Pupils are missing out on 38 days of teaching each year due to low-level disruptive behaviour in the classroom, according to a new Ofsted report.
The watchdog claims that students typically lose an hour of learning each day, due to teachers dealing with misbehaviour such as swinging on chairs, passing notes round and using mobile phones.
It argues that “too many” school leaders, especially in secondaries, “underestimate the prevalence and negative impact of low-level disruptive behaviour”, while many classroom teachers have “come to accept some low-level disruption as a part of everyday life in the classroom”.
“One fifth of the teachers surveyed indicated that they ignored low-level disruption and just ‘tried to carry on’,” the report says. “However, this behaviour disturbs the learning of the perpetrators as well as that of others.”
Ofsted has carried out 28 unannounced inspections since December which were triggered by concerns about poor behaviour.
The overall proportion of inspected schools in which behaviour was rated good or better also dropped to 83 per cent in 2013/14, down from 88 per cent the previous year. The schools rated as inadequate or “requires improvement” for behaviour in the last academic year collectively educate 450,000 pupils.
“I see too many schools where headteachers are blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity – and losing respect along the way,” said chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. “After all, every hour spent with a disruptive, attention-seeking pupil is an hour away from ensuring other pupils are getting a decent education.
“If we are going to continue to improve our education system to compete at the highest levels, we need to tackle the casual acceptance of this behaviour that persists in too many schools. Classroom teachers must have the support of their senior leaders to tackle these problems. It isn’t rocket science. Children need to know the rules and teachers need to know they will be supported in enforcing them.”
Two-thirds of teachers surveyed complained that school leaders were failing to assert their authority when dealing with poor discipline and pupils flouting the school rules. Among those in secondary schools, a similar proportion said it was a “major problem”, while over two-fifths of parents said their child’s learning was adversely affected by the behaviour of others.
Only a quarter of secondary teachers agreed that the behaviour policy in their school was applied consistently.
But unions representing classroom teachers and school leaders hit back at Ofsted’s claims.
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted accused the chief inspector of being “in his Clint Eastwood mode” by firing “indiscriminately at teachers and leaders, wounding further the morale of staff”.
“At a time when recruitment and retention in education are approaching crisis levels, this is a particularly short-sighted and destructive approach," she said.
"Indeed, Ofsted’s report mentions that high staff turnover and insufficiencies in training have an impact on schools’ ability to consistently tackle challenging behaviour yet they have chosen to ignore the implications for government policy around teacher training, supply and professional development."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said inspection grades suggested “pupil behaviour is one of the strongest aspects in schools”.
“Of course we want behaviour to be excellent in all schools, but to publicly berate heads and teachers for something that contradicts Ofsted’s own evidence is unacceptable. Recruitment into the teaching profession is more difficult than at any time and a profession which is unfairly criticised is hardly likely to attract the best and brightest graduates,” he added.
Ofsted: Heads must do more to tackle 'low-level' misbehaviour' - September 2014