Wednesday, 11 April 2007

No gold star for new school behaviour guidelines

I am pretty appalled by the new guidelines on how to deal with bad behaviour in schools, issued yesterday by the Department for Education, which say that pupils should be praised five times more than they are criticised or rebuked. The new guidelines also recommend that disruptive or difficult pupils should be praised or given prizes for improvements in behaviour. Quite rightly this prescriptive approach from Whitehall has been heavily criticised by teachers as nonsense.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, told the BBC Today programme that "Crude guidelines which say praise in proportion to punishment of five to one simply aren't helpful. It's a nonsense - it takes away any sense of professional autonomy, professional respect and professional judgment for teachers. The principle of rewarding someone for being good... that principle I wholly endorse and support. But if they are behaving badly then you have to deal with that behaviour and any sense of ratio of five-to-one simply is a nonsense."

Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham said the approach being recommended might encourage perverse behaviour. Children who had previously behaved well might play to try to win rewards.

I believe guidelines of discipline and codes of conduct for pupils and parents should be left to the Headteachers to draw up, depending on their own school's environment, performance and make-up. It is time for the Secretary of State for Education to get out of the classroom and leave it to the professionals.

1 comment:

John Hayward, The Difference said...

Hi Tracey, You are right to be appalled. In reality, the most disruptive pupils have probably already been classed as having special needs. Yet the DoE guidelines have nothing constructive to say concerning the demands placed on schools by children with such needs. Whenever the guidelines do mention them, it is usually to provide an apparent opt out, such as "use of sanctions must be reasonable and proportionate to the circumstances of the case. In particular, the Act requires that account be taken of any special educational needs affecting the pupil".

I posted a few weeks ago over at The Difference about a not untypical day at the school where my wife works as a teaching assistant. The child who has been diagnosed by the very modern, politically-correct-sounding "opposition defiance disorder" ("ODD") forced the whole of the rest of the class to move out into the hallway for the rest of their lesson while he continued to throw furniture around the classroom. My mother, who also taught in a "difficult" area, would have called him a disobedient child in need of loving discipline! Such behaviour is unacceptable, yet is what the class has repeatedly endured for the last four years. If I was the parent of one of the other children in the class, I would have demanded action long ago and some have since raised a petition.

However, as I explained in my post, one reason the head resists calls for the boy to be expelled is there is nowhere better for him to go. The Commons education select committee reported last summer that the system of education for pupils with special needs is "not fit for purpose." So, what teachers and headteachers need is, as you rightly observe, not yet more prescriptive regulations and guidelines from Whitehall, but more support for special schools to deal with pupils with behavioural and learning difficulties. Instead, as a result is its misguided obsession with inclusion, since it came to power in 1997 Labour has closed more than 10% of the country's special schools.