18th June 2010 at 01:00
The problem: I am having a tough time with my Year 10 girls. The loud lot sit at the back, and the quiet ones who work hard but are too scared to answer questions in case the loud ones make fun of them are at the front. Any ideas on how I can change this?

What you said

"Split them up. You are doing neither group any favours. Why is this group at the back? Are you scared to move them? Don't do it in a confrontational way, but by getting them to work together you can harness the loud ones' skills."


"Split the little devils up! Next lesson do a topic that requires silence, ie, working on their own. If there is any nonsense use your school's behavioural policy. Take control immediately."


"Have a new seating plan displayed on the board and write the following instructions underneath it: "Please find your new seat, sit down quickly in silence, get your planner, books and pen out ready for learning." Tell them that if they cannot follow simple instructions you will have no choice but to use sanctions in line with the school behaviour policy."



You must assert your authority calmly and decisively, and take control of the situation. The art lies in not being confrontational and thereby raising the stakes. Keep calm in front of them - try not to show you are rattled.

Devise a seating plan that splits up the loud ones and changes the group dynamics. Keep these pupils apart and seat them at or near the front so they are close to you and have fewer distractions.

Explain to them that the work they are doing is important for their futures - their jobs and further education. Their GCSE grades matter; that is why you are doing this. Insist on clear and simple rules such as how and when to ask questions.

Begin by setting individual work that requires silence and is unlikely to demand too many requests for help; nip difficulties smartly in the bud. Be consistent and don't give up, even if they take a while to settle down. Think about how you move around the classroom to help individuals. Try to always be aware of what is going on. Once you are confident they can work quietly, build up slowly to create an environment in which group work and discussion can take place more freely, perhaps at the end of a lesson for a short time to start with, to see how they manage.

Eventually, try putting the louder pupils into key roles that play to their strengths. Once you can offer valid praise they may begin to develop a more positive attitude.

Gillian Low is president of the Girls' Schools Association and headmistress of Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, Middlesex. For more behaviour advice, see



- Form a new seating plan to split up the loud pupils.

- Set individual work that is unlikely to involve too many requests for help.

- Build up to group discussions once you are confident the pupils can work quietly.


- Give up - even if they take a while to settle down or there are lots of grumbles.

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