comments to the Committee about the perception that behaviour, or at least the challenge around managing behaviour, is getting more difficult, but what is the reality in schools? What do the data actually tell us about the nature of behaviour incidents that are taking place, the types of incidents and who the victims of behaviour incidents and bullying are within schools? We need to understand that far better. It does worry my union that there may be any moves afoot to roll back on an expectation, or indeed a requirement on schools, to record and report incidents of bullying and violent assault—pupil on pupil as well as pupil on staff—simply because there tends to be, within schools, an under-reporting and an underestimate of the extent and scale of those issues, which is the reason why so many of our classroom teacher members feel that school leadership is out of touch with what is actually happening in terms of the reality in classrooms and in delivering the kind of support that teachers feel they need. So we do need to have a proper barometer of what is actually happening in terms of behaviour and serious incidents within schools, but we need to have an approach to that which makes the recording and reporting reasonably manageable for schools themselves.

  Christine Blower: I think the critical point here is that this should be a proper dialogue with the profession through associations. Somebody looking at it from the outside might think it's bureaucratic, but as Patrick said, there are some things which the Government might decide to do away with that we actually think are very important. Bureaucracy has an entirely appropriate place, in terms of being able to see what it is that schools are doing, and making sure that the whole school community understands why it is we're doing things. That type of reporting would be one such.

  Q38 Lisa Nandy: Christine, you also touched in your opening session on the support that's available to teachers to deal with pupils who perhaps have underlying problems that cause behavioural difficulties. Do you have any concerns about the academies programme—in particular, the resources available at the moment to deal with, for example, pupils with special educational needs or behavioural difficulties—or do you think that could be managed in another way under the academies programme?

  Christine Blower: Those teachers who have found themselves in the academies that have existed hitherto are doing their very best to make sure that they manage the behaviour of everyone who comes through their door. It's not in the interests of any of the unions that any school that chooses that route should fail; we all want all schools to be successful. However, certainly in the National Union of Teachers, we have been robust defenders of local authorities, because we believe that it is through that local democratic structure that you can best provide everything that is needed to ensure that all schools can access those kinds of services. Mary mentioned her professional background. My own professional background, before I came to work as Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, was as the member of a behaviour support team, focusing particularly on behaviour in primary schools and, specifically, in order to prevent the likelihood of any child getting on to a trajectory on which they might end up being excluded from primary school. We were very fortunate to have a number of teachers, a play therapist and an art therapist. You can very well see that if a number of schools can draw on that kind of facility and professional support, if there is a child who risks exclusion, we can usually manage to nip it in the bud. The more schools there are that leave the local authority, the less there is at the centre in order to be able to do that. We think that that is clearly a loss for the schools that remain with the local authority, but it is also something we don't think the academies will be able to do as effectively. If they need to buy in services, they will not be doing it on the same basis as local authorities. My own team was centrally funded and the schools didn't have to pay for the service, because it was important that it could be accessed immediately without schools having to worry how they would find the money to pay for it. That is really critical. May I say one thing, briefly, about parenting? If we talk to parents who are having difficulty with parenting about wanting to improve their parenting skills, the chances are that they will not engage. Schools in the authority in which I worked when I was doing that work advertised a term's work, coming to school on Thursday mornings, on "Improve your parenting skills." Nobody came. The very next term, we advertised exactly the same content as "How can I best help my children to make the most of school?" Of course, lots of people came. Being able to have someone from outside who can facilitate that is very helpful and, of course, academies won't be in a position to be able to do that so directly. Apart from any ideological concern that one might have about the academies programme, I think that there are critical problems with what remains by way of the local authority.

  Dr Bousted: There are real issues around behaviour and attendance partnerships. Academies are not required, or are less likely, to be part of those partnerships. There are real issues around admissions policies. The Secretary of State repeatedly says that academies and free schools have to abide by the admissions code, but my question back to him all the time is, "Who will enforce it?" If it is not enforced, schools will play by other rules in order to get an intake that maximises their position in the league tables. No pupil premium will ever be large enough to stop that perverse incentive. We know that outstanding schools—the schools Ofsted calls "outstanding"— have hugely disproportionately privileged intakes, in terms of social class and prosperity, and that feeds directly into very good outcomes. The potential is for the hardest-to-teach children to end up in particular schools, and that is the greatest indicator of those schools being failed by Ofsted. I have not yet seen the checks and balances in the system that would mean that hard-to-educate children or children with special needs will not end up disproportionately in schools that already have a disproportionate number of such children.

  Q39 Nic Dakin: Are you suggesting that changes such as the taking away of the need to be in a behaviour and attendance partnership run the risk of letting behaviour per se getting worse in schools?

  Dr Bousted: Yes.

  Q40 Chair: The number of permanent exclusions has been coming down in recent years. Do you expect that to be reversed under this new Government?

  Dr Bousted: I think the Government have put levers in place. The levers have been put in so that permanent exclusions go down—not least the school being responsible for the pupil's education on the sixth day. That is another example of how important it is to have a local authority answer, because if it is one school being responsible after six days, then economies of scale are just not there. Neither do you have funding for specialist help or tuition. Exclusion is the last thing a school wants. Schools work very hard not to exclude children. All the evidence shows, and teachers and school leaders know, what it will do to the child's life chances if they are excluded, so you work very hard not to exclude them. Unfortunately, for some children and young people it is the only thing that you can do. But if that child is excluded, it's not good enough to just exclude them and then put them away; they've got to have somewhere to go. For that you need central planning and provision. It's very hard for individual schools to just do it themselves.

  Q41 Craig Whittaker: How many have opted out of the behaviour and attendance partnerships?

  Dr Bousted: We don't know yet. We're looking at that. I think the picture is mixed. It's something we're pursuing.

  Dr Roach: Irrespective of the fact that the picture is mixed, the fact of the matter is that there is no requirement for any school to enter into a behaviour and attendance partnership, and that's particularly regrettable and an extremely retrograde step.

  Q42 Craig Whittaker: Tom Burkard, who was here earlier, said that Marks and Spencer spend more money on teaching their staff about how to deal with angry customers than we do on teaching our new teachers how to deal with behaviour in classrooms. Being a retailer for 30 years, I can tell you there are a lot of angry customers out there. Nevertheless, I want to touch on what Patrick said earlier about the incidence of bullying—or its recording—and school leaders being out of touch with what's going on out there. Voice has said that it has had reports that many of the teachers feel unsupported when they are subjected to challenging behaviour by pupils. When behavioural issues arise, what form of support from senior staff is most needed and do teachers receive the necessary level of support as a rule?

  Dr Roach: We have done a lot of research in this area, as I know other unions and associations have as well. Take the issue, for example, of new and recently qualified teachers. Our research, "Sink or Swim", which was undertaken for us by the University of Leicester and published last year, examined over a five-year period the experiences of new and recently qualified teachers and the extent to which they were being supported in terms of their professional development and growth, and also in terms of dealing with issues around poor and challenging behaviour within their classrooms. What that report found quite emphatically was that teachers were very consistently reporting that they were being left to their own devices. Where senior management were coming in was to monitor and critique the quality of their practice within a classroom, not necessarily to offer development support, leadership and professional guidance about how to do things differently or how to do things better. That is just one piece of research. All the research that we have commissioned and that we are familiar with points to the importance of school leaders being able to demonstrate the qualities of good classroom practice. The OECD concluded last year in its report on improving school leadership that school leaders need to master new forms of pedagogy. What the OECD was really pointing to was that school leaders need to put themselves in touch with the realities of classroom life. That might include having a teaching timetable, at least in part, for senior leaders in schools. That might sound as if it's going a little too far for some school leaders, but it is important to engender confidence among the profession as a whole and to ensure that leaders understand the modern-day challenges of classroom life. We see the phenomenon of, for example, teachers who might be calling on leadership for support when there is a behaviour incident in the classroom and that support not being available, or where classroom teachers expect to have teaching assistant support in their classrooms and at very short notice that TA support being withdrawn and then behaviour issues beginning to intensify.

  Q43 Chair: How common is that, Patrick?

  Dr Roach: It seems to be quite common. Towards the end of this calendar year, we are going to publish research on SEN in schools, and just over half of teachers reported not only the importance of having support staff in class to aid teaching and learning and the management of behaviour, but that that support could not be relied upon consistently within schools. It is about how schools organise themselves.

  Q44 Chair: What percentage?

  Dr Roach: I think the figure was 61%.

  Chair: You said earlier that 50% felt that there wasn't a consistent—

  Dr Roach: No. About 61% said that they could not consistently rely on support staff being available in their classrooms to support teaching and learning and the management of behaviour.

  Christine Blower: The 2005 Ofsted report, Managing Challenging Behaviour, found that where school leaders were supportive of staff, that was the best set of circumstances. I don't demur at all from what Patrick says. It is critical to us that people who become school leaders should be qualified teachers. Frankly, we see that as obvious. They are the leading professionals in the school and they can't provide that support if they are unaware of the classroom context. I don't think it is heretical at all to suggest that heads and deputy heads should have classroom experience, and the way that they do that is by having a teaching timetable. They won't then put teaching year 10 to the bottom of their priority list when they could be out doing something else.

  Q45 Chair: Aren't they doing all this commendable bureaucracy, so they don't have the time?

  Christine Blower: Members of the leadership group are entitled to dedicated leadership time—it says that in the "School Teacher's Pay and Conditions Document"—and they have to make sure that they find time to do that. But in primary schools, for example, you would expect to see the head teacher and the deputy in the playground at playtime. You would expect them to be there in the morning so that they were engaging with parents and you would expect them to be there at the end of the day. Even if, in a given week, they don't manage to do any teaching, you would expect them to engage with the student body. You don't get that parent interaction in a secondary school, but you would expect them to be around the building.

  Q46 Chair: Christine, we all agree with that. We would have agreed with it 10 or 20 years ago. One thing that I am struggling to get a feel for is whether longitudinally things are getting better or worse. What are the reasons for that? Have mistakes been made? Most importantly, are we going in the right direction in terms of school leadership and support for behaviour and discipline and front-line teachers? I am not clear that we have had an answer from you.

  Christine Blower: I think that the mistakes are that over a period of time, heads have become semi-detached, if not detached, from the classroom practice of the people whom they are supposed to be managing and the children whose education is entrusted to them. I think that is partly a problem of bureaucracy.

  Dr Bousted: We surveyed 1,000 members and there are certain things that school leaders need to do if behaviour is going to be good in their schools. First, they have to have a behaviour policy. Secondly, they have to implement it. Thirdly, they have to implement it consistently.

  Q47 Craig Whittaker: I get all that, but do teaching staff, as a rule, receive the necessary support that they need?

  Dr Bousted: No, they don't. Actually, our latest survey was counter-intuitive, because it found that—this is really counter-intuitive—teachers in primary schools feel that they get that less than teachers in secondary schools. Our survey recently found that teachers in primary schools are more likely to be physically hit than teachers in secondary schools, and that primary schools are less likely to deal with that properly, so there is something counter-intuitive going on. It is about school leaders being supportive of their staff and ensuring that when an incident happens, the first thing that isn't asked is, "Why did that happen in your classroom? What was going wrong?" You have to deal with the incident. It is about ensuring that both pupils and teachers know that when incidents happen, particularly serious ones, they will be dealt with seriously, and that there will be consequences of those incidents. I read the ASCL response to this Committee, which made exactly the same points. There is recognition, but it is just that some schools do it particularly well and others don't. It is interesting that secondary schools seem to be getting their act together better on behaviour policies than their primary counterparts.

  Q48 Craig Whittaker: If that support is not there, which seems to be a generic opinion, does that mean that intervention for behavioural support when needed is coming in early enough?

  Dr Bousted: No, our members say it is not. They say it takes too long to get the specialist support; it is too bureaucratic to get it and when you do get it, you often don't get enough.

  Q49 Craig Whittaker: Is this one of the instances where getting rid of bureaucracy would help?

  Dr Bousted: Recording the incidence of serious instances would help. The issue about getting the help is whether it is there and whether there is enough of it. Children's social workers are in very short supply. Child and adolescent mental health services are being run down, and are going to be further decimated. The danger is that schools and teachers will be much more isolated in their dealing with and treatment of complex cases of very dysfunctional children and young people. The level of young people in our society who either self-harm or try to commit suicide is far too high. There is rising incidence of severe mental health issues with children and young people. We need those services in order to deal with that, particularly in an era when the very young people who are likely to have severe mental health issues will be looking to a future where they are probably not going to achieve. They will be very worried about their future—their ability to get a job and their ability to take an adult role in society. If we are looking for fairness, we need to ensure that the most vulnerable are not disproportionately on the receiving end of what will not be there for them.

  Q50 Tessa Munt: If we take the complex cases out of the frame slightly, I want to go back a little bit to what I said earlier. If you go back 20, maybe 40 years, what is happening is that the background low-level disruption is becoming the norm. We are only looking at the cases that come off the top of that as being extreme. The complex cases come out of that. What is happening is that we have a general acceptance that there will be low-level disruption. It's there, it's happening. I want to ask you about that. I think that what happens is that with less support in the classroom, as you're saying, less control—maybe that's the word—less broad discipline and the fact that we are talking about primary, such as the things Mary was saying about primary problems.

  Chair: Question, please.

  Q51 Tessa Munt: How do we actually stop that becoming the norm, and therefore setting a problem in secondary schools, where we only look at the peaks?

  Christine Blower: There are two things. A lot of the previous witnesses talked about quality of teaching. It is obviously critical that you have to have good teaching going on because that way there will be less disruption. The other thing is that behaviour itself is to some extent taught. That has to be made clear through the initial teacher training of people coming into teaching—we talk all the time about how we have the best generation of teachers we've ever had—because unless they understand that, the interactions, the relationships that people also talked about, will not be as good. It is not true that in the vast majority of our classrooms there is an acceptance of low-level disruption. That isn't the case. Most classrooms are very well ordered and most teachers are developing the techniques for being able to deal with that. In a sense, what we are doing is looking at these very serious incidents because they are very difficult to deal with. As Mary was saying, there are some children and young people who present with something that you might only see once or twice in your career. You might never have heard of it until a child or young person arrives in your classroom with, for example, fragile X. It is critical that we have services to provide support for those more serious difficulties. What is critical in a school is that you have a good behaviour policy, well implemented, and well understood by everybody. Then the amount of low-level disruption will be absolutely minimal.

  Dr Bousted: On ITT and continuing professional development, there are techniques you can learn which will help you, with a good curriculum, to deal with low-level disruption. One question I thought would be asked was, have Strategies[2] helped in this? I don't think they have. The access to CPD that teachers want includes a key thing. There are certain techniques that, if applied well, can be used to keep very good order in the classroom, such as: if you have a disruptive class or a class that will be difficult, making sure that when you start the lesson there is something for them to do when they walk through the door of the classroom; making sure that the curriculum is properly differentiated and ensuring that they do not shout out over each other. One counter-intuitive thing is not to repeat the answer that every child gives, but actually get them listening to one another. If you repeat the answer that every child gives all the time, why should they listen to each other? They will listen to you. Things can be done that will help teachers, which could be much more clearly disseminated throughout the system. I went on one such course, and it was immensely beneficial. I do not think that we want to make a sort of PhD out of managing bad behaviour. I think it is complex. It is to do with the curriculum. It is to do with effective teaching, and I think much more can be done within CPD and ITT to ensure that there are certain tricks of the trade and certain tools of the classroom that can be applied. We need to get better at doing that.

  Christine Blower: They include things such as tactically ignoring; if someone is doing something, and they do it because they get your attention every time they do so, you just choose not to respond every time they do it.

  Dr Bousted: Which is the hardest thing, and it is really counter-intuitive. You have to be taught how to do it.

  Q52 Chair: We were told earlier in the first session about the limited time spent on this, and it was said that most of it goes on in the classroom. Is it your collective view that insufficient communication of those classroom skills is given to trainee teachers?

  Dr Bousted: And beyond. I think there is more we can do to generate within the system very good behaviour management techniques. The unions are doing it and our courses are absolutely sold out, but it needs to be more systematised within the system.

  

  Q53 Nic Dakin: One of the things that came through in the first session was a view that there was a correlation between literacy, or lack of literacy, and behaviour issues. Do you agree with that, and is it important for the current provision for one-to-one support, and programmes such as reading recovery in primary and early secondary, to remain in place as part of the strategies to deal with behaviour?

  Dr Bousted: I am an English teacher, and I think that in the past we have insufficiently targeted and directed resources at literacy, and we continue to do so. There is no doubt that the biggest regression in year 6 to year 7 is children who go from primary, where the uses of literacy may be more limited, into a subject-based curriculum at secondary maybe taking eight, nine or 10 subjects. The thing that bars them in those subjects is not a lack of interest or of willingness to do well, but the fact that the uses of literacy in those subjects are too hard for them, because they have not developed sufficient reading skills. I think that is absolutely key. I was very struck by that. It reminded me that if you are in prison you are highly likely to have very poor literacy skills. It is a curse that follows you through life, and whatever happens we have to keep our eye and focus on literacy skills. The approach we have had to literacy, while it has raised standards—apparently, through test scores—I think has been a very didactic approach that has not looked at the uses of literacy. The focus on literacy in primary has been too much about the uses of literacy in the year 6, Key Stage 2 SATs exam. It has not been about more general uses of literacy, which is one of the reasons why those children who find they are struggling at Level 3 or just meeting Level 4 in primary fall behind when they go to secondary. We really have to look again at literacy. If the Government are going to do a literacy test in year 6, and I think that is an interesting concept, it has to be a good one. It has to be not only the narrow uses of literacy, but whether these children are literate in order that they will be able to access a wider subject-based curriculum at secondary school. If we get more focus on reading, rather than literacy—literacy is a very technical term—reading for pleasure, and reading for different uses, that will be very good. ATL will certainly be arguing in its submission to the review on the curriculum that we have to refocus on what we mean by literacy, because I think our current focus is far too narrow.

  Christine Blower: I was going to pick up precisely one of the points that Mary just made. At the National Union of Teachers conference last Easter we passed a motion on reading for pleasure. Sometimes, there isn't sufficient concentration on the fact that reading is an enjoyable activity, and on the promotion of reading for its own sake, as opposed to the mechanistic uses of literacy. A prison is, I believe, required by statute to have a library but a school is not, which seems extraordinary. Of course it is important that if people find themselves in prison they should develop their literacy skills if they have not done so hitherto, but it seems extraordinary that a school is not required to have a library. Of course, the premise of your question is right, Nic. If children are not able to read at the appropriate level to access the secondary curriculum, it is a very big problem and we need to address it. But the very mechanistic approach to literacy that has been embedded in primary schools has not always helped with that, so there is a need to reconsider it.

  Q54 Nic Dakin: The Government have announced changes to some of the powers of discipline for teachers to use in schools, such as search powers, powers of restraint, the ability to detain people without giving 24 hours' notice and getting rid of appeals panels. Will such changes make behaviour in schools better, or are they not of value?

  Ian Toone: I think the current powers are largely sufficient.

  Q55 Chair: Are they understood?

  Ian Toone: They may not be fully understood but they are sufficient. Certainly Voice would be very cautious about abolishing the 24 hours' notice for detention. It may be that very few schools would take up that option because it can lead to other difficulties.

  Q56 Chair: Do you welcome it? It is not mandatory, so if a school feels that it is appropriate they can do it and if they don't, they don't. Are you welcoming it or opposing it?

  Ian Toone: We would be very cautious about introducing it.

  Nic Dakin: It doesn't sound like a welcome to me.

  Ian Toone: It's not an unbridled welcome.

  Dr Roach: We broadly welcome the extension of discipline powers to schools but we would want to sound a few notes of caution around that. On detention, I suspect that it will be a power that will exist but it may not be invoked by schools. Many schools will use detention during the course of the school day. In other words, it is how you manage the school day and whether you detain pupils in lunch times or whenever. No notice is required currently within the system, as I understand it. I think schools will look to how they manage that themselves. My real note of caution is this: let's look at the wealth of discipline powers that currently exist within the system. First, how well are they known? When we did a survey of teachers in the early part of last year, we found that by and large the majority of teachers were unaware of the extended discipline powers that were available to them or to their schools. That is one of the factors that prompted us to press the Department to issue a leaflet to schools, which was widely distributed to teachers, setting out what those powers to discipline included. Will schools invoke the powers that are available to them? We can keep adding to the list of discipline powers, but if individual head teachers decide that these are not going to be invoked in their school, for whatever reason, we have a bit of a problem. Things can be centrally mandated, but it is down to local implementation. We have to begin to unpick why heads are choosing not to use the powers that are available to them. I would want to point to the way in which the accountability system currently operates within schools. That might not actually be much of an incentive for schools to be using, for example, powers available to them. Coupled with competition between schools, it might lead to a reluctance on the part of some school managements to invoke particular powers, as if somehow using weapons searches, for example, as part and parcel of the way in which you organise access to the school building, might be off-putting to future generations of parents when exercising their right to choose a school place.

  Dr Bousted: Can I just say something about appeals panels? You may be quite surprised by this, but we do not think appeals panels should be abolished. Look at the bureaucracies around them and stop perverse decisions where a perfectly legitimate decision to exclude or permanently exclude are overturned on a technicality—for example, not enough notice was given—but to exclude a pupil permanently is a very, very serious act, and schools should be held accountable for those decisions. It is not enough to say, "Well, schools can just make those decisions", because if you don't do it through an appeals panel, parents will go through the courts. Thinking about restraint, most teachers will never, or very rarely, have to restrain someone. I have to say that I as a teacher would think very hard about restraining a 15-year-old 6-foot boy, because I don't think it would be of much use. I don't think I'd be very good at it, and I don't think I would achieve anything, if they were in absolute fury, and they were going to walk out of my classroom.

  Chair: None of you offers martial arts courses.

  Dr Bousted: I don't think my restraining them is going to stop them, but it might hurt me very much. I would restrain if need be, or try to, if I saw them go to hurt somebody else. I think that the powers to restrain are going to be used only in the most extreme circumstances.

  Christine Blower: The only thing is that when teachers, in extremis, have to restrain, it is an issue the teacher needs to be supported through. It is a very difficult and, I would imagine, a very unpleasant thing to have to do. Clearly, school managements have to deal with that. Of the cases that went to independent appeals panels last year, only 60 pupils were ever returned to the schools, and of 8,110 exclusions, only 710—one in 11—went anywhere. They were very low numbers, and it means that parents won't have to take recourse to the courts. We think they should stay.

  Dr Roach: One of the key challenges still is about the way in which governing bodies overturn head teacher decisions in the first instance, which leads head teachers to adopt an extremely cautious approach when exercising the right to discipline. It is not just about independent appeals panels, but also the role of governing bodies in terms of reinforcing the discipline code within the school.

  Chair: That brings us to a close. Thank you all very much. If you have any other points that you want to make—you might want to explore Ofsted's role more—and if anyone wants to make any additional submissions to us, we would be very grateful.


1   Note by witness: oos is an acronym for 'out of seat' and toot is an acronym for 'talking out of turn.' Back

2   Note by witness: The National Stratagies.  Back


 
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