16th October 2009 at 01:00
One of the most disruptive pupils in my Year 7 class is a colleague's son. I'm a fairly new teacher and am not sure how to deal with it. How should I confront this pupil and what should I tell my colleague?

The scope for awkwardness and embarrassment here is massive. Even the most experienced of teachers may feel anxious about debunking a colleague's carefully constructed image of their offspring. But something has to give. By the sound of it, he is not only disrupting his education, he is preventing others from learning too.

In terms of dealing with the pupil, adopt a business as usual approach. Start by checking with his previous teacher or the special needs co- ordinator to see if this is a new thing. They may be able to offer strategies to help or insight into why he is acting up.

Then make sure you treat him as you would any other pupil. Give him warnings before moving on to sanctions if necessary, in line with the school's behavioural policy.

If you feel he is exhibiting attention-seeking behaviour, only pay him attention if his behaviour is worthy of it, suggests a primary school teacher from Leeds. "Ignore him as far as you can, then at the first sign of co-operation, praise him and give a little attention," she says. "You can reinforce this to the class by continually commenting on good behaviour. For example: `I'll ask you, James, because you've got your hand up'."

If poor behaviour persists, the parent needs to be involved, just as they would for any other consistently disruptive pupil. If there are two parents or carers on the scene, you could approach the non-teaching one first.

One anonymous teacher did exactly this. "I told my colleague on the first day of term that I'd rather deal with the child's father than her - for positive and negative feedback," she says. "My colleague agreed it was a good idea. It helped keep the professional and the personal separate."

The teacher was careful never to idly discuss her class in the staffroom, while the mother made a concerted effort not to ask questions about her son's progress outside of designated parents' evenings.

If your colleague feels this approach is alienating, or has a history of interfering with their child's education, you may have to deal with them directly. This can be tricky - no one likes to deliver bad news to a colleague, not least when it's about their own flesh and blood. But, if done sensitively, it needn't be an entirely negative experience.

Think empathetically, advises John Bayley, a behaviour consultant for Education London. Consider how you would feel if it was your child under scrutiny, and adopt your approach accordingly.

So announcing loudly to your colleague: "I need to speak to you about your son" in the staffroom may well antagonise them before you've even begun. Instead, make sure the time and setting is as comfortable as possible. "Set up a meeting after school when things aren't so hectic," says Mr Bayley. "Always start with a positive but then bite the bullet and discuss the real issue."

The meeting should follow the same structure as any other meeting with a parent. Arm yourself with evidence; have possible solutions up your sleeve; listen to the parent, and be relentlessly optimistic about the outcome, advises Mr Bayley.

Previous teachers may have ignored this pupil's behaviour so as not to upset or offend their colleague. If you are the first to confront the situation, they may react hostilely.

If you are nervous about their reaction, consult a senior member of staff first. It is part of your line manager's remit to support more junior teachers. They may be able to offer you advice or accompany you into the meeting.

"In the meeting, understand that the parent may be nervous and defensive," warns Mr Bayley. "Allow them time to calm down, absorb the information and come back to talk about it at a later date."

They will come to appreciate your professionalism. By working together, you are more likely to come up with interventions that will have a positive impact on the child's behaviour.


  • Consider making the non-teaching parent your first point of contact.
  • Impose the school's behaviour policy, regardless of who the pupil is.
  • Be patient with your colleague.
    • Do not

      • Talk to the colleague about their child during work hours. They may be too busy to absorb the information or react in a calm way.

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