Scramble to change rooms calls time on discipline

At this year's British Educational Research Association conference David Budge discovers that 42 is not the answer and Maureen O'Connor reports on the pick of the papers at an event that remained upbeat in the face of criticism.

Secondary schools have not taken on board the Elton Report's view that school discipline would improve if the timetable included five-minute gaps between lessons for movement around school.

Ian Copeland of Reading University has found that punctuality is still just as much a problem in schools as it was when the Elton Committee reported in 1989. It is made worse because no time is allowed for pupils and staff to change rooms.

"It appears almost taken for granted that pupils will be late following a PE session," Dr Copeland told the BERA conference.

Allowing "nil time" for lesson changes also wastes teachers' time, because they have to calm pupils down at the ragged start of every lesson. Teachers themselves are so rushed that they may ignore disciplinary problems on their way between rooms, concludes Dr Copeland, who studied 16 secondary schools.

Most of the teachers surveyed complained of the same disciplinary problems that Elton identified - talking out of turn, distracting other children and turning up late. But teachers now complain more often about pupils who submit homework late or not at all and about pupils' increasing reluctance to settle down at the beginning of lessons.

Physical violence was rare in the schools Dr Copeland studied, although there was concern about verbal abuse between pupils as well as that directed at staff. And teachers complained about being ground down by constant low-level misbehaviour.

"Discipline in schools after Elton" by Ian Copeland, Department of Education Studies and Management, University of Reading.

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