Discipline is not an optional extra says Ted Wragg

9th January 2004 at 00:00
A study of student teachers carried out in the 1960s showed that while 60 per cent were worried about controlling a class, only 4 per cent actually encountered serious problems. The figures are thought to be similar today.

With that in mind, are the classroom management "experts" just feeding off young teachers' paranoia by publishing book after book on how it should be done?

Ted Wragg, 'TES' columnist and emeritus professor of education at Exeter university, thinks not. He has also written books on the subject*, and says it is an area of teaching that could never be covered fully as part of teacher training.

Trainees spend around 12 weeks in college or university - or about one third of their course. The rest is spent on the job in schools where any theory learned can be put into practice.

While classroom management remains an integral part of training, there is little time for dealing specifically with the subject.

"It is just such a massive topic, and really the key to successful teaching," says Wragg. "You could be the world's greatest teacher, but if you can't keep order then it counts for very little.

"Equally, being able to manage a class effectively may not make you a great teacher, but it at least gives you the chance to try to be able to do your job properly.

"Classroom management isn't an optional extra. It is something you have to have to make you an effective teacher. It is also something that all teachers are apprehensive about.

"Once you have covered matters such as subject specialisation, child development, racial awareness and special needs, there is not much time left for anything else. Class control is really taught as an integral part of the training. It goes without saying, for example, that one of the best ways of avoiding trouble is to make sure you deliver interesting lessons.

Every minute spent making sure you teach in a way that is engaging is time spent avoiding other problems."

However, Wragg also urges young teachers to keep things in perspective.

"Most of what goes wrong in the classroom is not terrible," he says.

"Serious misbehaviour - incidents such as assault - only count for about 1 per cent of poor discipline.

"There is also no evidence to suggest that incidents are getting worse than, say, 20 or 30 years ago. It is just that now they are better publicised and there are more statistics available, so there is a perception that pupil behaviour is significantly worse."

* 'Class Management in Primary Schools' and 'Class Management in Secondary Schools', both published by RoutledgeFalmer, 200

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