Behaviour: Unruly students

21st January 2011 at 00:00
I'm doing supply, and eight boys in my class of 30 are unruly. Although I have applied the school's behaviour policy, if I ask them to do something they don't want to do it results in kicking furniture and sulking under tables. How can I prevent disruption?

What you said

"The fact that some of them don't like the sanctions means they are effective. The only other thing I would suggest is getting their parents on board."


"I have four boys in a class of 20 who set each other off. After teaching them for two months I am now learning their triggers but it takes time. Keep following the school policy and getting parents on board is a good idea."


"Get the group of offenders down to the hardcore (those who are unable to act normally andor have parents who aren't supportive) and the group is now a minority and the behaviour may alter."


The expert view

Supply teachers pick up the baggage when they take over a class. Children feel let down. You will need to work hard to deal with the broken trust even though you didn't cause it. Children don't like it when adults who they thought were going to be there leave. Some are upset, others see the gap and exploit it.

You need to build trust with this group of boys while delivering consequences without flare-ups. There will be no excuse or motivation for the defensive reactions you are seeing.

You can follow policy to the letter, but it is in your practice that the answers lie. When you intervene, the pacing of the consequential steps is critical. Leap through the consequence ladder with emotion and you will appear unfair and irrational. You will encourage emotional responses. Apply sanctions softly by using examples of the child's previous good behaviour. Get down on their eye level, be utterly dispassionate, go slowly and give children time to consider their next move. Constantly encourage pupils to take a different path. Be firm and rarely angry.

Ask more established colleagues for guidance and advice. Ask them to drop in and send the boys to them when they do something remarkable. Record in detail the good and bad, then bring in parents for the trickier cases. If you need to tackle group behaviour, deal with pupils one or two at a time.

Go out of your way to make the children who are disrupting the class feel important and appreciated for the right reasons. You need to find out what interests and motivates the boys who are rebelling. Taking an interest in an individual is the first step to building an appropriate professional relationship.

Paul Dix is lead trainer with Pivotal Education, For more advice, go to



- Focus on the behaviour, not the child.

- Make the children feel important for the right reasons.

- Learn what makes the pupils tick.


- Respond to their behaviour emotionally.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now