Behaviour: boistrous pupils

29th October 2010 at 01:00
I'm an NQT and have taken over a class after their teacher went on long- term sick leave. The pupils have been between teachers for a while and behaviour has lapsed. Even rewards and sanctions have been unsuccessful. What can I do?

What you said

"Don't panic - you are expecting too much. You could be the best bloody teacher in the world and you would walk into that same situation and get taken to pieces. Set out your stall and start handing out detentions like they're toffee apples. Make them happen and make sure the ringleaders feel the force of your ire."


"I am an experienced supply teacher in a similar position, so don't lose heart. I've got Year 7s who have decided to use me as their punchbag. I've realised I just have to get through this time with them, do the best job I can and drop my high expectations if I don't want to go off with stress, as their previous teacher did."

Lara mfl 05


First, you have to keep on applying your rewards and sanctions. Try making the rewards things that go home, such as postcards or letters. This way you do not risk embarrassing those who toe the line. It may seem a strange thing to say, but this class probably views teachers as sport. As such, they may not appreciate being rewarded in front of their classmates so handing out blatent rewards could actually make things worse.

Second, you need to let them know that you are in it for the long haul. A class like this is expecting you to go, just like the others. Do not miss a single lesson, no matter how tempting. By being there consistently and imposing your expectations, you are saying that you care about their progress. Remember how things are now, and if you can get to Christmas, assess what progress you have made. If you have not missed a lesson and remained consistent, I assure you that you will see some degree of improvement.

The next tactic is to share this problem. Speak to your head of department. I would design a timetable that allows you to send the most persistent offenders to another class. Being forced to sit at the back of a sixth-form lesson sends a strong message, or put an older student in a Year 7 class. Make sure the pupils know you are the one in charge of these sanctions, as opposed to another member of staff. If these tactics are not working, move it to the next level - the senior management team.

Finally, look after yourself. You need to be able to switch off after these lessons. Do some exercise, meditation or socialising on the days you have this class. After going through such a challenging experience, treat yourself. This way you might eventually look forward to these lessons.

Chris Wheeler is head of RE and sociology at Helsby High School, Cheshire. For more advice, go to



- Persevere with your rewards and sanctions - they will eventually start to have an effect.

- Use postcards home as a reward to avoid embarrassing pupils who are behaving well.

- Enlist the support of senior management.


- Be tempted to miss a lesson - it will send the class a signal that you could be another stop-gap teacher.

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