Ask Tom

16th May 2014 at 01:00

I am a newly qualified teacher at a school that is revamping its behaviour policy. Many of our pupils have severe issues at home that affect the way they are coping with the new regime, and we're ending up therapists to these kids as a result. The severity of their reactions is also limiting the effectiveness of the behaviour policy. What's the priority issue here?

A teacher via email to

There are two priorities. One is to create a system of boundaries, high expectations, routine, trust and discipline. These things aren't done for their own ends and we must never lose sight of that. Children need boundaries and those boundaries need to be patrolled; learning that actions have consequences is one of the most valuable lessons life can teach us. The second priority is to ensure that the system serves the purpose, which means that if a child has extraordinary needs, those needs must be met. But never forget that the vast majority of kids can easily handle mainstream expectations. Indeed, if you don't set them a bar, you expect them to fail.

I have just been given the role of able, gifted and talented pupil coordinator in a fairly large junior school. We currently have a register, which class teachers update at the start of each year and then as needed. But we do not have an agreed way of identifying who is able, who is gifted and so on. How do others do this? And should I be checking up on teachers?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

The gifted and talented (Gamp;T) initiative is whatever you want to make it. Identification will depend on your own interpretation of what gifted and talented means. There are no rules here. Some use whole-school data from Sats and Cats, then select the top 10 per cent. Other approaches include teacher nomination (getting all teachers to select the highest-achieving students), peer nomination (hellish, I know, but some people do it) and even parent nomination (not so daft - they might know of an area of expertise that isn't obvious). Some schools even have an aptitude test. A good Gamp;T coordinator isn't there to assess teachers but to support them. Offer them help rather than checking up on them.

We have quite a few students who speak no English whatsoever and some who have never been to school before. We need to get an accurate idea of their ability. What do others do with such new arrivals?

A teacher via email to

The most important thing is to assess their language needs and go from there. Communication is the gateway to their learning, and all efforts must be made to improve this before anything else. If you have translation provision in your school, use it to devise simple tests to assess ability. Above all, never forget just how hard it is for these students, some of whom may be very able indeed. Good luck.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email


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