According to Charlie Taylor, the Government's new behaviour tsar, the “clear” advice (just 52 pages long in comparison to previous, more weighty tomes) should put a stop to teachers living in fear of litigation if they touch a child.And what could be more welcome? A return to proper discipline?
The simplified advice explains teachers can use ‘reasonable force’ to break up fights, stop children attacking classmates or teachers, and to remove disruptive kids from lessons, if necessary.
But is a more aggressive approach the way to empower our teaching staff?Well, certainly the ‘let’s be soft on disruptive kids’ approach isn’t working, and we’ve tried it long enough to know, surely?
Child and educational psychologist Teresa Bliss, who has spent 20 years running units for children with behavioural difficulties, thinks taking too harsh a line does more harm than good.*sigh* Well, yes. She would, wouldn’t she?
“When a school continually punishes those who get into fights, with detentions and exclusion, it’s like plugging in a volcano – the kids erupt.Whereas if you don’t punish them or exclude them, everything will be just fine?
“Instead of harsh punishments, your response must address the underlying issues that lead to the conflict, or give a young person strategies for dealing with the cause.
Otherwise that child will become more and more angry, and things will never get better.”
I guess Teresa doesn’t spend a lot of time in modern classrooms…
“Reading through the guidance it looks as though our schools are a war zone,” she says.Yup, she definitely doesn’t.
Although the numbers may sound dramatic, Bliss points out that if 1,000 students are being suspended each day, as a percentage of the 8,923,400 being educated in England and Wales, that’s less than 0.001% of all students.‘Classroom managers’. My, that’s a telling phrase, isn’t it?
“The danger is this new guidance gives teachers who are not good classroom managers – and who are confrontational with pupils – carte blanche to continue with that behaviour,” she highlights.
And fancy being ‘confrontational with pupils’…
Next, they’ll be expecting to be able to get away with telling them to sit down and shut up! Quelle horreur!
“Being able to restrain kids if they’re lashing out is perfectly sensible,” says Lee Jackson, who began his career as a youth worker, and now gives advice to teachers on how best to motivate young people.But if its acceptable in an airport, where terrorist incidents are rare, why is in somehow not acceptable at a school, where assaults and other crimes are routine?
“But I think the idea of searches, like in an airport, is ridiculous.
“We shouldn’t go down that road. You’re presuming everyone is guilty.”
In Jackson’s view, the best way to encourage good classroom behaviour is a combination of strong teaching and earning kids’ respect.Teachers aren’t supposed to be everyone’s mate!
“I tell teachers that in ‘Generation Y’ you have to have a good relationship with pupils before they’ll listen to you.
“That’s why it never works having a string of supply teachers. The kids don’t have time to form a relationship with them.”
I thought we’d got away from that flawed policy?