Behaviour: Soft touch

14th January 2011 at 00:00
I'm a NQT and didn't start the year in the best way. I wasn't very consistent or assertive and now I have got a couple of chaotic classes. I'm worried pupils have got the impression that I'm a soft touch. How can I start afresh?

What you said

"Be clear about where you are going and what your expectations are. It may take some time and the kids will probably moan about you suddenly becoming more strict, but it will be better in the long run."


"Yes, you can change it and, yes, it will be hard. Talk to your mentor, let them know you really want to crack down on behaviour in certain classes and ask for support. It won't be easy, but NQT years are hard."


"Go in stronger with the sanctions and be stricter than you normally would be while you are resetting the standards. There is nothing wrong with saying something like, `We've not got off to a good start but, from now on, we will have a new set of rules and standards'."


The expert view

You need to take an honest approach with your pupils. Tell them that you are concerned about their learning and you want to make a fresh start. An effective way of doing this is to establish a new seating plan. If you feel the pupils will argue about this, ask for a senior colleague to be a calming presence at the back of the room. This will allow you to get them into their new seating plan without unnecessary argument or distraction.

Once the class is settled, remind them of your expectations and explain why each of these are necessary to create a productive learning environment. Avoid moaning about previous behaviour - it will only make them switch off. Focus on the future and be positive about your expectations. Make sure that you have planned for an engaging lesson with a variety of activities.

Catch them being good and issue lots of praise. If any particularly difficult characters respond well, take time to praise them individually. You could also contact their parents and form tutor to say how impressed you are with their new attitudes.

This will show the pupils you care about them and want them to do well. As well as looking for opportunities to praise them, you will also need to show them that you will be rigorous in ensuring they meet your expectations. If a pupil is being persistently disruptive, calmly remove them. You will then need to be involved in meeting the pupil, and their parents, to get them back into your classroom on your terms.

Mark Lewis is deputy headteacher at Marshland High School in Norfolk. For more advice, go to



- Tell the class you want to make a fresh start.

- Make sure they are all aware of your expectations.

- Be consistent and fair in following the school's behaviour policy.


- Focus on pupils' past behaviour - this will only make them switch off.

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