17th February 2012 at 00:00
The Problem: I have just started looking after some Year 7s (S1s). They are totally mad, running around like headless chickens. They seem to have difficulty focusing in lessons and thinking of others when involved in question-and-answer sessions

What you said

"Looking after" Year 7s? An interesting way of putting it. My Year 7s are fine. I have spent a term laying down the law and being consistent and fair in my application of it.


It is probable that they have come from primary schools where they could wander around the classroom at will and where their challenging behaviour has been insufficiently contained.


The expert view

Year 7s come from varying feeder schools and backgrounds. What counts is how the school sets the standards for behaviour in your community.

Most Year 7 pupils sniff out a school within a week or two. If they find a gap between what is said on behaviour and what actually happens, that will be the catalyst that helps to turn their behaviour from the angelic into the demonic.

The way to get children feeling like they have entered a place of learning, and not a slightly warmer version of the playground, is to set standards throughout the school that everyone adheres to. Consequences need to be clearly set and pupils need to see those consequences actually happen.

"Difficulty focusing in lessons" translates, for most children, to "not focusing". They need to be directed to focus through praise and sanction. This is one of the most vital years of their education. It sets the tone for their entire school career and I often think that the Year 7 pastoral tutorhead of yearhead of the learning team has one of the most important roles to play in the flourishing of any child.

These Year 7s aren't mad - they are permitted to be mad. Fortunately they have someone like you to start "looking after" them, which in this context means giving them boundaries, set with love and administered with compassion, rigour and justice. It is the best gift you could give them.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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