Ask Tom

9th 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 a student who plays rugby at national level and is, in everyone's opinion, going to be a "big deal". Although he is not misbehaving, he makes little or no effort to reach his academic potential. I have tried telling him that a rugby career is short and education is crucial even if he does make it, but to no avail. Any advice?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

Apply the normal school behaviour systems for this student who, understandably, sees only the short term. He does need GCSEs, because unless he makes it really big he won't be able to support a life on rugby. True story: a school friend of mine was on the fast track to rugby glory - until a dirty tackle at a football match turned his knee into a pretzel. If telling your student this has no effect, use actions: detain, nag, sanction. If he hates you for it, he hates you for it. But he should be able to study and play sport.

I was walking my dogs in the park and four students from my school shouted "gay boy". It is unacceptable homophobic abuse and if it had occurred in school, they would have been excluded. Do I report it to the police? Do I ignore it? Technically it is not a school incident, but school is the link I share with these children.

A teacher, via the TES Connect behaviour forum

You are absolutely right to identify it as a school issue because your relationship with these students doesn't stop at the school gates. Report it to their head of year. Record it on the school systems. And then, with back-up, interview each of the four students involved. That might be all you can do, but it's a lot better than nothing and you can make it clear that homophobia isn't welcome.

My headteacher at our small primary school knows quite a few of the parents socially. Recently we have heard stories about her getting drunk with some of them and talking about school business and, more specifically, the staff. Although we have no details, we have concerns that she is "siding" with the parents or informing on us. Can we do anything?

A teacher, via email to

It doesn't sound like you have evidence of an issue, only the threat of one. Watch what you reveal in front of her and make sure that you would be happy to defend publicly anything that you do say. The instant a parent comes back to you with something that could only have come from her, tackle it head-on and tell her that if she can't be trusted with professional, confidential material, she won't be privy to any. More seriously, if she is found to have disclosed confidential information, she could face disciplinary proceedings.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School, 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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