The Department for Education's behaviour adviser has revealed he does not have data on standards of behaviour across England's schools.
The admission from Tom Bennett came after he was asked on social media to comment on whether to say if the Conservative Party was right to claim behaviour has improved in schools.
The party's general election manifesto reads: "One of the Conservative Party’s proudest achievements is that we have raised standards in our schools and improved behaviour. Students learn best when they are stretched, challenged and nurtured – in an environment where there is no disruption and no excuses for bad behaviour."
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Associate headteacher and behaviour expert Jarlath O’Brien has now queried this claim with several senior figures including Mr Bennett, schools minister Nick Gibb and Rachel Wolf who was involved in writing the manifesto.
Mr O’Brien asked what evidence this claim was based upon.
Mr Bennett replied that the question should be directed at those who put the manifesto together.
In an exchange on Twitter, Mr O’Brien then asked Mr Bennett whether he thought “behaviour in schools has improved, declined or stalled and upon what evidence you base your view?”
Mr Bennett said: “I don’t have the data to answer that. Measuring behavioural improvement across a system, over time, is a tricky business.”
I don’t have the data to answer that. Measuring behavioural improvement across a system, over time, is a tricky business.— Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) December 16, 2019
Mr O’Brien responded: “The government’s own behaviour advisor doesn’t know if behaviour has improved/declined/stalled, yet they claim it has.
“Either they haven’t told you or they’re making it up.”
Mr Bennett was the only one of the three to respond to Mr O'Brien’s questions about the Conservative manifesto.
Speaking to Tes, Mr O’Brien said: “The Conservative manifesto has claimed that they have improved behaviour in schools. I am asking what evidence that claim is based on.
“If we look at just one indicator, exclusions and fixed-term exclusions, these have increased steeply in the last few years. Now this is a very blunt and I wouldn’t make any bold conclusions from this dataset alone.
“However, it is difficult to infer from this that behaviour is improving, so I am asking: what other sources are the DfE or the Conservatives using for the manifesto to be able to say behaviour has improved?”
The Conservative Party was contacted for comment.