Ask Tom

23rd May 2014 at 01:00
Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

I have been at my school for five years and a few people have asked me when I will be moving on to "broaden my horizons". It seems as though it is expected for young teachers (I have been at this school since I was newly qualified) to move around, but I like it here and the stories from other schools are not good. Do I need to leave to become a better teacher?

A teacher, via email to

No, that would be an absurd necessary condition of developing your skills and experience. However, it is a great thing to do. Schools are so diverse that it is usually very invigorating for a teacher to get out and see the world a bit. Otherwise, it becomes easy to imagine that the way things are done in your village is the only way to live. That said, there are enormous opportunities for developing yourself in one place, if you are sharp enough to capitalise on them: seek out new roles, shadow other teachers, pursue different stations and strategies and you will find plenty of chances to broaden your horizons even while jogging on the spot. Just don't stand still.

I have been battling a child in my class for most of this year and made no progress. He is constantly disruptive but when I take him aside he simply refuses to speak. It makes any attempt at restorative management extremely difficult and it is almost impossible to find out what the underlying cause of his behaviour might be. He speaks normally in every other situation and his mother says he is the same at home. Any ideas?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

Sometimes, when we have tried our best to understand and heal a problem but received no response, it behoves us to simply deal with it. If he refuses to speak then don't engage him, simply act as you need to. That may mean a detention, an exclusion, a parental meeting and so on. If he dislikes the consequences of his actions, perhaps he will learn to speak up for what he believes in.

I have a really gifted student in one of my classes and the school hopes that she will make it to the University of Oxford and be a source of inspiration for others. However, I am uncomfortable with the pressure that is being put on her. She is pushed and singled out at every opportunity and it is having a negative impact on her socially. Should I intervene?

A teacher, vie email to

Be careful that you don't make assumptions about this girl; after all, many children, bright or otherwise, have small social circles. Do you have any evidence that she is unusually stressed or does she just look it? You could talk to her about school in general but be careful not to lead her answers - if you already feel that she is struggling, it will be very easy to say things like, "So, does all this get you stressed out?" But doing so may unintentionally exacerbate the situation, or create one where none exists. If you are really worried, talk to her tutor or head of year.

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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