Head takes discipline tips to Middle East schools

5th December 2008 at 00:00
She is flown to Bahrain to show them how she runs her boys' school

Ofsted inspectors rarely phone schools a year after they have visited, let alone invite staff to the Middle East. But when Geoff Hancock, an education consultant, was hired by a Gulf state to help tackle misbehaviour in its single-sex state schools, he remembered a boys' school he had inspected in Gloucester the year before.

Last week the Bahraini government flew out Helen Anthony, head of Central Technology College, and Martin Shonk, her deputy, for two days work with their teachers.

"We were surprised and chuffed," she said. "You don't normally hear from Ofsted inspectors again."

The headmasters of the three boys' schools they visited seemed equally surprised to receive advice on improving boys' behaviour from a female head. Mrs Anthony said: "One assumed Mr Shonk was the head, and when I told him it was actually me, he gave me a look that said 'Yeah, right.' He could not believe all my pupils were boys, and he said: 'This wouldn't happen here.' But it made him happy when I said we had 450 boys because his school is bigger."

However, Mrs Anthony stressed that the teachers had treated her with great courtesy. And her own preconceptions were challenged because all the education ministry officials she met were female.

Back in Gloucester in 2006, Central Technology College, was given a notice to improve. But when an inspection team led by Mr Hancock visited a year later, it found the place transformed under Mrs Anthony.

It rated the school as good, singling out its high expectation of conduct, noting that "the impact of this policy on behaviour in lessons and around the school is profound".

The tips that Mrs Anthony passed on to the Bahraini heads focused on such a "behaviour for learning" policy. It is based on making pupils realise their actions have consequences, and getting all staff to appreciate the need for consistency. She also explained her use of detentions and, more controversially, isolation rooms - an approach taken from partner schools in the Ninestiles Federation.

The Bahraini heads seemed keen on both, although they said they would have difficulty arranging after-school detentions.

Last week the two teachers returned to Gloucester with Bahraini clothes to wear in an assembly and Arabic newspapers for the school's Muslim students.

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