23rd July 2010 at 01:00
The problem: I'm having issues with a Year 9 class. There are about six boys who are intent on making every lesson a disaster: they won't sit in the correct seat, they mess about and they wreck every practical I try. How can I win them over?


"I had a group like this. No more practicals; lots more written work; no group work; ignored low-level disruption; attention given only to those prepared to learn. I hated teaching this way but eventually the majority realised I meant business."


"You have tried to be nice and it has got you nowhere. It is time for you to stamp your authority here. Take a lesson to make clear your expectations of conduct in your class and to clarify the punishment that will ensue if your expectations are not met."


"Confuse them by being really pleased to see them, not just in the lesson but everywhere."



You need some leverage with these pupils. It is tempting to imagine that you could punish them into behaving in a different manner. The truth is that pure punishment might satisfy in the short term but will not solve this problem in the long term.

Speak to the pupils individually. Even though there is history this is not the time for emotion but for simple, clear and assertive explanation. Be honest about the fact that things have not been going well. Redraw the lines. Write down your expectations for and with each pupil. Map the consequences that follow from their behaviour. Emphasise your determination to support them in choosing better behaviour. Gently reveal that you intend to closely monitor changes from this point. Record the good and bad behaviour of each pupil over the course of the next six lessons.

Make it clear that the report will be sent to the head of year, form tutor and parents. Keep this report sharply focused on three identifiable behaviours that you are going to see every lesson. Frame it in a positive light and highlight the opportunities to prove to everyone that things are changing. Send the parents a letter that explains how you are trying to address the behaviour.

Now repair any damage of trust with the pupils. Make a point of catching them doing the right thing and recognising it in your comments, marking, rewards and comments to other staff. Stop and speak to the pupils when you see them. Slowly build a positive relationship, even if they are trying to keep their distance.

Paul Dix is managing director of behaviour management specialist Pivotal Education. TES readers can get 10 per cent off Pivotal's online course by quoting the code TES4. Call 0207 0001735 or email for details. For more behaviour advice, see



  • Speak to the pupils individually about your expectations for their behaviour.
  • Focus on specific, identifiable behaviour.
  • Try to build a positive relationship with the pupils.
  • Reinforce the behaviour you want to see with encouragement.
    • DON'T

      • Rely on punishment alone to solve the problem.


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