‘Poor behaviour in schools cannot be tolerated and that both teachers and pupils have the right to work in an orderly environment’,a quote from Alan Steer who has an extensive background in schools and education and has particular expertise and interest is in Behaviour and Discipline. His report Learning Behaviour,lessons learned, builds on his findings from four interim reports between March 2008 and February 2009. The purpose of Steer’s report was to make recommendations supporting the development of good behaviour and raising behaviour standards higher. Steer’s report is made up of subjective evidence from sources including The Practitioners Group and Ofsted as well as other published reports.
Steer recognises that ‘a clear and consistent approach is essential for teachers and parents, but this needs to be balanced with a recognition that it is the nature of childhood that it is a period when mistakes are made and lessons learned.’ Mistakes made is the key point here and ‘Without opportunities for restoration, punishment really can damage relationships’ (Hook & Vass, 2002). The `Yellow card` idea mentioned in the Steer Report appears to be an effective way of doing this.
Steer is very right to note that ‘Different schools face very different circumstances and the application of a behaviour strategy in one school may be far more challenging than in others. Very few children cannot be taught to improve their behaviour and where firm boundaries are established and maintained, and consistent, caring and intelligent support is provided, successful improvement is more likely to occur.’ In 2005 the Practitioners’ Group identified ten aspects of school practice that, when effective, contribute to the quality of pupil behaviour: a consistent approach to behaviour management, teaching and learning; school leadership;
classroom management, learning and teaching;
rewards and sanctions;
behaviour strategies and the teaching of good behaviour;
staff development and support;
pupil support systems;
liaison with parents and other agencies;
managing pupil transition; and
organisation and facilities.
These are all very valid aspects that most teachers have in place within their classrooms. I feel that a gap that was not recognised fully in the reports by Steer is the consistency of staff. I have worked at an EBD school (9 -19 Yrs) and a rural mainstream Primary school in which behaviour varied to great extents. The most negative behaviour I witnessed was on days when the ‘regular’ member of teaching staff was moved to another part of the school without prior knowledge. Even the usually well-behaved children became disruptive in this situation. It appears that the children found it difficult to adapt to the change in routine.
When there is a consistent member of staff children feel secure, they know their boundaries and expectations. Take this away and the security blanket is also removed. Researching the work done by Maslow (1943) this important psychological paper is still referred to by many teaching practitioners today as a way of mapping pupil`s motivation. The second box on his `Hierarchy of Needs` is `Security` which when relating to the classroom setting suggests that pupils need to feel a sense of safety and regulation when they are being taught. This security is achieved by consistency in expectations and I also believe by the consistency of staff.
Chris Barnes, Senior Adviser for EYFS in Cornwall is currently researching this and feels that job shares within the early years have a negative effect on children.
It is important to recognise that another of the core beliefs contained in the Steer Report (2009) is that “Overall standards of behaviour achieved by schools is good and has improved in recent years” (DfES, 2009, pp2). Could this be suggesting that factors such as the media can often distort the image of bad behaviour in schools, making it seem a great deal worse than it actually is.
‘Data on behaviour currently collected by the Department does not fully represent the nature of behaviour in schools—good or bad—and the impact of that behaviour upon staff, pupils, parents and carers. We have been unable, therefore, to come to any evidence-based or objective judgment on either the state of behaviour in schools today or whether there has been an improvement over time, as some people believe.’ House of Commons Education Committee Behaviour and Discipline in Schools First Report of Session 2010–11 Volume I (Summary page 3) Our call for evidence resulted in almost ninety written memoranda being submitted from witnesses including local authorities, academics, teaching unions, charitable organisations, providers of alternative education, and specialists in therapeutic and health services. In addition to written evidence, we held five oral evidence sessions and visited schools in Lewisham and Leicester and held meetings with local authorities in Leicester and Leicestershire.
In his report on Behaviour and the role of Home-School Agreements, commissioned by the previous Government and published in 2010, Sir Alan Steer summarised his most recent observations on the nature and level of behaviour in schools by declaring that Behaviour standards in schools are high for the great majority of young people. The misconduct of a few represents a small percentage of the seven million pupils in the school system. Concern over behaviour standards among the young is often fuelled by the news of well publicised incidents. Invariably these are unrepresentative and rare.7 […] indeed it is my opinion that standards have risen over the last thirty years.
Sir Alan’s sanguine assessment is supported by Ofsted inspection reports. The 2009–10 Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector found that pupils’ behaviour was “good or outstanding in 89% of primary schools and 70% of secondary schools inspected in 2009– 10”.10 This compares with 95% primary and 80% secondary in 2008–0911 and 93% primary and 72% secondary in 2007–8.12 Over time, secondary schools have performed consistently less well than primary schools in terms of behaviour Sir Alan Steer, Behaviour and the role of Home-School Agreements, 2010, p 5 8 Sir Alan Steer, Behaviour and the role of Home-School Agreements, 2010, p 8 9 Q 59
10 HMCI Annual Report 2009–10, p 32
11 HMCI Annual Report 2008–09, p 28; Annual Report 2007–08, p 26 12 Figures for 2008–09 and 2009–10 are not directly comparable, due to the introduction of a new Ofsted inspection framework in September 2009
In oral evidence to our inquiry, Sir Alan Steer acknowledged that his judgment of the nature and level of behaviour in schools “puts a lot of emphasis on Ofsted”; but he argued that “one has to have very, very strong grounds for disregarding Ofsted evidence. If you are going to say that the national inspection service, which goes into large numbers of school and focuses on this topic has got it wrong, you must have good grounds to say that—and I haven’t got those good grounds”.23 Lord Elton concluded in his 1989 report that, while there was poor behaviour in schools, the greatest impact was from constant small-scale indiscipline.
Lord Elton’s findings were echoed in evidence to this inquiry: there was a general consensus that, “it is low level disruption (name calling, swearing, not paying attention, interrupting and fighting)”25 which is most prevalent, with small pockets of extremely challenging behaviour. Poor behaviour also has an impact on learning. According to a survey of NASUWT members in March 2009, low-level disruption was leading to the loss of an average of thirty minutes teaching time per teacher per day.42 Tom Trust, a former member of the General
Teaching Council for England, questioned the validity of judgments made in the Steer report and by Ofsted, saying I have read the Steer report, and I think that he talked to a lot of head teachers. Head teachers have told me that there are no discipline problems in their school when there have been copies of lesson observations that they have taken when they havebeen observing the teacher. In those observations, there have been a list of misdemeanours happening with the head in the room. I have also heard a head say, on oath, that there were no disciplinary problems, even though there were press reports stating that there were. Getting evidence from head teachers is not always reliable, because they have a lot to lose.17
Laevers, Vandenbussche, Kog & Depondt, (1997, p.15) wrote that children who feel “like fish in water” in an environment have the ability to maximise learning potential. Edgington (2004) speaks of the need for children to feel at home before being able to branch out. The aim must be to provide an environment that inspires “an eagerness to explore and a zest for learning” (Drake, 2001, p.1). Environments should be relevant and inclusive (Edgington, 2004). When children’s lives and communities are reflected in the environments in which they operate, emotional well being is safe and secure.
Drake, J. (2001) Planning children’s play andlLearning in the Foundation Stage. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd.
Edgington, M. (2004) The Foundation Stage teacher in action: Teaching 3, 4 and 5 – year olds. (3rd ed.). Third Edition. London: Paul Chapman publishing Ltd.
Laevers, F., Vandenbussche, Kog, M. & Depondt, L. (1997). A Process-oriented child monitoring system for young children. Centre for Experiential Education: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.