Gavin Williamson has praised mobile phone bans and silent corridors in schools after the Department for Education (DfE) invited schools to join a group of 20 with “exemplary behaviour records” in a £10 million programme intended to help around 500 other schools that struggle with behaviour management.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Williamson said: “Some of the country's best-performing schools.... have one thing in common: discipline”.
"Some have banned mobile phones, asking students to place them in lockers at the start of the day. Others, like the City of London academies, have implemented lining up, with teachers quietly escorting pupils in some years to class after break and lunch. This ensures the class stays together, lessons start on time and the corridors are silent – allowing classes to continue without disruption."
Williamson said tightening discipline was essential to maintaining teacher wellbeing, as "poor behaviour is dreadful for teacher morale."
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“Having to deal with unruly pupils and disruption on a daily basis adds to their workload and stress, and is driving many from the profession they love. Teachers say disruption is one of the key reasons they would consider leaving the job, while almost a fifth of those working in secondary schools said they lacked confidence in their school’s ability to deal with challenging behaviour.”
Schools with calm, disciplined and nurturing environments were “achieving great things”, Mr Williamson wrote, adding, “I want this kind of culture to be the norm, particularly in the one in three schools judged not to have good enough behaviour by Ofsted”.
Mr Williamson went on: “And of course there’s Michaela, Britain’s ‘strictest school’, in north-west London. Reading and writing exercises are conducted in silence, and pupils are given demerits for things like forgetting their pens or slouching in class.
Last summer, Michaela’s pupils – many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds – famously triumphed in their GCSEs.”
Michaela this month proposed to open a branch in Stevenage with a ‘behaviour boot camp’ in the first seven days of Year 7, twice-yearly exams and streaming.
Schools chosen to join the £10m programme as exemplars will need a track record of “running great behaviour, particularly in challenging circumstances,” the DfE’s behaviour adviser Tom Bennett – who will lead the programme – has said.
He told Tes: “Good behaviour is central to everything we want to achieve for students. It’s the difference between safe, calm schools where students and staff can flourish and learn, and schools where students endure disruption or worse.
There are though differing views on the disciplinary measures need.
Jane Prescott, incoming president of the Girls' Schools Association, said in January it was pointless to "demonise" mobile phones, and that pupils needed to learn how to use technology responsibly instead.