Behaviour and Discipline in Schools - Education Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 126-175)

Gillian Allcroft, Mike Griffiths, Russell Hobby, Charlie Taylor

27 October 2010

  Q126 Chair: Good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the Education Committee. We are grateful that the four of you have come to give evidence to us today. If you're happy and comfortable with it, we'll use your first names. Let's crack on through the questioning on the subject of behaviour and discipline. When we took evidence last week, we were told that in general standards of behaviour and discipline are improving and that, although there is work still to do, one could be happy with the general direction. Would you all concur with that?

  Mike Griffiths: I'll go first. The evidence collected from groups such as Ofsted would seem to be that is. Clearly, it's always been an issue ever since I started teaching 34 years ago and, I suspect, ever since Aristotle or whoever was writing about young people being disrespectful compared with the older generation and so on. I suspect it is a bit of a generational thing. My perception would be that in schools, yes, behaviour is improving.

  Gillian Allcroft: I would concur with that. It's what Ofsted has reported. Clearly there is always room for improvement—there are always behaviour issues—but generally it is getting better.

  Charlie Taylor: Yes, again, I'd agree. There has always been a sense that this is the worst generation we've ever had and that things are getting worse and worse, but I don't feel that's the case at all. I think there have been some significant improvements in behaviour. A lot of that is linked to improvements in teaching as well.

  Russell Hobby: Yes, I would agree with that, but small incidences of bad behaviour cast quite a long shadow and have a disproportionate impact, so it is right to focus on the minority of cases where we do want to improve it.

  Q127 Chair: According to Sir Alan Steer in the various pieces of work that he has done—and almost everyone else agrees—quality of teaching is the most important thing in improving behaviour and discipline. I don't know whether it's just since we have had the rarely cover provisions, but there seems to be increasing evidence of TAs ending up taking classes. Someone who is not even qualified as a teacher sometimes takes classes, which must surely undermine the quality of the teaching and thus make it less likely that people will experience consistent behaviour and discipline in the classroom. Have you any comments to make on that, Russell?

  Russell Hobby: There are three things that drive behaviour in schools, quality of teaching being one of them; the consistency of the behaviour policy across the whole school and how well that is implemented is another and, of course, parental attitudes towards schools—it is those three things together. Appropriate use of teaching assistants within a good behaviour policy needn't undermine behaviour at all, but the inappropriate use of people without the qualifications to do it would have that impact. Of course, if you're not being stimulated in your lessons, you're more likely to misbehave or to be alienated from school.

  Q128 Chair: Is there any evidence that TAs are being used inappropriately and that that is having an impact?

  Mike Griffiths: I don't know whether inappropriate is the right word. In secondary schools, it is not so much teaching assistants as the new breed of cover supervisors that has evolved with the work force reforms. In a school such as mine we need, when we appoint them, to make sure that they are trained, because they are not teachers; they supervise work that has been set by teachers. Clearly, however, it can be an issue. It is something that is worthy of further debate and research about the impact of non-teachers supervising classes at work. Certainly, if there is a significant amount of absence in a school and a youngster has several periods of cover supervision during the course of a day, then I would imagine that behaviour could become an issue.   

  Q129 Chair: Do you have any comment on that, Gillian?

  Gillian Allcroft: No, we have no evidence on that.

  Chair: Okay, with no further ado I will cede to Craig.

  Q130 Craig Whittaker: Good morning everybody. I want to talk about the new powers, specifically powers of restraint; the permanent exclusions and the independent appeals panels; and the removal of 24-hour notice of detention. Do you agree with the new proposals and do any of you wish to comment specifically on any of those three issues?

  Russell Hobby: I suppose the most ringing endorsement I can give for them is that they are fine. The trouble is that it's not the giving of new powers; it's how we use powers at the moment, and there is a wide range of existing legislation that isn't fully exploited to make use of that. In specific terms, the proposals for anonymity are welcome, because a relatively small proportion of accusations actually result in any action being taken and it causes immense trauma. The powers for search are fine. I don't think the idea of removing notice for detention for outside school hours is a helpful suggestion. I think the impact on parents of not giving them notice would not help the relationship with the school.

  Mike Griffiths: At the risk of being rather boring, I think ASCL, too, would welcome the new powers from the point of view that at least they provide a signal to parents and youngsters that the Government will be supporting schools and teachers in their attempts to make sure that discipline is as good as it can be in a school. Similarly, the search powers are fine, although it is strange that mobile devices such as telephones are lobbed in there at the same time as drugs, knives and whatever else. There is a bit of a confused message there, although I understand why it has appeared. The search is common sense, I would hope, and not a whole series of rules and regulations about it. I share the welcome for anonymity, particularly because of the incidences of the use of IT, websites and so on as a way of spreading information and, dare one say, malicious gossip. I think anonymity is important. I also share the notion that the item on detention is unhelpful. Certainly, in my school, for simply pragmatic reasons, I will not be allowing teachers to detain youngsters without giving notice. That is partly because there are transport issues for youngsters—in some communities, where there are school buses to catch, it's just simply not pragmatic—but also because one only has to look forward to the November evenings and youngsters travelling home in the dark and so on when the parents haven't been given notice. You only need the first instance of something happening on the way home, and schools will very quickly not want to put themselves in that position.

  Q131 Craig Whittaker: Is it fair to say, then, that these are just extra powers in the toolbox of things that are available for schools to use and that it's entirely down to the head and the leadership team as to whether they use them or not? If that is the case, why do you think that previous tools in that toolbox have not been exercised by teachers?

  Mike Griffiths: I'm not sure that they haven't been exercised by teachers. I think teachers always have used these powers. Detentions are not terribly useful. People tend to try and find a more creative way of dealing with issues, because to get good discipline you need to work with youngsters and get their co-operation. Simply penalising and depriving them of time and so on isn't always helpful. The only time when I think it can be useful is when that time is used by the teacher to constructively work with that individual child, in a way that they don't normally have time to, to actually rebuild the relationship. Personally, I am completely against the notion of what I think in some schools is called faculty detention, where somebody else runs it. As far as I can see, the only reason for keeping a youngster behind is to enable me, as the teacher, to improve relationships with that youngster, but that's unlikely to occur if the youngster perceives the detention as being a period of almost imprisonment. Even in such cases, detentions are better held at breaks and lunchtimes than after school.

  Charlie Taylor: The thing that concerns me is the going of the independent panels. Having sat in a former life as an LEA representative on those panels, the decisions that actually did get turned over made me think, "Damn right," because the school had run the show appallingly, had failed to follow procedures and things hadn't been done right. In the 2% or 3% of decisions that do get turned over, I don't have a problem with that at all. The hands-on bit concerns me a little, because, as I have seen in primary and secondary schools, you get circumstances where teachers have been trained and therefore they think that it's okay to lay hands on a pupil. The danger is that that can escalate, things get worse and you then end up with a situation where a pupil gets permanently excluded. So I agree, provided the training is of high enough quality and teachers really understand that it's the last resort. You don't want situations where, as soon as there's a bit of disruption, a bigger teacher just bundles the child out of the room. You don't want the message going out to any child, "Because I am bigger and stronger than you, I can get you to do stuff." A lot of our children are coming into schools with that sort of message already and the last thing we want to do is reinforce that message at school, as well. I would add that a very positive bit that came out of that, too, which was the positive touch that the Secretary of State mentioned in terms of being able to comfort children and making that emphatically okay to do. Some schools appear to have a non-touch policy, so you have, say, a child of five, who's crying their eyes out because they're missing their mother, and no one is allowed to put their arms around them and give him or her a cuddle. That seems ludicrous, and I am very glad that the Secretary of State has clarified the law on that.

  Q132 Craig Whittaker: Are you saying that the initial teacher training is inadequate as it currently stands?

  Charlie Taylor: In terms of managing behaviour?

  Craig Whittaker: Yes.

  Charlie Taylor: Yes, I think there should be more. When I was trained, I probably had about half a day on that in the entire course. It might be a day now, but it's not much more than that.

  Q133 Craig Whittaker: Do you want to pick up on that, Mike?

  Mike Griffiths: Yes. My school runs a school-centred initial teacher training course. Where teacher training is based in schools, there is probably a greater emphasis on management of behaviour as a key issue. That is something that I would like to see expanded. Other than that, I entirely agree. My head teacher 30-odd years ago used to say, "Whatever you do—I implore you, I beseech you—don't touch the children, whatever the provocation." His view, and mine as well, was that as soon as you do, you automatically place yourself and the school on the back foot. The focus is then on the behaviour on the teacher, rather than on the behaviour the child, which led to that response. My view is entirely that we should say to staff, "Whatever you do, you still do not touch a child when you are angry with the child because of their misbehaviour." However, I well remember running under-13 football teams and knowing which child would need a consoling arm around their shoulders after they missed a penalty in the dying minutes of a cup game, and it is just as important to do the same for a child who is missing their parent.

  Q134 Craig Whittaker: Gillian, I will ask you my final question, which ties in with what we've been talking about. If the Government do go ahead with removing the right of appeal to an independent panel against permanent exclusions, for example, would school governors be confident that they can provide the same level of safeguarding to parents as independent panels?

  Gillian Allcroft: I think that the answer is probably no, although not because governors wouldn't try to do it properly. Governors already have to review certain exclusions, and we already advocate that any governor doing that should be properly trained. Even if governors are confident and doing it properly, there is potential for the perception by parents and pupils that the governors work hand in hand with the head, so even if they've reviewed the head's decision, they're just going to agree with what the head says. Even if you have agreed it and the head has done everything marvellously and it's all fine, and you have ratified the decision, there is still going to be that perception that you haven't because you are just in the pocket of the head. If you get rid of independent appeal panels, the danger is that schools will end up in court. That is going to be a massive cost for schools.

  Q135 Craig Whittaker: Do you think we are going to see fewer exclusions on the back of this happening?

  Gillian Allcroft: It's very difficult to say until a few schools have ended up in that situation. Personally, I would keep independent appeal panels because I think that they do a good job.

  Russell Hobby: Can I weigh in to reinforce that? It puts schools in a difficult situation. Exclusions are a measure of desperation anyway, so whether they would influence the number of those—it is always the last resort. In terms of natural justice and the way it appears, keeping independent appeal panels will protect schools and make sure they use the right process.

  Mike Griffiths: I agree. Although I've appeared in front of independent appeal panels and I didn't like it, I think it is better that they remain because the alternative would be even more unpleasant for me as a head. Although they are not comfortable places to be, my only concern about them is that sometimes they are almost too focused on determining whether every last i has been dotted and every t crossed on procedural items, rather than on the behaviour that might have led to that exclusion. I still think that we probably need to retain them.

  Q136 Ian Mearns: I have been a chair of governors for secondary schools for 20 years, and I have sat as a chair of governors at an appeal panel defending the school's position. I haven't been turned over yet but I agree with you, Mike, that quite often it isn't pleasant from the school's perspective. However, in the different appeal panels that I've been to, the running of the appeal panel has sometimes been very good, and at other times, it has been decidedly iffy in terms of the way that the chair has allowed the proceedings to get out of hand. Do you think that there is a role for the appeal panels to be much better trained in terms of their membership?

  Charlie Taylor: In the ones that I've sat on, I've been impressed by the expertise and generally they have gone very well—and I've sat on quite a few over the years as an independent LEA rep.

  Q137 Tessa Munt: I'd like to ask you a few questions about preventing and managing exclusion, concentrating on the prevention part first. Early identification of risk factors seems to be one of the things that we might concentrate on. What do you think are the risk factors that we should be taking into account?

  Russell Hobby: The most obvious risk factor is special educational needs. Children are eight times more likely to be excluded if they have a statement. I'm not saying that is something that justifies it, but clearly we are excluding more children in those circumstances and that is probably where we need to focus a lot of attention. Equally, exclusions are not evenly distributed. Children on free school meals are more likely to be excluded as well. I think we should focus our attention on those points.

  Q138 Tessa Munt: Does anyone have anything else to add?

  Charlie Taylor: I would simply say, "Ask nursery school teachers." Go to a nursery school and say to the teacher, "Which pupils in your class are going to be causing disruption further down the road?" There was a hideously depressing study—I am trying to remember where I saw it—that got nursery school teachers to predict which children would end up in prison and 15 years later, they were completely right. If we are spotting these problems in nursery school, why do we wait till the children have gone to secondary school before we sling them out or do something about their behaviour? I would put in a plug for my early intervention nursery at my school, where we take eight pupils who have fallen out of some sort of permanent education, and they spend two or three terms with us. Ninety-six have gone through our unit and only seven have come back with a statement for behaviour further down the road. If you compare that with the recidivism rate of somewhere like Feltham, which I guess is about 80%, it is a pretty good case for early intervention with young children.

  Q139 Tessa Munt: Thank you. Now I want to draw you on a little bit further from that, because it strikes me that some of the things that were identified for us were: social and economic status, which is some of the stuff that Russell has actually raised; poor attachment with early carers, which might be a natural conclusion; reading failure; and pupils going through school transition. The education system can perhaps only have an effect on the latter two of those. A 1974 study stated that reading failure was the only one of all the various indicators that accurately predicted the later incidence of violent and antisocial behaviour. If we look in our own country at the number of people with a very poor reading age who end up in prison, something like 60% or 70% of our prison population have a reading age of less than 10. That is something that we can have an effect on, and I wondered what your comments were about reading and the ability to teach reading to very young children.

  Charlie Taylor: I feel strongly about the teaching of a specific reading scheme, and I happen to be very passionate about synthetic phonics. In some ways it is nothing new, but it is about very focused teaching of reading—it's made a real focus. In both my schools, it's a way of targeting the children, assessing where they are and moving them on in a very, very structured way. The effects are dramatic and we get some real change. I think a generation of children lost out because of the fancy sort of stuff that I was taught at teacher training college—real books, or letting them look at the pictures and make it up as they went along. Actually, reading is one of those things that you have to teach.

  Mike Griffiths: I wouldn't disagree with any of that, but I think that we have to be careful about cause and effect. Although significant numbers of people end up having a problem who were also poor readers, they were probably also deprived in lots of other ways as well. We have to be careful not to make too simplistic a judgment that because you are not a reader, you will not get on. In the 1950s, my father was deputy head of a secondary modern school and he remembers the days when people left school at 14 or 15 and went into the army or manual labour. Vast numbers of them could not read or write functionally, but that is not to say that they all ended up in prison. I do not think that it is a necessary consequence, so I think that we have to be careful. You also mentioned transition. Schools work a lot harder than they used to on transition, but sometimes it is the art of the possible. I was a head teacher in relatively rural Oxfordshire where basically there were about five primary schools that fed into the secondary school of which I was head. There, liaison was fairly straightforward, and you could work with that. My current school's 2010 intake came from 83 different primary schools, which completely changes the dynamic of how much transition work can go on between us and them. I am also aware of all-through schools, which I think you're interested in, and there is one in our town. It is a bit of a misnomer, though, because although it is an all-through school in one sense, it is only an all-through school for about 30 of the students. They are still joined by about 180 other students at year 7, so it's not as though the whole school is all-through. I do not know of many cases where a school is actually all-through, with 90 youngsters or whatever going right the way through from age four to age 18. I think in most so-called all-through schools, actually there is still quite a big addition of other youngsters from other places. That might be worth looking at—comparing those youngsters who were part of the all-through with the youngsters who joined. Again, we have to be careful with the data because it is not always as simple as it seems.

  Q140 Tessa Munt: I did not want to imply in any way that if you cannot read you go to prison. What I am saying is that the learning experience of reading can perhaps alter people's futures, and that seems to be a factor so frequently.

  Mike Griffiths: Clearly, it is absolutely vital because if youngsters are not able to read well and effectively, they simply cannot access other parts of the curriculum. Of course, if they cannot access the curriculum and if their achievement gets lower an almost inevitable consequence is that they become relatively disaffected and relatively uninterested in lessons, and behaviour becomes a problem.

  Q141 Tessa Munt: So what we are saying is that it is possible that instead of concentrating on managing exclusions we could prevent more, perhaps.

  Charlie Taylor indicated assent.

  Q142 Tessa Munt: Charlie seems to agree, so that would be what I would suggest. May I quickly look at interventions and managing exclusions through restorative justice, mediation, internal exclusion and managed moves? How often are managed moves and internal exclusion used to prevent final exclusion?

  Gillian Allcroft: That varies enormously from school to school in terms of internal exclusion. It can depend on the individual school's policy and how it is managed.

  Q143 Tessa Munt: Are managed moves a good thing?

  Gillian Allcroft: They can be. It is a balancing act. They can be a good thing, but on the other hand they can be seen as a way of moving the problem elsewhere without dealing with it. They can be a good thing, because sometimes the pupil needs to be in a different environment, which might help that pupil and move their education on.

  Russell Hobby: I think that managed moves are a good thing, because groups of heads and schools work together to take responsibility for a problem, rather than saying, "That child is not my problem any longer." If you are participating in it, you are also accepting children from other schools. I think that, in some areas, they are often hung up by the bureaucratic difficulty of organising it and by whether the local authority is sufficiently stimulating it and helping to co-ordinate things. But as a principle, and as an alternative to permanent exclusion and at the end point of an escalation of processes that include things going on purely within the school, it is a big step forward.

  Mike Griffiths: Although I think that, in principle, they and partnership working are a good idea, I am afraid that, in my experience, the local authority has not been involved at all. It is individual head teachers working together to resolve the problem. I have to say that, in my experience, managed moves are rarely successful. The danger is that they can be used to disguise or mask the problem. It is almost delaying the inevitable sometimes. There may be occasions when it is appropriate and it will work and has a good chance of working, but not that many cases have been successful in my relatively limited experience. It depends what is the reason for doing it. If it is just that something has gone wrong in relation to a particular school, it can work. But if the youngster has a deeper, underlying problem, simply shifting it elsewhere and having a trail of disruption around local schools doesn't do that youngster any good, and it certainly doesn't do the youngsters and the staff at the receiving school much good either.

  Charlie Taylor: I think that internal exclusion can work well when it is well managed, but when it becomes a sort of school sin bin it can be disastrous. I observed a school where pupils said to each other, "What have you got for second lesson? I'll see you in the sin bin at quarter past, then, because that's boring and we'll have a bit of fun there." But in well managed, well organised schools it works very well and it is very successful. To briefly go back to the point about transition, I have a very big concern about what happens to exclusion rates between 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds—in other words, between year 6 and year 7—when they dump them between the two. Do children get twice as bad between the last year of primary and the first year of secondary? No, they don't. We have a problem around that. When we get to 12-year-olds, I think that the exclusion rates are about four or five times higher. I say to my secondary school colleagues that I think, as a primary head, that there are times when secondary schools could learn from the way in which primary schools run things. For example, there's a fantastic school in my local authority called Rosedale College, which has a high-level teaching assistant who goes around all the separate classes with an individual class group for year 7 and year 8. That means that when the pupils come into the room, the teaching assistant knows all those pupils and can tell the teacher, "So and so is having a bit of a twitch today. If he starts acting up, I'll take him out. Leave it to me." That differs from the very difficult situation that secondary school teachers are put in where they have 30 children and barely know who they are, and they have to deliver the curriculum. If someone starts acting up, it immediately becomes a problem and it snowballs. A little bit of primary seeping into secondary would not do any harm, particularly in schools that have very challenging behaviour.

  Q144 Chair: The number of permanent and short-term exclusions has been decreasing. Mike, in your evidence to the Committee, you sat on the fence and said that "hopefully" this is because things are getting better rather than because of pressure from the Government and so on. What is the truth here? It is going down. Is that a good thing or does it, in fact, mean that head teachers are just intimidated into not doing it? We have had evidence from teaching unions that heads do not get to understand and feel the true picture that is going on down below and are just rather keen to keep the numbers down and keep their noses clean with the local authority. It is hard to tell from your evidence what you think is really happening.

  Mike Griffiths: That's not a situation that I would recognise at all. In my experience, head teachers know only too well exactly what's happening in their schools.   

  Q145 Chair: So Patrick Roach—I think it was—of the NASUWT was wrong to suggest that there was a disconnect between leadership and the front line?

  Mike Griffiths: Yes.

  Russell Hobby: Just to add to that: the majority of head teachers are also teachers, so they're on the front line as well as leading the school. So I would reinforce that.

  Chair: We move on to exclusions and partnerships.

  Q146 Pat Glass: I want to ask a few questions around early intervention and alternative provision, but before I do, Charlie, can you give me the name of that school again?

  Charlie Taylor: Rosedale College in Hillingdon.

  Q147 Pat Glass: Thank you. Looking at early intervention in both senses, around nurture provision—it was good to hear you talk about that—and intervening before the problem escalates, how important is that in what we have heard in your evidence about a reduction in behaviour problems in schools?

  Russell Hobby: It's vital. We weight our system too much towards the end of the education process, when it's too late to alter the things that have been embedded beforehand. From universities on down through the system, we need to be paying as much attention to nursery and pre-school activity. As Charlie said, there are some quite strong predictors. There are various studies in the US as well, which connect lifetime income and happiness to the quality of pre-school provision. It raises some interesting questions about the pupil premium as well, which starts at five, as I understand it, rather than earlier. It might be that we could help disadvantaged children more by focusing resources even earlier in their school career.

  Q148 Pat Glass: In my experience, nurture provision is very patchy across the piece; in some authorities most schools have nurture provision and in others they have very little. What is the experience among your head teachers? If we think that this is important, should Government be sending out very strong signals around nurture provision?

  Russell Hobby: They could send out strong signals about what works and then leave it to schools in the area to react to that evidence. I think that they have an interest in doing that. Particularly when you connect Sure Start and children's centres with the schools themselves and you manage that journey from three onwards throughout the school career, that is quite effective.

  Mike Griffiths: Early referral is important in changing behaviours rather than simply punishing the bad behaviour at the end when it is much too late. I would support what Charlie said in terms of a school like mine, where there are learning support assistants and behavioural support assistants who know the classes and the youngsters, and do follow them or particular groups, so they get to know them and can provide the continuity that perhaps a subject teacher wouldn't be aware of, which helps. Even though we're classed as "outstanding" with behaviour described in the past three Ofsted reports as "excellent," at my school we've appointed a behaviour support manager. The idea of that is to identify as early as possible—in our case in years 7 and 8—for which youngsters behaviour is an issue or may develop into one, so that we can target support, teacher training and ways of dealing with those youngsters at as early a date as possible, rather than doing the old finger-in-the-dike thing for two or three years before they become fully grown adolescents and become a major problem. We want to tackle the issue at an earlier stage. More and more schools are trying to do that. Secondary schools are trying to tackle the issue when it first arises, rather than when it becomes a problem.

  Q149 Pat Glass: There was an authority that I worked with in a large city that had agreed with its secondary head teachers that every time there was a permanent exclusion, they would have a formal serious case review where other heads would come in and look at, not the incident itself, but what led up to it, and would come out with written recommendations for governors, saying, "This is the thing that you need to put in place to prevent this ever happening again." Do you think that it would be helpful if we looked at it from a structural point of view rather than the child and the incident?

  Gillian Allcroft: As governors, we have to put in place what we can to ensure that heads and teachers can do their job properly, and look at intervention and look at staffing complements and decide whether this is somewhere where the budget might need to go. Clearly, we are all facing budget constraints, so there will be issues. The other thing that has obviously worked in authorities is parent support advisers, and having those people in place to help is great. It has been shown that that can help work with behaviour.

  Q150 Pat Glass: Moving on to alternative provision, we had Alan Steer here last week, and he said that PRU provision in this country was little short of a national disgrace. My experience is that it is either very good or very poor. Given that we are facing economic restraint, do you think that there is a place for local authorities to share their expertise and pool resources around this? Do you want to start, Charlie?

  Charlie Taylor: Yes, I do. I think Alan Steer is right about the wide swings in the quality of alternative provision for pupils. Some of it's excellent; some of it isn't. At my school, there is a lot of intervention; we work with the parents a lot. It is much easier to change the behaviour of a three-year-old than it is when your child gets to 15. Parents are a lot more up for changing the behaviour of a three-year-old than they are for a 15-year-old. By the time they get to 15, the die is cast and people are putting their hands up and saying, "Let's hope they get to 18, so we can move them on." So I think that there is a huge case for that. We need to put as much resources as we can into looking after those pupils who are getting chucked out of school. There is a real danger that you get into what is called the child deficit model, which is where all the problems get focused in on the children, and you end up with situations where schools are thinking that if they could just get rid of this one child, then everything would be okay until the next one comes along. We should focus in on those children and improve the quality of teaching in PRUs—we have talked about reading—so that we have really focused teaching of reading in PRUs and really focused work on their social and emotional issues. In the PRU that I run, a lot of time is spent on social issues. The children sit around the table every day for 20 minutes and have tea and toast together. On one level it seems trivial, but what they get out of sitting opposite each other—it is all very twee, with a butter knife and a teapot and that kind of thing—and actually beginning to unravel and being able to discuss the issues that are going on makes a huge amount of difference to their behaviour. Most of the children now spend only two terms in my school and then move back into mainstream primary schools. During that process, because they still spend a day a week in their mainstream school—we are emphatic about that: they don't lose touch with that school and they have to continue to wear that school's uniform and everything else—it means that we can get the teachers from that school in to the Willows, and we can train them and support them to reintegrate that child back. So when the next one comes along, instead of simply pushing them out, they will actually have more resources and a bigger skill set to help them, support them and change them.

  Q151 Pat Glass: Russell, coming back to you, given that the panel have seen excellent provision—Charlie's is one that we haven't seen, but that we recognise—and given that there is almost a shortage of money and really good staff around this area, is this an area in which local authorities should be looking to pool their resources and their specialities, because staff are crucial?

  Russell Hobby: Staff are crucial, and so is the quality of training. The difficulty would be, as Charlie has outlined, the relationship with local schools. PRUs are connected to a group of schools, which can make it harder to pool resources at a large level, but that might be possible at a smaller, community level, and certainly with resource constraints that is an issue to look into. As well as the quality of what is delivered, we need to look at what they are for and why children are referred to these units. That is probably a bigger driver of what is going on. If they are used as a long-term place to put children that we find too difficult to work with, that is exactly the wrong reason to be using them. They are short-term interventions to help someone turn around and go back into mainstream education. If we are sending children with special educational needs there, as opposed to specialist alternative provision, then this is just a big misuse of the PRU set-up. I wonder how some of the issues around quality and impact might be related to using them for the wrong things as opposed to what is being done in them.

  Q152 Pat Glass: May I move on very quickly to CAMHS? As a Committee we heard clearly from a number of experts that CAMHS is very patchy across the country and very limited. There is just not enough of it and there are not enough of the really good ones. Because tier 1 services consequently largely fall upon school staff, and given that we are identifying significantly more children with SEN than our European neighbours are, are our staff in schools trained enough to be able to identify the difference between those children who have conduct disorders, those who have SEN and those who are simply under-achieving as a result of many other factors?

  Russell Hobby: I think the role of special educational needs, both delivery of the appropriate teaching and identification of those needs, should be looked at in initial teacher training. While classroom management is probably an argument for putting more teacher training into schools, because it is a practical discipline, there is a theoretical basis to some of this work as well and it supports some of the higher education influence in initial teacher training as well. But this takes place also within a wider circumstance that as a society we are more inclined to ascribe categories to behaviour rather than to treat people as individuals. There is a kind of medicalisation of how we talk about children. That is driven by parents wanting to ensure that their children's needs are recognised and that they get the resources and support, and schools are doing exactly the same thing as well. So there is a bigger picture about how we describe needs within schools and whether we need to go as far as categorising people with medical issues, if that makes sense.

  Q153 Pat Glass: Initial teacher training gets blamed for everything. It is three or six months for a PGCE. It is a very short course and there is a lot to learn. Teachers are in school a long time. How important do head teachers feel it is that there should be continuous training around SEN?

  Russell Hobby: Yes. Every teacher needs to know. It is not just a specialist role.

  Q154 Pat Glass: But head teachers are not spending their money there, are they? And they need to, don't they?

  Russell Hobby: But there are any number of things that we could be spending money on training people in. That is the difficult side of it. There is the role of the co-ordinator and their position on the leadership team within the school as well. So there is a balance. In different schools it will vary because for some schools there won't be a high incidence of pupils with special educational needs and that won't be the right way to spend their training budget.

  Q155 Chair: May I ask you specifically about CAMHS? Alan Steer referred to new cases where a child had to wait 18 months before being seen and nine months is routine. Do you have examples where there is a really good CAMHS and where it makes a difference?

  Mike Griffiths: I think the time lag is the problem a lot of the time with CAMHS. There are often some very good people but it tends to be a problem of time for getting a referral, which is one of the reasons why, as I say, we have appointed somebody, almost our own person, who has expertise in that area. There is also that notion of special needs: although all teachers need to be aware of issues about how to work with youngsters with needs in their subject areas, I don't think that every teacher needs to be trained in order to recognise the thing in the first place. They need to be aware that a youngster has the condition and be told the best way to deal with that. You refer to training, but we do that on whole-school training days. There is always at least one of those days at my school where there is an emphasis on special needs.

  Q156 Pat Glass: So is the average teacher in the classroom well trained enough? Given that, for instance, on average, we are told, there are two autistic children being taught in every class who can exhibit all kinds of difficult behaviours, is every average teacher well trained enough to deal with that?

  Mike Griffiths: "Every average teacher"? All teachers could be trained more in everything. Clearly, it is an area, but it's the art of the possible. We do what we can and we do what we do. I suspect that most schools have a clear focus on youngsters' special needs, but of course there are special needs. I would not want it to be equated. This hearing is on behaviour and discipline and obviously the two are not—

  Pat Glass: But the two things are almost intrinsically linked.

  Mike Griffiths: That's right. I wouldn't like there to be a belief that there was an intrinsic link between the two. The two clearly are very different issues.

  Q157 Pat Glass: In a sense, what I am trying to explore is this: many of the behaviours that we see in school will be linked with SEN. Are teachers well enough trained and aware to be able to identify the difference? I suspect that Charlie has lots of children who have come through his system who have come through as conduct disordered and who actually have a diagnosis.

  Charlie Taylor: Very often what we find is that they have an undiagnosed condition. For example, we had a pupil the other day who was very naughty, but it turned out that she was in the first percentile for speaking and listening. Even though socially she appeared to be quite good at communicating, if you listened to what she said it was very poor and she had slipped through the net. As soon as we were able to recognise that and support the school to recognise that, her behaviour improved considerably.

  Q158 Chair: On CAMHS, the mental health services for young people—children not with SEN but with a particular mental health need—the evidence we have seems to be that that does not get met across the board. Is that as scandalous as it looks? If that wasn't so—in other words, if this Committee or these parliamentarians were to push the new Government to do what the previous Government obviously did not do, would it make a huge difference to children with mental health problems if they got early intervention?

  Mike Griffiths: I think it would, because we have been talking for the last 15 minutes about the importance of early intervention, and you are not going to get early intervention if you are having to wait for 18 months to even get the assessment. It is an important issue.

  Charlie Taylor: In my school, we had a clinical psychologist who was working there two days a week, paid for by a project from CAMHS. She ran a parents group which was incredibly successful in terms of moving stuck parents, really moving their behaviour on. Unfortunately, the funding for that ran out and now all our mental health support is paid for either by us or by charities who we get to help fund it. But in terms of what we get from CAMHS it's now become very limited.

  Q159 Chair: Would you rather see the money come direct to the school so that you can commission and work under your own control, or would you rather rely on the NHS with an additional central prod into it and hope that it can deliver?

  Charlie Taylor: We are supposed to be able to commission through CAMHS, but I thought education recruitment was complicated until you get into health recruitment and everything that goes with it. The bureaucracy and everything else around it is such a complete nightmare that in the end you think it is better if we use the money on what we want. You have to pay them a huge—I don't know how to put it—pimping fee, I suppose, to get any services into your schools. You end up paying a tip to the NHS for bringing a worker into your school, so in the end we thought we would go direct to the workers and recruit our own people.

  Mike Griffiths: I would agree that the best way that we have found to get things to happen is to put the money into the school and the school then buys from wherever it can obtain the service.

  Q160 Chair: Because there is this general tension between a sense of central direction and prescription which should guarantee, in a way, the service delivery and if you go to greater autonomy you might be undermining that.

  Charlie Taylor: If the money is not ring-fenced, then it may get spent on something else—that is the difficulty. If you ring-fence the money you can provide the service, but then you get all these little pockets of money that head teachers are trying to juggle around with, so it is always difficult.

  Mike Griffiths: I think it is a mistake that politicians make to think that prescription guarantees that something will happen. I don't think it does.

  Q161 Pat Glass: May I ask one more question? My feeling and experience around this is that there is too little provision, it is too variable and it is in the wrong place. There is a structural issue—CAMHS sitting in clinics and not in schools and not in homes.

  Charlie Taylor: They need to be in schools, because schools have a really good record of getting parents into schools and working with parents and supporting them. It is very difficult for some of the parents in my school to go to a clinical setting and turn up on time for appointment after appointment. The danger is that you get to a situation where they miss two appointments and are kind of rubbed off and it is said that they weren't ready for therapy, rather than being chased up and told, "Look, we can help you here, but you're going to have to meet us halfway." There's a huge amount to be done on going around to houses and getting parents into schools.

  Mike Griffiths: My school has four times the national average of pupils with autism—we have over 40 youngsters on the autistic spectrum with statements for autism. I would like to support the notion that parents are absolutely key in behavioural things in secondary school as well as primary school. We always look at it as a triangle of parent, child and school—you need all three corners to be working effectively and we try to work very closely with parents on the behaviour of youngsters. Charlie is right—it is absolutely key at primary, but also at secondary, that you get parents on board. Most parents start to despair of their adolescent child at some point—I know I did—but it is important to get the message through to some parents, "Your 15-year-old adolescent is a pain, but we teachers have seen that many times and, trust us, they grow up to be okay."

  Q162 Chair: Will the fact that there will no longer be a requirement to be a member of a behaviour and attendance partnership have any impact?

  Russell Hobby: Even if you require people to participate in partnerships, they can be there in spirit but not in body and vice versa, so required partnership working tends to produce no better effects than voluntary ground partnership working.

  Mike Griffiths: I agree 100%.

  Gillian Allcroft: I agree.

  Charlie Taylor: I agree, too.

  Chair: Excellent.

  Q163 Ian Mearns: We have strayed into parents, which is the area that I wanted to come in on. As a school governor and an elected member of the council dealing with education for a number of years, I have often come across parents who are difficult to categorise. I very rarely come across a parent who literally doesn't care about their child. They quite often lack understanding about how to modify or moderate a child's behaviour, but I very rarely come across parents who don't care. Having said that, even when parents might care, they are quite often still the heads of unstructured and chaotic households. For some youngsters, sadly, the most negative influence on their lives will be their own parents. That is a sad fact of life. Having said that, when we come across youngsters from chaotic homes, it is very difficult to intervene. We have received written evidence from an educational psychologist, Dr Sue Roffey, who says that "parents often feel blamed, helpless and marginalised in their interactions with schools over issues of school behaviour", and that "parents are often at a loss themselves to manage behaviour well". However, where things are going badly awry, the evidence that we have received states: "By August 2008, no parenting order for behaviour had yet been issued, and Committee staff are not aware that the position has changed since." So these powers are available to local authorities working in partnership with schools, but they don't seem to be being used when parents are presented with youngsters whose behaviour at school is chaotic. How can we better develop understanding between schools and parents on issues of behaviour? Should different approaches be employed in the different sectors between primary and secondary, or even special schools?

  Gillian Allcroft: There clearly is a difference between primary and secondary. As a primary school, you are far more likely to see your parents at the school gate and you are far more likely to know them as individuals on a regular basis. It is therefore easy to build up a relationship and have those quiet words and conversations that are more difficult to have at secondary. I think that all schools, in terms of behaviour, accept that you can't deal with poor behaviour unless you involve the parents. They have a variety of strategies to deal with them, but what works in one school with one set of parents will not necessarily work in another school. You have to look at the individual context of the school. Going back to what I said in that earlier question, where people have had parental support advisers, they have proved a very valuable role, particularly for those parents who have had a negative school experience and who don't want to come in and talk to the teachers, however much the teachers would like them to. Having that person, who is not actually a teacher, can be really useful.

  Mike Griffiths: I am not surprised that there aren't that many parenting orders, because in one sense it is an admission that everything has gone wrong. My view is that if you end up with a parenting order, you have lost anyway. As a school, you can only work co-operatively with the parents. If the youngster comes from a dysfunctional family, you need to find whatever help, support and advice you can give, because it is a co-operative venture to get that youngster into secondary schools.

  Q164 Chair: Do you think that home-school agreements are a good thing?

  Mike Griffiths: I don't think they are worth the paper they are written on, to be honest. I don't think that anybody has ever used them productively.

  Charlie Taylor: I think they can be used constructively as a starting point for putting down some benchmarks. The way that they are used is then broadened, and it is a way of engaging parents and discussing what your expectations are, particularly when you first meet them when they first come to the school. I do think that the more schools can do to meet those more challenging parents and to make them feel that the school is on their side, the better. Because let's face it: these are often parents whose own education has been incredibly disrupted. They get a horrible feeling as they walk through the door into school; they feel terrified. When they get to the head teacher's door, it brings back that terrible feeling—I still get it in my own school, and I'm the head teacher—where the years fall back. I used to knock on my door for the first three months when I got there, because I'd forgotten that I was the head teacher. Parents still have all those feelings, so they walk in already bristling and ready for a fight. The more schools can do to bring parents in and make them feel more engaged and more a part of the fabric of the school, the better. Many schools do that brilliantly, and those schools that do don't tend to have constant issues with parents—complaints and arguments. They are working together and understanding that the school is on their side.

  Russell Hobby: I think home-school agreements can work as well, but only if they are a living policy and document, not just a piece of paper that is like a mission statement. There are more constructive alternatives. If, as a school, you are trying to apply a consistent policy—which is, after all, what children really need—the fact is that that consistency ends at the school gates and they can then go out into a very inconsistent world where their behaviour is treated in different ways. The home-school agreement is a way of trying to spread that consistency further and trying to invite and engage parents into having a consistent approach to managing behaviour, too.

  Mike Griffiths: The most effective schools are the ones that try and build on that relationship by having a good relationship between the parents and somebody at the school, whether that is the form tutor, a mentor or whoever. We try hard with some youngsters, who have been a problem, to report back on a weekly basis. We try to report positive things, because sometimes, as has been mentioned, the parents themselves have had negative experiences of school, and they only see it as an almost punitive environment. Getting positive messages back to the parents can be very useful in terms of improving that youngster's behaviour.

  Q165 Damian Hinds: I want to talk about leadership and managing behaviour overall. We have talked already about the role of heads. We are short on time I know, but, Gillian, what is the role of governors in this? Can governors really be sufficiently in touch with classroom reality?

  Gillian Allcroft: Yes, I think they can, provided that they know their school. The best governing bodies will absolutely know what is going on in their school. The chair will have a good relationship with the head. Governors will go into school on properly focused visits to find out what is going on. The role of the governors is to set a statement of behaviour principles, and it is then the head's responsibility to set the behaviour policy, which sets out rules, rewards and sanctions. Those principles are set in conjunction with the head, because the head is usually a governor anyway. The governors set the ethos and the principles, and that should be done in a context of "Where is our school? What is our school like? And what should be the right principles for our school?"

  Q166 Damian Hinds: Can you give me an example of such a principle, which would not be a universal principle, but would be different school by school?

  Gillian Allcroft: It is possible that some schools operate a no-exclusion policy, so it is possible that one of the principles that governors could lay down is that in their school they would like to adopt a no-exclusion policy.

  Q167 Damian Hinds: That doesn't sound like a behaviour principle; that sounds like a what-you-do-about-behaviour principle.

  Gillian Allcroft: It depends how you look at it, doesn't it? It is saying, "We will promote good behaviour and one of the things that we will try and ensure is that no child from our school is excluded." That would definitely be something that most schools will not have. Clearly that would have to be done in conjunction with the head.

  Q168 Damian Hinds: Can I press you on the point about behaviour principles? I understand the point about having principles, but you said that governors would set them. What sorts of principles will they be setting that would not be universal, in terms of behaviour standards, to all schools?

  Gillian Allcroft: To be honest, if they would not be universal it is because the principles tend to be around respect and not allowing bullying behaviour and that sort of thing. You would expect that most of the principles, although they will not be exactly the same, would generally speaking work across most schools.

  Q169 Damian Hinds: Thank you. What do you look for from your boards of governors in terms of leadership in this area?

  Russell Hobby: In terms of variation of principles and how that relates to governors, it is probably more about what you do or do not need to make explicit in a policy. You can take less for granted in some environments, so you may have increasing detail in the behaviour policy or you may need to be reinforcing behaviour. I have been around some of the charter schools in New York, for example, where pupils have to look the teacher in the eye when they are talking to them. In other schools you do not need to make those sorts of comments, so it is more about stepping in at that level. There probably is some variation, for example, in the level of talkback that you would allow and recommend in different types of schools depending on the culture and the philosophy that existed. There is that air of getting together and deciding how we need to make it work, but nine tenths of it will be in the implementation of the policy and the way the governors support the head teacher in both challenging them to make sure they are consistent and backing them up when they have made the right choices.

  Q170 Damian Hinds: Do you think governors are well placed to establish those? I understand what you are saying about the degree of specificity on different rules. Are governors best placed to make those judgments?

  Russell Hobby: In a large number of cases they will accept the advice of the head teacher, and they will be backing up and reinforcing that. They are also part of the community that the school has served, and they should be in a position to express how that feels from the point of view of the parents and other members of the community and whether it is set in the right way.

  Mike Griffiths: On your question about governance, one of the things I am looking for is intelligent targets. During my first headship, in Oxfordshire, the chair of the governors wanted to set me a target of reducing exclusions. Fortunately, I had a very wise vice-chair of governors who said, "Well, Chair, what we actually want is for the standard of behaviour in the school to improve. It may be that in order to achieve that, Mike has to increase the number of exclusions over a short period." I think that shows the importance of not being driven by a set of targets, which might look as though they will do one thing. What was actually important in that school was that the standards of behaviour improved, not that exclusions went down, up, or stayed the same. In terms of leadership, where governors and heads need to work together is on creating the ethos in a school—what the school means and what it stands by. Certainly in my school, one of the key things is that word "respect". We say that respect should be given to all, by all, whether that is students to students, students to teachers or teachers to students and indeed to other staff. It is just as important that it goes both ways. The key thing with all these policies is that you have to live them. You can have whatever you like in a drawer, as a mission statement and as a policy, but you have to be able to walk into a school and get an immediate feeling—you should be able to tell straight away what the school is like. That is something I would like to see a lot more of in terms of Ofsted, which we have not mentioned. Ofsted should be using professional judgment on some of these things, rather than tick lists and checklists and numbers and so on. I want people who are well trained, can recognise things and have the professional judgment to say, "This is a good school. This is a school where behaviour is excellent," rather than their having a whole series of things that they've counted up and which mean, therefore, that the school is excellent.

  Q171 Damian Hinds: I want to skip to one last question, which is about language. I am only 40, but I sometimes feel that it's been 120 years since I was at school. In these sessions, and we've already had a number on behaviour and discipline, we hear a lot of talk about appropriate behaviour and inappropriate behaviour, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, disruptive behaviour, but not bad behaviour. I wonder what your views are on that. Is there too much policy, too much relativism and too much categorising of different behaviours, and not enough talk about what is right and what is wrong?

  Russell Hobby: It sometimes helps, though, when you don't say that a child is bad or good, but that their behaviour is bad or good. That's some of what we're trying to do, because if you keep telling someone that they're bad—

  Q172 Damian Hinds: No, not even to describe behaviour. I think that I'm right in saying that in these sessions we haven't heard the words bad and good or right and wrong being used, even in relation to behaviour. It has always been appropriate and inappropriate, or acceptable and unacceptable. I'm not saying that you've said that, but that's what's been said in general.

  Russell Hobby: I think maybe that's us trying to separate behaviour from the individual, so that people feel that the behaviour can change. There is also a fair amount of political correctness in the way that we describe things, so fair enough.

  Mike Griffiths: I agree with the thrust of your argument. Children need to know what is right and what is wrong. It is as simple as that. We try to ensure that children do recognise that some behaviour is simply inappropriate—[Laughter]—or wrong in a civilised society. We've always had such arguments, whether it is the mods and rockers on Brighton beach, or the punk rockers, things have always been happening with adolescent youngsters. We stick with the respect notion—if your behaviour is showing disrespect to somebody, that is wrong. In fact, that is one of the things that the chair of governors at my school says when she stands up at the prospective parents' evening. "Children need to know the difference between what's right and what's wrong."

  Q173 Nic Dakin: There's a leaked report suggesting that the Government are going to cut ITT in higher education by 85% and transfer those responsibilities to schools. Earlier today you talked about how schools are the best place to train management of behaviour issues and other things, but are schools ready for that responsibility? Do they have the capacity, and do you think that that's a positive direction for them?

  Mike Griffiths: I believe so. I also worked earlier in my career in initial teacher training at a higher education establishment—Sheffield City Polytechnic, as it then was. I think that schools are the best places. The only problem is that a huge level of bureaucracy—a level that most schools can only dream of—affects initial teacher training. That is something that needs to be addressed, but, if that can be resolved, schools are very good places for initial teacher training. I am not saying that they should be the only place, but I think that they do provide an excellent route for many people to go into teaching.

  Charlie Taylor: We use the graduate teacher programme a lot, whereby we've got teaching assistants to transform into teachers further down the road. I would say that, most of the time, schools can do that work. If they do need support, schools such as mine offer support in training on behaviour to other schools in the authority.

  Q174 Ian Mearns: If a school hasn't got its behaviour programmes right, is it the right place to teach new teachers? Isn't that a problem?

  Charlie Taylor: The difficulty is that, if a school hasn't got its programme right, it doesn't matter how well trained the teacher coming in is. If the overarching behaviour isn't being managed properly, one teacher at the bottom of the tree doesn't have a hope.

  Mike Griffiths: I was also going to make a point about school-centred initial teacher training. In my school, for instance, we have about 18 trainees a year, but they don't all work in my school. We organise the teaching, the training and this, that and the other, but some of them work in our partner schools. Some of them will have their two teaching practices in other schools and not have either of them in my school. It's more about whether a school can effectively organise the training, rather than the provision. Such training can also help to address particular geographical needs, because, certainly where I am, there is no HE institution that offers degrees and PGCEs for future secondary school teachers. Our SCITT is useful to more mature entrants to the profession, because they don't have to travel long distances for PGCE provision at a university.

  Russell Hobby: Just to redress the balance towards the academic end of things, there are some topics around behaviour that are best addressed in an academic or higher education environment, particularly when you are phasing into some of the more complex needs—health, mental health and special educational needs. Getting a whole view of child development and how children grow and learn may not be the right thing to take place within a school environment. Nor, to go back to another point, would every school welcome the requirement to train teachers. What we are probably talking about is a balance of a school-led provision with suitable academic input.

  Q175 Craig Whittaker: But haven't we already established that the training around things like CAMHS, for example, is minimal anyway?

  Russell Hobby: Yes. I'm not necessarily saying it's happening right at the moment, but it strikes me that there are some topics that you don't learn on the job. You learn them off the job, and they include some of these mental health issues. Whether they could be improved and done differently is another matter.

  Chair: Whether we could inject the academic into the school environment rather than regarding them as entirely separate, perhaps. Thank you all very much for your evidence. It was very helpful, and thank you for coming in.




 
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