Attention! Experts invading

24th January 2003 at 00:00
Parachuting specialists into classes to deal with unruly behaviour is one idea that should be dropped, writes Geoff Brookes.

Let me through - I'm a behaviour expert." How I laughed when I heard about the behavioural experts who are going to be sent out into schools to show us all how it is done. Where have they been all my life?

But now that they have decided to pass on to me the benefits of their wisdom, I shall be thus transformed:no more the sad loser but a vibrant, informed behaviour manager who can calm the psychotic with but a glance.

I have to say it is all nonsense. But dangerous nonsense, born of the soundbite and half an idea. What do they think we do all day? Sit in a corner quivering and praying for salvation?

We manage behaviour within the context of our schools, not as experts parachuted in but as teachers, building and maintaining relationships with some of the most disadvantaged in our society. Behaviour isn't the whole of our job - Jit is part of it. And we do it to varying degrees every day.

Now we are told that we must make our teaching more exciting because some pupils lose interest during the middle of lessons. We are going to be trained to recognise the signs that kids are disenchanted and ready to become disruptive. And I need someone to tell me the signs?

So it is all our fault. Poor behaviour isn't anything to do with social disintegration or emotional turmoil. No, it is because our lessons are boring. Do they really believe this? That's a silly question, I suppose.

They have to - because the truth has far too many unpalatable implications.

So instead of addressing what we all know are the real issues, we are told that we should be all-singing, all-dancing, all the time. Presumably we should provide a multimedia extravaganza every lesson - five or six times a day. with no time to prepare them. And no resources.

Give over. And on top of this we need experts? I don't think so.

The difference between an expert and a teacher is that the latter does it every day, every week, every term. A teacher has obligations. Not just to entertain or to contain. A teacher has to deliver a programme of study, cover the syllabus and meet targets. Just don't be boring while you are doing any of this, if you don't mind.

This is a serious point. Anyone can come in and offer fatuous advice about behaviour. After all, it is something about which everyone has an opinion.

But it must be seen in the context of the whole of a teacher's job. We manage behaviour at the same time as we carry out all our other duties. We deal with classes that contain pupils with lots of different needs.

We don't get understanding. What we get are stereotypes. We are told that Army officers will be sent in as tutors to the disruptive. That's the answer then. Big men in uniform. And what sort of message is this? That to manage others you must be physically imposing? That power and strength are what win respect? And what sort of help is this to our finest young teachers? This is a badly flawed concept.

What we need are trust, support and an acceptance that we reflect the society in which our schools function. What we don't need is blame, the assumption that we are inadequate and need someone from outside to show us what we should do.

It is all a dangerous absurdity, offering stereotypes instead of understanding.

Geoff Brookes is deputy headteacher at Cefn Hengoed community school in Swansea.

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