The Behaviour Question

29th June 2012 at 01:00

I teach in a primary school where behaviour can be quite challenging. In an older class we have a child who struggles because of his background and his defiance quickly turns to violence, which meant his last two teachers struggled with him to the point of restraining him nearly every session. Because I've worked well with him in the past, he's been put in my class. I weekly end up having to send my class outside to play while I give this child space to calm down and make the room safe again.

What you said


This sounds utterly ridiculous; get on to your union without delay. They are taking advantage of you to pacify two other teachers and that's out of order.

The expert view

This is terrible. It sounds like you have become the dumping ground for a problem no one wants to deal with. Your previous success has made you the line of least resistance. Let me be clear, this child should not be in mainstream education, at least not for a while. No one's needs are being met here: not his, not those of the class and certainly not yours. It astounds me that the senior leadership team do not know what needs to be done, so I will spell it out:

1. He needs to be removed from a mainstream classroom and alternative provision must be made for him. You say he works OK in one-to-one situations, so that is where he needs to be.

2. The violence is unacceptable. Any child that cannot cope with the normal demands of a classroom setting should be removed and re-educated in community values and responses.

3. You do not have a right to refuse to teach, but the school has a duty of care to you. If you pursued some kind of action due to stress, you might have a case. But do not do that unless you have to.

4. Let the school know that this is something you cannot cope with any longer. You must shout loudly about this. Writing behaviour reports is less than useless; it creates the impression of doing something when nothing is being done.

5. Were I the parent of another child in that class, I would pop a vein. Do the other parents know about this? I wonder if they could be persuaded to talk to the head about it. Alas, some heads only care about parental input, not that of staff.

6. Every time this child kicks off, have him removed. If he does so in a dangerous manner then your school is failing to provide you with a safe working environment.

7. Let the union know - they do not often intervene in such matters, but the fact that you have logged it with them could be useful were you to pursue a legal option.

8. Log every incident and log the school's responses.

9. On a practical note, this child is getting an ocean of attention every time he bangs his little feet. Try to have him taught away from the group or, better still, in an individual setting. Let him know that reintegration is dependent on his ability to socialise.

This is a terrible situation. Make a fuss and do not accept the current level of provision you are experiencing.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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