Behaviour training is what heads want

3rd April 2009 at 01:00
But the government drags its feet over developing a national programme

Wales needs to train every teacher and classroom assistant in the best tactics to deal with disruptive pupils, according to a majority of the heads who took part in an exclusive TES Cymru poll on behaviour.

In total, 71 per cent of those questioned said the development of a high- quality, well-funded national training programme - as recommended in last year's National Behaviour and Attendance Review report - should be a priority.

The poll was undertaken before the Assembly government published its long- awaited action plan in response to the report earlier this week. The plan put a training scheme on the back burner, with the government saying it would delay a decision until more research had been undertaken. Crucially, the plan did not earmark any cash for such a programme.

TES Cymru asked 30 secondary heads which of five key review proposals they believed should be made a top priority. Of the 21 who responded, the training programme proposal came top, closely followed by the development of a national literacy scheme to target struggling children early at primary schools.

Professor Ken Reid, chair of the review and a staunch supporter of a national training programme, said he was "delighted" with the TES Cymru poll: "It reinforces exactly what we (the steering group) found out from our focus group work throughout Wales, and hopefully it will confirm to the government that this is what heads really want."

He was confident a national training scheme would be adopted in the long run.

The second most popular proposal among those polled - a literacy scheme - has been partially met by the government. While it did not commit to setting up a scheme, it said existing good practice would be collated

Every head polled said unruly pupils were their biggest daily behavioural problem, while 62 per cent said they were blighted by truancy and bullying.

Verbal abuse and confrontational behaviour came in next at 30 per cent, and a further 8 per cent cited violence and alcohol or drug abuse.

Just over 40 per cent said they knew teachers who had left the profession because of bad behaviour. Official statistics quote one in five.

In its action plan, the Assembly government said clearer guidelines on the physical restraint of pupils would be produced. But the heads polled did not see this as a priority; it gained the least support out of the five recommendations.

But proposed legislation to ensure excluded pupils have alternative learning provision was welcomed by almost half the heads polled.

The government also said it would clamp down on schools that exclude high numbers of pupils.

Three heads polled admitted they had made deals with parents to find alternative education for their disruptive children. But, under the new plans, local authorities would have to stamp out so-called unofficial exclusions.

Heads should also get new powers to search pupils for weapons. And behaviour and attendance specialists will be deployed.

But there was concern over whether there would be enough funding to prop up the action plan, despite a pound;1 million cash injection.

Critics said the funding has been fudged because of the recession and that the original budget has been slashed. Others feared schools might have to bear the cost, as the plan said they must prioritise behaviour management training.

But Jane Hutt, the education minister, said extra investment would be pumped into research, pilot projects and new guidance. Extra cash would come from budgets in existing initiatives, such as the attainment-raising school effectiveness framework and the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways.

"It (the action plan) is about supporting teachers and giving them the tools to do the job - this is a long-term plan," Ms Hutt said.

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