A quest to tackle bad behaviour
The third instalment of Sir Alan Steer's review of behaviour, published this week, contains the sound, practical recommendations you would expect from an experienced headteacher.
The most eye-catching, immediately accepted by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, is to give schools new powers for teachers to search pupils for alcohol, drugs or stolen property. Although it is already customary for staff to search pupils on occasion, this has been a grey area legally. Many teachers feel vulnerable to being challenged by parents - and, indeed, pupils.
As Sir Alan argues, schools need to ensure pupils comply with requirements set out in their disciplinary procedures. It is crucial that policies on acceptable behaviour are understood by pupils and their parents and that they will, if necessary, be reinforced responsibly.
Sir Alan also recommends sensible measures aimed at increasing parents' engagement and encouraging them to take responsibility for their children's behaviour. Such measures include better support systems and a local referral system for parents unhappy with the outcome of the hearing of any complaint. The introduction of local referrals is to be welcomed as a means of ensuring that schools carry out disciplinary procedures correctly, provided it does not lead to the judgement of the head being challenged.
Sir Alan points out that, despite concern over the dangers of alcohol, drug and tobacco misuse and the current panic over youth knife crime, standards of behaviour in schools have risen and continue to rise.
The next instalment of his continuing review, to be published in the autumn, will include recommendations about how schools can promote good behaviour by tackling inconsistencies in standards of teaching and learning.
Last year, Ofsted reported that we have today the best generation ever of newly qualified teachers. This is encouraging. But schools need to do more to improve the learning experience for many children. One problem is the variation in standards between departments within schools. Children are always quick to exploit what they see as the weakness of less accomplished teachers. That is when low-level misbehaviour can damage the quality of learning, even in a good school.