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Ill-prepared to cope with the 'classroom yobs'

As assaults on staff surge, new teachers question quality of training that should help tackle badly-behaved children. Graeme Paton and Maan Seth report.

A third of new teachers say they are not well enough trained to control badly-behaved pupils, according to a survey by the Teacher Training Agency.

The findings follow figures this week showing that the number of teachers suffering serious injuries doubled last year, leading to calls for tougher action against "classroom yobs" (see page 2).

Many students questioned by the agency said their training also failed to help them meet the learning needs of ethnic-minority children.

Researchers, who surveyed a third of the 31,800 trainees who qualified in 2004, found they were generally satisfied with the standard of their courses. In total, 84 per cent rated university or school-based courses as good, some of the best feedback since the survey was launched six years ago.

But behaviour in the classroom remains a concern. While 65 per cent said their courses helped them maintain a good standard of behaviour, the remainder rated training in this area as merely adequate or poor. Students who had trained in the classroom coped better with behaviour than those who had taken university-based courses.

The agency said the findings showed a significant year-on-year improvement but added: "There is, however, much room for improvement."

Its admission follows the creation of a new behaviour task force by the Department for Education and Skills to co-ordinate a fresh campaign against violent pupils.

Ralph Surman, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' representative on the task force, said: "Trainees' understanding of behaviour management is not something you can readily teach them in a lecture room - it is often based on the experiences they have shadowing other teachers.

"But I am concerned that they are not always exposed to excellent classroom practice. Their experiences can be very random. If they train in leafy Buckinghamshire, for example, how does that prepare them to work in inner-city Nottingham? We should raise the standards of classroom experience for all our trainees."

The agency's researchers found that only 35 per cent of trainees felt they had been well prepared to teach pupils from minority backgrounds and just 27 per cent were confident when teaching children who spoke English as a second language. Graham Holley, the agency's executive director, said training in this area would have to be improved.

But many staff are happy with their training. Dominique De-Iuliis, 23, a design and technology teacher at John Cabot city technology college, Bristol, who trained at the University of Wales, Newport, said: "I was pleased with my training, it prepared me for what it would be like teaching.

"There wasn't a specific section in the training on teaching ethnic-minority pupils, but we were taught general strategies that have helped and personally I've never found it a problem."

The survey also showed that just over half of teachers felt their training had prepared them for their induction year and 77 per cent said they had a good understanding of the national curriculum, down slightly on 2003.

Findings follow a study last week which revealed a rising number of newly trained teachers are struggling to find a job.

An analysis of Teacher Training Agency figures by Buckingham university showed that a third of primary trainees who qualified last summer had still not found work six months after completing their courses.

Meanwhile, this week a university in Wales - where there is an acute shortage of teaching jobs - said few of its 68 primary trainees had found work for this year. In the north of England, where primary jobs are also scarce, one university said only 103 out of 318 newly-trained primary teachers had so far found work for September.

Tracy Green, 29, completed a primary-level postgraduate certificate in education in the North-east in June 2004. Despite applying for more than 80 jobs in the local area, she told The TES she has had only four interviews and is now working in an insurance claims office to make ends meet.

"Even supply teaching is hard to come by in the North-east," she said.

"Most weeks I am lucky if I can get two days. There are no primary jobs, one school even said they'd had 350 applications for one position.

"So much has been said by the Government about a shortage of teachers, but they fail to explain that it doesn't apply to every part of the country."


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