An empty figure?

6th November 2009 at 00:00

A figure of "one in 30" for the number of pupils who are in "need of a moral map" was the basis of a recent TES Magazine cover story ("There's always one", October 16).

The following descriptors are among those used in the article to describe the pupils: narcissistic, intolerant, maladjusted, sociopathic, destructive and resistant to reform or regret. They are serial bullies, habitual truants and are unable to control anger. Most have undiagnosed learning or mental health difficulties. Lacking in social skills, they struggle to form relationships.

The figure comes from the charity Beatbullying "which conducted research into the extent of behavioural problems and came up with the statistic".

Interested in the methodology of a piece of research that quantifies the prevalence of at least eight separate behaviours, I contacted Beatbullying's policy and research manager. He was unable to locate it.

Our discourse should be informed, rigorous and grounded in good research. We should be careful of figures like the "one in 30" that are, at best, a factoid and at worst a number plucked from the air.

Joseph Coulson, A Teach First ambassador, London.

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