Do schools need to take the teaching of manners more seriously?

In the April 20 issue of Tes, Stephanie Keenan argues that it’s a teacher’s duty to model proper etiquette so that students can graduate with these vital soft skills.

Manners in the classroom

We're all taught that a "please" and "thank you" can go a long way, but just how important are proper manners in education? 

Bad manners can be disruptive in a classroom, and polite students certainly help support effective learning, but writing in the 20 April issue of Tes, Stephanie Keenan, curriculum leader for English and literacy at Ruislip High School, says there is also a longer lasting impact of poor etiquette.

“We all know a rude student who sulks their way through school and a cheeky charmer who disarms with an apology and a smile. Who is more likely to succeed in the future?”

“Bad manners can hold you back, as well as being offensive to others. We shouldn't let students fail because they never learned to say “thank you””

So, if you’re looking to foster good manners in your school, where do you start? Here are some of Stephanie's top tips for getting your students to mind their Ps and Qs:

1. Include manners in your school ethos

Whether you have a school motto, crest or song, find a way to incorporate manners into it as a part of your core values. Some may find it cheesy, but a tagline or statement that advocates showing respect to others can work wonders as something for students to live up to.

Leaders can encourage teachers to look for opportunities to model the values of the school motto in small, visible ways - through holding doors open for eachother or offering to help one another carry things. It can be powerful for students to observe such interactions between teachers.

2. Make manners routine

The best way of teaching good manners is for teachers to model them. Of course the vast majority will be doing this anyway, but it doesn't hurt for leaders to embed manners explicitly in everyday school practices as well.

For example you might have a universal expectation that teachers greet students at the door at the start of each lesson, wishing them “good morning” or “good afternoon”, and then thank them for their work at the end.

3. Use the curriculum to your advantage

There are plenty of chances for teachers to support a whole-school focus on good manners through curriculum teaching, from exploring different cultures in geography to learning about how social conventions have changed over time in history.

In a subject like English, you could easily set a “writing to argue” piece discussing the statement “young people are ruder than ever” or run a debate around the question “are manners obsolete?” Linking these activities to current affairs will further cement student understanding and help them to see the relevance of manners in the wider world.

To read this article in full, see the April 20th issue of Tes.

Stephanie Keenan is curriculum leader for English and literacy at Ruislip High School in London. She blogs at and tweets @stephanootis. 

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